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Edward Tuthill, RIP: Funeral homily, 19.04.24

Edward Tuthill was one of the first people to welcome me to St. Mary’s. I remember his firm, warm handshake and the encouragement and twist of humour in his words. I loved the banter between him and Sadie and how, whenever I would go over to the confessional, they seemed to do battle to see which one would get in first. Regrettably, I never did get much of a chance to speak to Edward at length, but his example of prayer and sacramental devotion spoke volumes about the man.

So, it was delightful to hear in the family eulogy of the breadth and depth of the faithfulness which Edward showed throughout his life in the practice of his faith. He had an especially strong Marian piety and a strong manly piety. In fact, he had the strong manly piety precisely because he had such a strong Marian piety, for, if we open up to Her sincerely, Our Lady helps us to become who we were created to be by the loving hand of Her Son.

If expertise means acquired skilfulness resulting from long experience, it struck me immediately from the eulogy that Edward had become an expert in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, as well as in prayer, penance and a rich sacramental life. It did not surprise me one bit either that he was a man of great fun and humour, because when your faith in God is real and truly integrated into your deepest humanity, joy is one of its immediate and most beautiful fruits.

One aspect of the eulogy which gave me particular delight was to hear of Edward’s constant and selfless efforts to promote the life of faith and spirituality of his own family. Today, many do that principally by example, which is certainly hugely important. But fewer today will actually speak of their faith, share it openly and witness to it explicitly with their children. In the rite of baptism, it states that parents are not only the first to teach the faith to their children but that they are also the best of teachers. When the young perceive the authenticity of their parents’ faith in Christ in such a way that their faith is both lived and explained cogently and convincingly, they are much more likely to open their own hearts and minds to the Lord. In this sense, Edward was truly both a disciple and a teacher of the faith. As the reading from the prophet Daniel puts it: ‘The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.’ Edward is a bright star.

With his beloved Sadie, Edward had to overcome situations of challenge and difficulty throughout their married life, especially at the beginning when money was short and employment opportunities were not ideal. But together, strong in faith in God’s Providence, they overcame whatever obstacles they met, fully aware that their success was God’s gift rather than their own achievement. In fact, God’s amazing grace has always been with them and has given them enormous fulfilment, not least in their lovely children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Edward showed forth in his own life a feature which should be common to every believer: that we do our best to love and serve God in this life so as to prepare for the coming of a future life. By future life, I don’t mean a better life on earth resulting from mere human effort. I mean rather the one spoken of in our second reading from the Apocalypse. It gives us the vision of a future world in which the tears and travails of our present world will have gone, and the whole of creation will be made new. What we are basically talking about here is Christian hope. Edward lived his life on this earth with certain hope in the new world, the new creation, where death will be no more. He believed in that world, not as a fanciful escape from the harsh reality of this life (Edward did not engage in escapism) but as the destiny guaranteed by Christ our Lord for all who believe in him.

Christ himself speaks clearly in the Gospel of that destiny. He calls it the Kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world for those who have loved him in the poor, the hungry, the naked, the prisoner and the sick. That’s how Edward loved Christ, without fail, without hesitation, without apology. Had he lived a life only for himself, mesmerized by what is fleeting and intent only on selfish gain, then any talk of faith or the afterlife on his lips would have been empty. But Edward’s life-plan yielded to no such superficiality. He perceived Christ too clearly in his dear spouse, in his large family, in the needy and in the Church. He lived for the Lord, he died for the Lord so as to come to the Lord by taking his place in the Kingdom prepared for him since the foundation of the world.

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful, recites one of the psalms. Edward’s death must therefore also be precious to us if we, too, consider ourselves the Lord’s faithful. It’s precious because it crowns a life lived in selfless love; it’s precious because it brings faith and hope to the vision of God beyond all veils; it’s precious because it opens Edward up to the final purification of his soul in the perfect love of the Crucified. The death of a Christian points towards God and the final meaning of life. At the same time, it points the finger back towards all of us here present because it pointedly asks us the question: and you? Where is your life going? What meaning are you giving it? What will your death mean? We talk today at funerals of celebrating the now past life of the person who has died. While that has its value, we do far better to celebrate the new life he is now living. For that is the real life; it is in view of it that we are given this life in the first place. St. Paul once cried out: To me, life is Christ and therefore death is gain. These could have been Edward Tuthill’s words since he lived among us rooted in Jesus Christ. For that reason, our hope is confident that he, too, will soon gain eternal life among the blessed of Christ’s eternal Father. The life and death of each of us has its influence on others. What will the influence of the life and death of Edward Tuthill be on you? Eternal rest ….