We have entered the Great Fast of Lent four days ago. Within today’s Gospel proclamation, Jesus is confronted for his understanding of fasting. He stretches the disciples and the Pharisees to move beyond only abstaining from food but also to consider the absence of a person as a way of fasting. This morning, at Mom’s funeral, in the context of the Bridegroom’s absence, I wish to share my reflection about Mom’s absence from us in three parts.
First, the meals of Jesus of Nazareth and of the risen Lord were central to his ministry. As a devout Jewish person, he learned from Mary and from Joseph the value of fasting. Providing meals was a part of Mom’s world too. She loved to cook and to bake. On Selkirk Street and on Lot 7, Concession 2, you immediately entered her kitchen where she welcomed you to sit at the kitchen-dining room table for coffee or for tea as she reached up to her stash of butter tarts to serve you. Oh, the days of pickeling yellor mustard pickles and beets to serve with our home grown pork chops let alone the apple pie marathons! Each of us has their own memories about the feasts with Mom and with Dad. Whenever the shuffling of the euchre cards stopped at Grandma and Grandpa Zimmer’s home, we knew that a lunch was to be served before 12:00 o’clock midnight so that we could receive Communion on Sunday morning.
Another point from the Book pf Proverbs in this first section is the following. Upon graduation from Chatham Vocational School, Mom began her work at the Registry Office. On one day while Mom was on her way to work, Dad spotted her from the top of the grainery that was situated on the same street. Soon afterwards, they began to see each other. Dad began to take lessons for entry into the Roman Catholic Church. St. Joseph’s Church was where they pledged their love for each other. Mom’s life at home changed when the twins went to St. Vincent de Paul School. She returned to the Registry Office where her co-workers were still there and welcomed her back as a junior deputy with open arms. The age of computerization hit the Registry Office. This became the que for her to retire. Many more reflections from this section in Proverbs can be cited. However, I need to move on so that we can enjoy the delicious luncheon that the dedicated people from the funeral luncheon committee from Blessed Sacrament Church will provide for us downstairs.
Secondly, Pope Benedict XVI in his audience on Ash Wednesday reminded me and the pilgrims from around the world of a deeper meaning from the Great Fast of Lent that we do not live from bread alone. He called us to continue our spiritual journey and to consider an inner conversion in transforming our lives during these forty days. For our Pope, he was calling himself to a deeper conversion as he had announced his resignation. He again acknowledged at this audience his limitations in carrying out the Petrine office. On February 28th of this year, Pope Benedict would enter a new phase in his life.
In the shadow of 9/11, Mom was found on the floor of our home. She suffered from a hole in her stomach. Fortunately, she recovered. At the same time, she realized that she could not any longer stay alone at our home in Chatham Township. She let go of our home for which Dad and Mom laboured so hard. She moved to the Chatham Retirement Resort. Her next letting go was leaving her beloved Harwich Township and Chatham. Her falling and breaking her hip sent her to St. Joseph’s Hospital. During her recuperation, the old St. Jospeh’s Hospital was in the midst of closing and was to become a part of the Chatham-Kent Alliance Hospital. At this point, she needed the assitance of her three daughters. With a heavy heart, she made her way along the 401 to Mount Hope-St. Mary’s in London.
Both the Pope and Mom faced transitions during their 80’s. I believe that they went through a soul searching time during this time of aging in their lives. May we continue to pray for our beloved Pope Benedict XVI as he continues his journey during the Great Fast of Lent.
Finally, the Gospel challenges us to see Jesus as the Bridegroom. Up until his death and his resurrection, he was present to people and he loved them. With his stretching out his arms on the cross, water and blood flowed from his pierced heart. This infusion of love for the world sent forth the Spirit to remind the early Church that they would be fasting with his absence. With Mom’s falling asleep in her bed for the last time, she is in the arms of her beloved Les who went before her twenty-eight years ago. They are dancing together in the New Jerusalem. The Great Fast of Lent leads us to Easter where we once again celebrate the Paschal mystery with the hope of their presence with us through our loving Triune God.