Funeral Sermon for a Mother: “Gift”

Rotes GeschenkIt’s beautifully wrapped. Wrapped in red paper. Why red, I don’t know but it seems to be a color that stands out, so why not enfold this specially boxed gift in the color of red.

Like any gift that’s received, it’s meant to be opened. But no one’s given you the nod to open it. There’s no special occasion – only this unopened gift placed in front of you. If you’re like my grandmother, you’d yell from across the room, “Save the paper!” Why save the paper! Do you iron the paper and use it again or just let the wrinkles remain from the first opening and prepare it for the re-wrapping? (Margaret would have chosen the former.) I suspect when my grandmother’s house was cleaned after her passing, a lot of wrapping paper was found neatly ironed and folded and stored in her closet.

“Save the Paper”

If the gift had eyes, it’d be staring right up at you patiently waiting to be discovered. The suspense of the unwrapping, the surprise of what’s inside all defines this small box in front of you. My grandmother, again, would say, “Let’s not open it until after dessert” as impatient children’s eyes would then meet hers. “Wait! Wait for what?” those eager eyes would be telling grandma.

Gift Box, Wrapping Paper, Bow

Jesus gave us the “nod” with all kinds of images to convey the opening of the gift of all gifts. He tells us about yeast that rises to feed a hungry family, a small mustard seed that soon will soften the afternoon sun, finding a lost coin and inviting friends over for a drink to celebrate, rediscovering what you felt you’ve lost like the prodigal son, a lamp that brightens a good book instead of hiding it under a bushel basket, how a couple of fish and pieces of bread can feed multitudes – with leftovers!

Simple gifts illustrating growth, successes, fulfillments along with renewal and “starting again from scratch” during troubling times. Simple but powerful. He’s given us enough gifts to last a lifetime, or at least over 90 years of them. And if Jesus’ images don’t do it for you then how the gift of his own life and death – in service, commitment and dedication to something bigger and larger than just one person.

Any gift that is opened involves a degree of risk – will I like it, it is more useful than the Veg-O-Matic I never use, can I make it my own and not simply copy someone else, how will others accept it when I show it to them? Any opened gift involves growth – read the instructions and follow them. When a failure occurs, “dust yourself off,” as the song sings and then re-read the instructions. Any opened gift involves dependence – we like to think we are self-made people but just remember how many people it took to create this gift for you and to never forget who the giver is. Risk, growth, dependence; I can go on but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.

Oh wait! I forgot the best experience of any opened gift: it is hope. Scripture assures us that “hope does not disappoint” (unless you’re a Brewer fan but that’s a different kind of hope.) The gift of this hope is the undergirding and context of anyone’s life. It is the hope that opening this gift was worth it, or better yet that you were worthy of receiving this gift. It is the hope that looks beyond human foibles and failings (our own and others) and dedicates itself each day to living and modeling a divine hope. That’s the kind of hope that led the woman to find a silly, lost coin that was important to her or the silly, loving father who kills a fatted calf for his unrepentant, wayward son.

Amen.

Oh wait once more! Did I forget to tell you what’s inside that beautifully red-wrapped gift box? And did I forget to tell you what happens to that bow? I’m sure my grandmother would have saved the bow as well. Inside the gift box is Margaret. It’s similar to the gift box given to each of us at birth and to be gradually unwrapped throughout our lives. Margaret’s proud, life context and undergirding was not only the Catholic Church but the Catholic Church lived and breathed within these walls. Today we honor Margaret’s life by asking how she was able to unwrap the gift of her long life. How was she able to be gift to her family and friends? And the one I like the best is, how was Margaret able to help others unwrap their life’s gift?

For us who remain – that gift box is still being unwrapped by each of us every day with each new encounter, each new situation – whether joyous or troubling. And unwrapping this gift knows no age because we are all still breathing life – from our life into the lives of others.

Explain the box? That’s easy. The box is this gift of life. The red wrapping is all the significant people who enlighten us. Contained inside the box is all of our experiences – good, bad or indifferent – the contents inside the box defines who we are. The bow? The bow is eternal life. You need to undo the bow in order to open the gift. We need to begin life in order to have it end. You thought I forgot about the wrapping paper? The wrapping paper is all the memories that are neatly ironed and folded and carried within all of us for the rest of our lives.

So go ahead and keep opening your gift. It’s worth it. God gave us the gift box to be opened and to be used. And..to be used up. Margaret used her’s up. Today it is time for us to give back to the Gift Giver the gift that was given to us.

So, my grandmother was right when she said, “Save the paper!”

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com.
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