Funerals: Occasion-based Homilies
  • "Be ye healed from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes!" Oral Roberts used to loudly command on his television program broadcast in the 1950's. As the entire assembly fervently prayed and family members and friends stood by, pleading with God, expressing their hopes and fears—much like those of us who have a friend with cancer or who has been involved . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a nurse or other medical professional
  • We come here today to celebrate a young life. We are still in shock, in disbelief, our tears still flowing freely. N. was a vibrant young person--he/she was simply too young. With hope in our hearts, we also come as a faith community.  The eyes of faith have a great vantage point from which we can look down through the millennia. We see another woman who lost . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a child
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived . . . this is to have succeeded." Here, before this altar, we gather to mourn the death and celebrate the success of N., who, as a teacher, has most certainly given innumerable lives the ability to breathe easier—not only his/her students but all those who have been . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a teacher
  • It is impossible and unwise to try to compare human sufferings, but many people have said that losing a child is the worst possible agony in life. One reason the death of a child is so wrenching is that it simply feels wrong, unnatural, so contrary to every instinct we have about the right order of things, the proper flow of life. We expect the next generation to outlive us. We expect . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a child
    Readings: Lamentations 3:22-26; Revelation 7:9-10, 15-17; Mark 10:13-16
  • When I got the phone call that N. had died, I was glad. I know, I know: I'm supposed to be sad, not glad. When people die, the obituaries in the paper usually say something like, "We were all deeply saddened to learn of the passing of so-and-so." But I was glad to hear about N. Don't get me wrong: Most of the time I am sad when I hear of a death. And I can remember fondly . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a death after a long illness or after a long life
  • In life, death is the hardest thing we face. The death of someone who took their own life makes this most difficult thing even harder. Besides our feelings of loss, we also have to deal with the shock and confusion of the fact that someone took their own life. Suicide is not the kind of death we want for ourselves or our loved ones. We hope death will be something surrounded by family . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily after a suicide
  • Many of us gathered together today are, quite honestly, in shock. We are in shock because N. was taken from us suddenly, without warning, by accident. This was not a loss we could prepare ourselves for. We are in pain, and we are in shock. Along with the shock and the pain, there will be anger—if not now, then later, when the shock wears off. Anger because this loss seems . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily after an accidental death
  • N. had a long and full life. And though even that long life may seem to those who love her to have been cut too short, we know that he lived a life illumined by faith. So we gather here today to celebrate that life and to reflect on the lessons N. offered us as we make our own attempts to follow in the ways of faith. It is fitting that the family has selected the psalm refrain . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a death after a long life
    Readings: John 14:1-6
  • Sometimes a ragged hole opens suddenly in the world and those we love vanish and we are left bereft and sobbing. No one knows why this happens, but it happens every hour of every day. It happens so suddenly and shockingly that we grope and grasp for God, we beg God to explain, we rage at God for allowing such horrendous loss, we are hammered and haunted . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily after the death of young person by violence
  • In the readings we have just heard, there is no explanation for suffering. No words could satisfy or explain away the grief we all face today. Scripture reaches out to comfort us. "The favors of the Lord are not exhausted . . . . God's faithfulness is renewed every morning . . . . Wait, and hope in the Lord." God knows our grief. God reaches out and touches us, reminding us . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a baby
    Readings: Lamentations 3:22-26; Ephesians 1:3-5; Matthew 11:25-30
  • "I have forgotten what happiness is." So says the writer of the Book of Lamentations—and we know what he means. It's easy to forget what happiness is when your life is turned upside down by illness. Happiness can evaporate in an instant, in the hour of diagnosis: for the one who is sick, as N. was, and for those who are family and friends as well. Expectations for a different . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a death after a long illness
    Readings: Lamentations 3:17-26; Psalm 25; Romans 8:14-23; Matthew 11:25-30
  • There is a prayer by Father Ed Hayes [from the book Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim] that begins like this: "Part of me is gone: what years of love and affection have fused in me as one has been cut away." These are the words that have haunted me in the last days as I have watched you, [parent(s)], grieve the loss of your beautiful and innocent daughter, the daughter . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a child
  • Before we came into this world we were unborn babies. In going from this world into another we are still unborn babies. Babies not yet born, still tucked under their mother’s heart, might say to themselves, “This is a wonderful place. I’m secure.” And then someone might say to them, “But you’re not going to stay here. You have to move on. You’re going to die out of this place . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily for a public servant
    Readings: Psalm 23:1-6
  • Regardless of the manner of its visit, death brings a dark spirit when it comes to call on the human soul. It announces the end of someone we know and love. Whether it comes suddenly and without warning or lingers and delays, biding its time until the moment of opportunity, death is the unwelcome guest, the gnawing presence we'd much rather avoid and put off until . . .  More...
    Occasion: Funeral homily