It was a remarkable moment when the family, some forty people, gathered around Wilma’s bed, at Cabrini Palliative Care Centre. She lay there quietly. Did she understand the words, did she hear the voices, did she sense the presence of those for whom she had devoted her whole life, surrounding her in her last moments? The prayers said around her bed are being said again here at her funeral as we gather around her once more.
We have gathered here to celebrate her life, but also to look forward to her future. For Wilma has a future. That is why we are here in this sacred place, to think of the wonders that lie ahead.
Wilma was woman of faith, a woman of hope in a future that extended beyond time and space. She had a sense of the infinite, of unbounded horizons stretching out before her. She had a profound sense of the loving God.
Some say there is no God. But here is a story? One of the greatest British philosophers of the 20th century, A. J. Ayer, relates that one day he choked on a piece of food and experienced death; in fact his heart stopped for four minutes. He revived and recounted his experience. He said that had seen “the red light that governs the universe”. This caused great consternation among his fellow atheists who reject such things. Our Christian faith takes us beyond the experience of A.J. Ayer, not just to a red light but into the presence of the One who loves us.
This is what Jesus says, in today’s Gospel passage, just before departing for his terrible death. He prays “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” in other words that the love with which God the Father loved him may be experienced in all his disciples, in us included.
Wilma had an immense hope in a glorious future, and this impacted powerfully on her. She now puts the question to us, what is our sense of the future? We already know how much our past, with its ups and downs, can influence our idea of what life is all about. Our sense of the future also impacts on our present. What are our dreams? What is our experience? Do we have a blinkered view? Are we full of desires but without hope? Will we reach the end of our life, successful in every way, and say ‘is that all’? What do we hope for? In whom do we hope? Do we place our trust only in ourselves or do we hope in the God who stands and the beginning and end of all things?
At the Last Supper, when Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he prayed “that those whom you have given me, may be with me where I am”. Wilma enjoyed her haberdashery store and meeting the people who came in. She looked forward to the company the saints, as she. She had insight into peoples’ needs. She loved to be of assistance in her delicate and unobtrusive way. She was strong in her faith, and her love knew no bounds. People saw this and the constant description of her was that “she was kind”, so kind.
She enjoyed her family life, her ten children and her many grandchildren and great grand children. Jesus too loved his friends. He wishes to prepare for all of us, “a banquet of rich food and fine wines”, a place of lasting joy and peace.
We have gathered here for Eucharist, to eat and drink of the Body and Blood of the Lord, and so to taste already the joy of the eternal banquet. May we look forward to sharing it with Wilma who has now gone on her great journey.