I preached this Homily at a Memorial Mass for Sr. Julie Reineke at St. Francis Catholic High School on Wednesday, August 22. Sr. Julie was a much loved and admired member of Holy Faith parish and a teacher at St. Francis High. Many memories of Sr. Julie were shared by parishioners and students the night before at an Evening Prayer Service.
First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9 (Read it here)
Gospel: John 15:9-12 (Read it here)
It was just a few months ago that we anointed Sr. Julie in this gymnasium as she prepared to return to the Sisters of Notre Dame in Toledo, Ohio for the last days of her life.
I remember her saying to you who were there: "When you hear that I have died, I don’t want you to be mad at God." She continued, "I am ready to go. A religious sister is married to Christ. When I die and go to heaven, I will finally get my wedding reception. So know that I will be happy and I will pray for all of you."
What did Sr. Julie mean? A religious sister gives her whole life to Christ. It is like a sister is married to Christ. [Note: The Catechism says: "The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church [his Bride]" (#1617 See full reference here)]
And the Book of Revelation in the Bible describes the end of the world, when Christ returns in glory, as a wedding feast: it is the wedding feast of the Lamb, the Lamb of God who is Christ. It is like a cosmic wedding reception! (See Revelation 9:6-9 here)
The Reading we heard from Isaiah tells us the same thing. At the end, on the Mountain of the Lord, God will throw a feast. The Prophet goes on to describe it in great detail.
I have often thought about what makes a feast a feast, like at Thanksgiving Day, for example. It is not just the food at the feast. It’s the people at the feast who are most important. If you had a dinner with people who hated you, that would not be a feast. It would be a torture. But to eat with family and friends who love one another, that’s a feast. A feast of love.
The Feast has already begun in heaven; this Feast will be those that lived the New Commandment of Jesus which we heard in the Gospel today: "Love one another as I have loved you."
And God promises that this Final Feast, this Wedding Celebration, will never end. Here in this life, feasts must end until the next time we have one. People die and can not join us here. But God promises to put death to death! Then the Feast will never end.
It was to all this that Sr. Julie was referring.
And if the future of the world is to be a feast, how are we helping others experience life now as a feast, as a joy, as an experience of love? There are a great number of people who live in miserable poverty or who are abused and discarded or even persons among us who are pushed to the margins of our school or community by our judgements and thoughtlessness. They are not experiencing life as a feast.
Sr. Julie, by her life, showed us how to help bring the feast from heaven to earth. She was an example to us of a loving person. So many students have said, ‘Sister loved us, even if we annoyed or caused her problems."
And even when she suffered–and all of us will go through some kind of suffering in this imperfect world–she did not stop loving God and serving him and you. This is perhaps the greatest lesson she taught you and me. And now, will we put that lesson in practice over our lifetimes and help bring the feast of love to others? Sr. Julie is always praying that we do so and that we will join her in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
|Sr. Julie One Week Before Her Death|