No comments yet

Funeral homily, Shaun Kirwan, RIP, 07.06.24

Renewed thanks to Elaine for delivering the eulogy on Shaun. The first word that came to mind as I read over it yesterday was: simplicity. Shaun comes across as a straightforward man, without complexes, accepting and getting on with whatever blessings, joys, challenges and sufferings life gave him. It sounds as though he enjoyed the simple things in life and was especially happy to be with Michael, Elaine and their family, be it enjoying the music in Millport or the views over the Lake District. His work ethic was strong, itself the sign of an honest and responsible character. His last years were marked by the Cross. When I saw his photo on the Order of Service, I realised that I had actually gone to see him once in his flat in Burnlea Road a few years ago. I could see at that time how he had withdrawn somewhat because of his illness, but I managed to pray over him and bless him.

As Elaine said in the eulogy, it is a relief that Shaun is not suffering anymore. Free of it, he will now be able, with God’s mercy, to just be the simple, friendly and happy person he always has been all along. It is only natural and understandable that Michael might remonstrate with Jesus about Shaun as Martha did about Lazarus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Our love for those close to us spontaneously leads to distress and even anger that they should suffer and die. Our faith in the power of Christ also leads us logically to wonder and complain why He won’t use it to relieve the suffering of those we love and whom we know He loves, too. Our instincts tell us that such suffering is wrong, that death should not be. That they are there can even make us doubt if God is there. Did Jesus Himself not cry out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Indeed, He did. And He did so because, even though he was God, He truly entered into the mystery of pain and death and abandonment so that He could share in our human condition to the full, but without sin. And that’s precisely it. Had He sinned, the mystery of evil would have swallowed Him alive. But because He didn’t sin, because He remained totally transparent to the Father, He was able to endure what sin did and does to us and come through it. And He came through it not just for Himself, but for us all. It was not just He who would rise again. It was not just to Martha that Jesus could say, “your brother will rise again”, but to Michael and to all who have brothers … and sisters, and mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. Because our collective humanity has been infected by sin, it is affected by suffering and death. In this life, the Lord forgives the sin of those who repent, but the damage it has done to our condition makes it beyond repair. We will only be free from suffering when we are free from death. Christ does not free us from dying, but out ofdeath. Our earthly bodies are like the old wineskins which carry the old life in which we live a mortal life. To live the new life, to contain the new wine, new wineskins are needed, and that’s what the Lord will do for us when he raises us from the dead. We don’t suffer and die because God doesn’t care about us, but because we as a race have not cared about God. It’s precisely because he does care so much for us that He sent His only Son as one of us, to take the blame of all of us, to destroy it in death and thus open for us the promise of eternal life beyond death.

Such is the love that the Father has lavished on us. Instead of enemies, we are now his sons and daughters; instead of hell, the throne of heaven is offered to us; instead of punishment, forgiveness; instead of the mourning veil of death covering all peoples, a banquet of rich and juicy foods; instead of the grave, we will dwell in the Lord’s own house for ever and ever.

There is no alternative to Christ, who proclaims Himself the Resurrection and the Life. There isn’t some third option out there or in here somewhere. There is no-one who knows us personally and intimately like Christ. There is no-one who can possibly love us more than He. His claim on us is not the claim of the powerful over the weak, whereby we would want to resist domination and assert our independence. His claim on us is eternal love, life-giving love, life for body and soul in the pastures of paradise. Does a mother have a claim on the child of her womb? Far greater is the claim of Christ on every human being, for He not only made it possible for our parents to generate us: He created our very soul and committed Himself to loving us all the way from the betrayal in Paradise to the betrayal in Gethsemane and beyond. His love for us is eternal and His hope is that we will respond in eternal surrender to Him.

In the Heart of Jesus, there is a unique place for Shaun. In the Plan of Jesus, Shaun has had a unique role to play both here below and, who knows how, in eternity above. And that is true for every single one of us. For if it’s not, then it’s true for nobody.

So, may the merciful Lord take Shaun to Himself, cleanse Him of any stain of sin he may yet have, reveal to him the beauty of his own soul as it is reflected in God Himself and adorn him with everlasting gladness among the ranks of the blessed.