Tuesday has dawned warm and sunny here in Chicago, simply a beautiful day.
Yesterday the staff members here at WLP and the J.S. Paluch Company helped with the celebration of the life of Charlie Odegard at his Funeral Mass. What an honor it was to lead the music at this celebration.
Frankly, I just don't know how people handle death when there is an absence of faith. Yesterday's funeral Mass showed me once again the power that the spoken and sung word can have in times of extreme sorrow and loss. The homily, delivered by a close friend of Charlie, was inspiring and challenging. The homilist told us that when we have those "why" questions, when we just want to shake our fist at God, we should go right ahead and do so. As someone who has lost too many friends this year, these were words I needed to here. He talked about our God not as "rescuer" but as "redeemer." In the face of the mystery of Charlie's death, we rely on that redemption and can turn to our belief in Christ, knowing that we need not be afraid.
The funeral rites of the Catholic Church do not mince words. They speak to us about the doubt that accompanies grief; they speak to us of the hope that we have in eternal life; they speak to us of what happened to us when we were claimed for Christ in baptism; and they speak to us of that day when we will all be together again, in the everlasting kingdom of heaven. As we prayed, sang, and mourned, I couldn't help but be grateful for my Catholic faith; I couldn't help but be grateful to my parents who had me baptized and who nurtured my faith; I couldn't help but be grateful to the hundreds of people who have supported Charlie and Jennifer over these past seven months.
The song that we sang at the entrance procession was J. Michael Thompson's God of Love. Here is that stirring and comforting text, set to the hymn tune Beach Spring:
God of love, whose mercies daily Like the morning are reborn,
Look on us, your gathered people: Heartsick, troubled, weary, worn,
Who before you raise our voices, Naming those called from our sight,
Confident that each is precious And is present in your light.
Christ, who lived through earthly suff'ring, Loss, betrayal, fear and death,
Ever-faithful to your calling, Serving till your final breath:
In your name we make memorial Of those gathered at your hand;
Freed from pain, despair and sorrow, Risen Lord, with you they stand.
Holy Spirit, whose indwelling Makes a temple of each heart,
Paraclete of strength'ning power, Be with us and ne'er depart;
As we name each name before you, Fortify us with your grace
That we strive to live in wholeness Till in heav'n we see your face.
God of mercy, love and mem'ry, Give us strength to follow you;
Let us trust that our departed, Now at rest, their struggle through,
All are known and loved and counted; As we name them, so may we,
Joined with them in one communion, Loving, serving, ever be.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.