It was an unusually warm sunny January day. The scene was picturesque as the caravan of cars snaked behind the hearse into the cemetery grounds. Family and friends emerged to gather around the grave—opened and prepared to receive my father’s body. After a twenty-one-gun salute, taps, and a final blessing, the undertaker lowered the casket into the earth. Each child and grandchild walked past, bidding farewell, and then scoops of dirt descended upon his final resting place. As we left the cemetery, my heart filled with gratitude for a grace-filled funeral. Yet in the night's darkness, the stark reality of Dad’s death—his lifeless body forever encased in the earth—seized me. My heart racing, I thought, “If it could bring him back to life—for a day, an hour, or even a moment—I would claw my way to his casket, stopping at nothing to clutch him from the tomb.” But then I heard, “Peace be with you.”
Several of our adult children and a few of our older grandchildren took pity upon us this past weekend by boxing, lifting, and hauling load after load to prepare for a move. It’s grunt work, better suited for beast than man or woman. Without each family member’s sweat, cleaning out our house would be nearly impossible. But we were in need, and thankfully, they responded.
A few years ago, my father woke up one morning especially happy. He beamed while informing me, “I figured it out last night: Mary, you get the house and everything in it.” I laughed and said, “Oh, Dad,” assuring him not to worry about the house. He had spent nights thinking of what to do with the home he and mother built and all their belongings; Dad seemed more than relieved to have found a favorable solution. Dad died three months ago, and he gave me, his favorite (only) daughter, the house and everything in it.
“She was such a light!” Sr. Michelle’s bright blue eyes always twinkle but they became even more animated as she spoke about her second-grade student, Veronica. After forty-plus years of teaching thousands of students, Veronica stood out. “There was just something about her. Yes, she was cute, just like any other little eight-year-old girl, but there was something more—there was a radiance about her. She shined as she treated each classmate with kindness.” Sr. Michelle continued, “Then one day, as Veronica’s mother was picking her up from school, I asked, ‘What have you done to make Veronica so kind, so caring—such a light?’ Her mother quietly responded, ‘Really, the only thing I can think of is that every morning I say, Veronica, you are such a gift from God.’” Sr. Michelle’s dimples deepened, as her Irish smile grew wider, “That was it!" Even at her tender age, Veronica’s light radiated Christ’s presence; she understood herself as a gift and lived as an imitator of Christ, fully awake to the needs of those around her.
The First Sunday of Lent drives us into the desert to face stark questions: Who will you worship? Who will you serve? Will you bow to God or to idols? Elizabeth Scalia writes in StrangeGods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life: “… how convenient it is that the word idol begins with ‘i’.” She reflects on the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf: “The reflective gold gave them admiration of their strength and greatness, which they could confirm with their own eyes, mirrored back at them.” By peering into the looking glass, we can worship self. Since Adam and Eve, we have chosen self over the God who created, freed, and saved us.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.