Father David’s homily given at the Requiem mass of Emmet Cleary 10 September 2012
We humans are emotional beings and I know that many of us have a mixture of painful emotions as we have gathered here for Emmet’s requiem mass. Sadness, of course. Grief as well. But also perhaps anger; perhaps also feelings of guilt.
We react emotionally like this because we are involved and connected with one another, and because we care.
Such emotions though are not easy to bear – and never more so when death occurs in what we can only regard as an untimely fashion. A death such as Emmet’s was causes to arise within us many questions – questions about ourselves and what we might or might not have done to make things different – questions about the one we loved and just what it was that he experienced during all his days, but particularly his last – and questions about God and about God’s goodness, about why God allowed Emmet’s death to happen.
While our emotions and our questions are perfectly natural, perfectly normal, we need to recognise that strong as our reactions might be, our reactions are not the whole story, the whole picture. Take for example the feeling of guilt. I must not make the mistake of thinking that I am so important and influential that I am directly responsible for a person’s actions. Just as it takes many small and large streams to make a river, so it takes many influences and events to lead a person to take their own life.
As family, Emmet’s family, the family of Garin College, the family of our parish, the family of our shared humanity – we need to know that often in us, and often in others to a degree that is totally beyond us, there is a weakness that is beyond our control; a vulnerability, a pain, a despair, that is completely shielded from all that human kind can do.
For all of us it is true that sometimes we don’t hear the voice of love – though its tender sound is all round us. Sometimes we don’t realize that the arms of love that enfold us – really are caring arms. Sometimes we don’t grasp that the songs that are sung – are truly sung for us and that we – in our in strength and in our weakness, in our labour and in our rest, in our goodness and in our brokenness – are accepted, and valued, and treasured, and welcomed and loved for who we are, just as we are, without condition or qualification or merit or any other measure of judgement.
For others of us though – what is true sometimes – is true almost all the time and it seems more than a soul can bear.
When a person is in such a dark space, a dark hole, others often don’t know, the person appears to them as they always have. But the person themselves has a tragically flawed view of themselves and reality, they don’t see things as they actually are. It is perhaps no wonder that they can make bad choices, as Emmet did.
Today we bear witness together to the truth of this – a fine young man whose spirit is no longer with us in the flesh; a young man who had his life before him has succumbed to the loneliness within that most of us only know a little of.
There are so many who can testify, so many who can say in truth – that Emmet did the best he could – that he cared the best he could – for others – and – even in his pain – the best he could for himself.
Emmet perhaps didn’t realise how many friends he had. And though he was told – in so many ways, and at so many different times – he didn’t know how much he was loved.
Sometimes we don’t hear the voice of love – though its tender sound is all around us. God’s tender sound of love is all around us. And God’s love, like all true love, embraces us, but leaves us free.
That, surely, is the message of the scriptures we have heard:
‘The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…Even were I to walk in death’s dark valley…you are at my side’.
‘Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
‘Look at the birds of the air and the lilies in the field…if that is how God clothes them, will God not much more look after you…?’
Because God looked after Jesus as he died on the cross, raised him to new life, we believe in faith that God has raised Emmet to new life as well. But God did not want Emmet, does not want us – you, me, anyone, born or unborn – to go before our time. So what might God want to desperately reach out and teach each of us today?
When we are troubled by life, we need to turn to others (friends, family, school community, church) and to God. We can’t make it on our own; we need support…and support is available. Because we can at times get so focused on our problems we sometimes think no one cares, or we decide that life is too heavy a load to dump on others…and we try to bear our burdens alone. We can turn inwards excessively—which can lead to confusion and panic. God is telling us: ‘Turn your worries over to Me. I’m big enough to take them!’ It may seem like all hope is gone – but there are always other alternatives, other options.
God won’t always remove all our burdens, but He will give us the strength to accept them, to learn and grow from them. And this growth always involves the Holy Spirit inspiring, even pushing, us to reach out beyond ourselves and our pain, to support and help others.
Jesus taught and showed us in his life on earth that God is truly merciful and compassionate. Jesus said, ‘in my Father’s house there are many rooms’. That means there is a place for Emmet, there is a place for each of us in eternity, in heaven.
Part of God’s wonderful mercy, compassion and hospitality is that God allows us to achieve in eternity any perfection we may lack when we leave this world. So we pray for Emmet, that he may achieve the fullness of eternal life with our compassionate, merciful, understanding and hospitable God.
May Emmet, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.