It’s well past the mid-point of November, but there were flowers in full bloom at All Souls Church today.
My first time ever to visit the parish—drawn there by the funeral of the 92-year-old mother of a dear friend. And what an unexpected joy, I must say…the handsome little garden I discovered just outside the church doors.
Brilliant blooms, in late November: Yes, they caught me by surprise.
Kinda like the lesson in God’s favor I’ve been learning here lately.
As it happened, today’s funeral was my second memorial Mass in two days.
On Thursday, we celebrated the short life of the infant son of a young couple at my ‘home’ parish. Little George Peter lived only a day or so, but in that time he was—as we Catholics like to say—fortified by the sacraments. He’d been baptized by our pastor, an act giving us confidence that this tiniest of parishioners was not only deeply loved, but has in fact joined the communion of saints.
Now, it’s certainly heartbreaking to lose someone so young. Heartbreaking, too, to say farewell to a cherished matriarch. And yet, as I heard the stories told about their vastly dissimilar lives, I was struck by the one thing these two saints had in common: Their utter openness to God’s favor.
I realized that George Peter had done this—and only this—during his brief life span: He’d become a perfect receptacle of grace. God smiled, and he received.
My friend’s mother, I learned, found herself in much the same circumstance at the end of her 92 years. Stricken by dementia, she was said to no longer recognize the priest or pastoral associate who frequently brought her communion. In fact, almost all that once had been precious in her life was gone. To be sure, her children and grandchildren joyfully recalled her great beauty, her steadfast spirit and faithfulness, her sense of style, her loyalty, her athleticism. But in the end, these were only memories. All she really had was God’s grace—which (they tell us) she happily received, right until the end.
Two lives, worth celebrating. Two lives, providing a remarkable window into God’s favor.
Teaching us, perhaps, that what really matters—to the One in whom we move and live and have our being—is an open heart, and a willingness to receive.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.