Thursday, February 22, 2007

Homily for Mollie Summers

When you are studying to be a priest, they never tell you the gory details. Today was one of the hardest days I have had as a priest. Things hit a little too close to home. I hope the words I shared gave some solace and comfort to the family. I share them here because some asked about having a copy:

Tom and Sue, Emma, Elizabeth, William and Henry, Grandparents, cousins, and friends,
on behalf of the staff here at Visitation,
I offer you my condolences and sorrow.
I want to thank you for inviting me to be a part of this celebration,
whatever little I may be able to say at a time like this.

As a priest,
there are days that are tremendous joys,
but there are also days that I feel very small
and insignificant.

With Mollie,
I have now felt both.

One of the highlights
that I will always remember in my life as a priest
is the privilege of giving Mollie her First Communion,
the same day that her brother Henry
was welcomed into the community
through Baptism.

There were very few dry eyes that day
as she was brought forward
to receive Jesus for the first time,
my own eyes included.

It was special for me not just because of Mollie,
but because I also have a niece who is special needs.
I saw in Mollie my niece Tristyn, and vice versa.
These two girls
who have taught me so much
about what it is to embrace life,
who teach us all what Jesus means
in the Gospel passage that we just heard proclaimed.

The world tells us that someone like Mollie is a burden
that our lives will now be better off because she is gone.

If that was case,
why were there so many tears in my eyes
as I wrote out this homily?
Why do I miss this girl whom I really,
barely knew?

It is true that to have a child such as Mollie is a sacrifice,
for her parents,
her siblings,
and her friends.
There were certain things that the Summers family
could not do because of Mollie.
Is that fair?
Is it just?
No, I would be lying if I said it was.

But I challenge anyone who knew her
to say that Mollie was a ‘burden.’

Because in reality,
there is something about Mollie
which teaches us all something more.
We hear this passage:
"Unless you become like little children,
you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God,"
and we think of cute little thoughts and smiling faces.
We have that image
of a perfect life for our family and children.

With a child like Mollie,
The image of perfection is unfortunately shattered.
Hopes, dreams, wishes
all must slowly evaporate.
We grieve for our child while she is still alive.

But as these dreams die,
something else grows in their place.
We open our eyes to what God is doing instead.
It takes some time to realize,
but eventually every family with a child like Mollie
needs to see her as a gift from God,
and a gift meant to teach us something more,
something different,
something unique.

What Mollie was able to teach us,
in her own unique way,
is that to be a little child in God’s eyes
is to be totally reliant on someone else
for everything that we need.
And when we have those needs met,
there is a joy that is contagious.

The world cannot answer how this is could be.
But with faith,
we are able to not only see the answer,
but to embrace the love that comes to us from God.

For some strange reason that only He can understand,
God sent Mollie to all of us to teach us a lesson:
embrace life to it’s fullest every day.
And, just as Mollie relied on so many people
to be able to thrive in her own way,
we also need to rely on God to thrive in this world,
to overcome our own suffering,
and to experience the joy that comes solely from God.

In another passage,
this from Gospel according to John,
Jesus tells us that he is going to heaven
to prepare a place for us,
a room in God’s mansion that is just for me or you.

If we believe,
if we look at the example of the Gospels,
Jesus always reached out to those most in need,
Jesus always reached out especially to little children.

It gives me some comfort,
some solace,
to know that Mollie
is now able to run and jump and play
in a way that she was never able to do
while she was here on earth.

Her chair on earth sits empty,
a reminder of the loss that we have suffered.
But she needs no chair in heaven.

take this chance to stretch your legs,
to reach out with your arms,
to laugh and smile.
Jesus is there to welcome you
and to give you what you did not have in this life.
We now send you home to heaven,
and we ask you to continue to help us,
to prepare our place with you,
so that we may join you
when our time here on earth is over as well.

God Bless, Mollie,
we all love you and will miss you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Kyle,
Yesterday my family went to visit our daughter's gravesite because it would have been her 2nd birthday. Our 18 month old Sophie died on August 21, 2006. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor on August 18 and died during surgery to remove it on August 21. These past 6 months have been a very difficult journey. However our faith in God has been helping our family get through each day. While visiting our daughter at the cemetary, we noticed a new grave site right next to her. We saw the name on some flowers and came home to "google" it to learn about this person. This is how I found your site. Your homily was just beautiful for this little girl. I know our own priest's words provided many with comfort and encouragement at our own daughter's mass. I am sure your beautiful words have done the same for Mollie's family. Even though I didn't have the pleasure to meet Mollie here on earth, I know she is with my angel Sophie in heaven.Thank you for your inspirational words. God Bless You.