No comments yet

Funeral homily for Vincent Kilpatrick, RIP, 28.06.24

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the mourning veil which covers all peoples, as a reference not only to the reality of death but also to the terrible suffering the bereaved endure when a loved one dies. And it is terrible, because the prospect of death flies in the face of our basic and wonderful human instinct for survival, to live. The word terrible basically means fearful. Death frightens us and the fear of it imprisons us. Vincent himself was struck by that fear in his early life when his father was taken from him. That death, the loss, the fear, the emptiness it brought impacted on his childish heart and psyche in a way which robbed him of true joy, trust and confidence for the rest of his life. Yes, by all appearances, he went on to live a successful life in the air-travel world, but he could never quite get away from the pain of grief bleeding inside. Soul pain does not heal as easily as body pain. And, indeed, so many people can function well, even spectacularly, on the outside, while inside they experience an emptiness, a bottomless pit of sadness. How many celebrities in our day implode tragically after an explosion of success! The further we run away from our truth, the heavier it weighs down on us.

For all of us, there has to be a radical honesty about what life is really about, and what death really means. Whether we are high fliers in aeroplanes or in the glitter of high society; or whether we are down to earth ordinary people doing our best to make ends meet and find some sense to our lives: we all face the same basic questions and we all need answers to them. We won’t get them in self-help books or in therapeutic processes; nor will we get them by avoiding them in compensatory behaviours. Science, too, and technology, politics and philosophy, the learned and the clever, cannot answer the crying protest of the human soul, but why must I die? Why must I suffer?

We need a fully human answer to these questions which doesn’t try to explain them away by myths and fanciful thinking. Only love can answer these questions, a love that is stronger than suffering, terror, loss and even death itself. Only love can heal; and only a complete love can heal completely. Only the love which gave us life and implanted in us the instinct to survive death can overcome death and give us back a life that will never die again. And what love is that? Whose love is that? It is the love of the One who is Himself Love, who said of Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The One whose Love is stronger than death because greater than life.

Only love can answer the question of suffering and death because suffering and death are the fruit of un-love, that is, sin. God did not create sin because God is love. God did not create death because God is life. Sin and death are therefore not in any positive sense of the term a “creation” but an uncreation, a destruction. They are rooted in Satan and in Satan’s hatred for love and life, in his hatred for the God of love and life and in his hatred for man and woman whom He created out of love and for life. And only a love greater than Satan’s hatred, the love of Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, is capable of overcoming sin and death, and did so by himself living a sinless life of total love, and by dying a death in that love so as to destroy its power over us.

That is why He can cry out to every Vincent that exists, “Come to me, all you who labour and overburdened and I will give you rest.” Rest from the ravages of sin and be delivered from the terrors of death. Vincent now, please God, understands this with all of his heart and mind and soul, finally out of the maze, finally amazed at the glorious reality of redemption and salvation in His Lord and God. The mourning veil which stifled his flourishing in this life has been removed, and he will be able to make the words of Isaiah his own, and shout them out along with his father: “See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation; the Lord is the One in whom we hoped. We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us!”

Had Christ not died and risen for us, our suffering and death would have remained unresolved, eternal. For the death of the body does not kill the soul; and because the soul is eternal, the death of the soul does not mean its end, but its eternal consignment to emptiness and pain. None of this was ever in the mind of God for us, and there was never any question that His love for us would find a remedy to deliver us from it. But we must want that remedy and not deceive ourselves into thinking that all there is to life are a few short and dubious years on this planet. We cannot undermine our own dignity and worth in the make-believe idea that physical death is the end of us, or in vain wishful thinking that somehow things will work out.

The call of Christ is to come to Him and find rest from the uncertainty of our destiny and from the labours of thinking we can invent one for ourselves. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Him alone are eternal love and joy. He alone holds the keys of death. He alone is our alpha and our omega. To him alone will all flesh come with its burden of sin so that he can wipe it away, if we let Him.

The Lord will cleanse Vincent from his sins. And when He has done so, Vincent will be able to gaze upon the glory of God, free from all his fears, released from the chains around his heart, delivered from the pain and sorrow of the loss of his father which so handicapped and thwarted his earthly life. And while he often shunned the love which others wanted to show him in this life, it is our humble and confident prayer that he will soon be basking in the love of the company of the blessed, among whom we confidently trust will be standing none other than his earthly father and mother. Be at peace, Vincent, our brother, be at last at peace.