Monday, August 4, 2014

Blessing, Homily and Liturgy for Joe Herbert’s Funeral by Jim Marsh

Joe McVeigh
December 26, 1968 - July 12, 2014

      Go forth in peace,
      for you have followed the good road.

      Go forth without fear,
      for God who created you has made you holy,
      has always protected you,
      and loves you as a mother.

      Blessed be you, my God,
      for having created him.
                             -Saint Clare of Assisi

We find ourselves so soon again at McVeigh’s funeral home to ritualize our “good-byes”  and to make sense of all that has been, and how your lives will be different from this point without Joe’s physical presence.

Many of us in this room (if not all) believe in the existence of God.  We may call God by many names, (Divine Presence, Creator, Great Spirit, the Holy One, Yahweh, Allah, Adonai, Shekinah) none of which are entirely adequate or sufficient.  God is beyond our images and descriptions.

There are many, many creation stories.  Perhaps we are most familiar with the Hebrew story found in Genesis.  While it is certainly not an accurate account, I believe it does bear some truths; namely, that darkness covered the abyss and a mighty wind (literally the spirit of God) was hovering over the chaos, and that after all was created we hear God say “IT IS GOOD, IT IS VERY GOOD.”  In essence, it is a story of original blessing.

[Let’s try a little exercise – repeat the words Yah-weh and Allah several times.]
What did you experience? …………. Are you conscious that your very articulation of these names is an act of breathing.  Is it any coincidence that many forms of meditation concentrate on breathing. 

We live in very exciting times  --- scientific exploration and discovery, the Hubbell telescope, etc. ---- there is a “new creation” story.  Superclusters contain thousands of galaxies, and each galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars.  Our galaxy is only one of several, and it’s billions of years old.  Human kind, as we know, is at least a hundred thousand years old if not older.  And guess what, our bodies are made of stardust, yes that’s right, the very same stuff of stars!  And new stars are continually being born every 15 seconds, while others are dying.  So creation is not static, it’s not over, it continues to evolve and we know this ourselves in the changing seasons that we use as time-markers. 

We also know from science that energy is never destroyed, but is always transformed into other forms, a continual cycle.  And so it is with all of creation – birth, death and new life again.


Creation is the ultimate sacrament, the primary revelation of God!  We find God not only in creation, but also in ourselves since we too are part of creation.  In this sense, each of us is an expression of the divine masculine and sacred feminine – we are the unique face of God. 

Joe was a unique expression of the Divine presence.  Rabbi Abraham Heschel said it this way: “Just to be is a blessing.  Just to live is holy.”

At Joe’s baptism, his parents and god-parents and the community of believers gave him a name, signed him with the cross, and declared him to be a “child of God,” a brother of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ.  “You are the beloved of God!”

Scripture reminds us of this:
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.  -Jeremiah 1:4,5,10

From the very beginning God loved us.  We are God’s work of art.
-Ephesians 2:10

The promises made that day have now been fulfilled: “Come, you who are blessed, you who are beloved…”  I do not believe his death is the final end of anything, nor is it the start of a journey to somewhere else (heaven), but a transformation / continuation of the ebb and flow of existence in ways we do not fully understand.  Joe continues to live on in God and in the lives of those he touched.

Joe was also nourished by the Eucharist.  I dare say that he was also nourished and fed at so many other tables during his life – indeed these too were Eucharistic encounters that nurtured his spirit.

You see my friends, each breath we take is a piece of the sky, a part of creation, a “piece of spirit.”  Naturalist Diane Ackerman says “with every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world…………” 

In the same way all energy is derived from the sun’s energy.  And we know that plants “eat” the sun through photosynthesis and obtain rich


minerals from mother earth.  Food is also part of the same mysterious cycle of life, death, and rebirth.  Our food was once alive, whether plant or animal, and it allows us to live; thus we should always be grateful for food.  Actually this is why saying “grace” before meals is so ancient and yet a universal practice.  Every meal is sacred, a sacrament or sign of the relationship and relatedness with all that is, and all that is behind all that is. . 
So the cosmos is not merely a philosophical abstraction, but the very “placenta” for our earthly existence.  It represents the divine energy, the divine presence, Father Sky and Mother Earth, the Divine Masculine and
Sacred Feminine.  Julian of Norwich, the sainted mystic, declared “God is both Father and Mother.” 

I chose the Scripture passage from the Epistle (Letter) of John because it emphasizes Jesus’ message that “I have come that you might have life, and have it in abundance.”  

It is not usually a passage that is used at funerals, however.  If God is love, then we encounter God in all that we love and cherish (friends, lovers, children, sunsets, animals, music, poetry, sunshine, landscapes and beaches) ---- they become epiphanies or windows to the divine presence and energy.

To say that God is love also rules out an image of God as the “old man in the sky” who is out to judge us; a peeping tom on our actions, or the God of empires or the powerful, or even the avenging God who destroys.  I dare say these are idols, certainly not images of a God who is Love.

Another reason is the passage says “God is love”.  It does not say ‘God is heterosexual love.’  All love is a taste of the Divine and so Brian, I wanted to affirm your 27 year relationship with my cousin Joe.  Certainly, like all relationships it had joys, sorrows, hopes and disappointments; but I’m sure you would say it has been a blessing to you both.

Another great mystic, Meister Eckhart declared “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice."    

Death causes us to take stock of our own lives too.  Remember the dash between the dates of birth and death on a headstone.  Perhaps it is key – what do we want others to remember about us when “sister death” claims our mortal bodies?

Ann Bryan Smollin is a Sister of St. Joseph here in Albany.  She is a therapist by training and has written “Jiggle Your Heart and Tickle Your Soul” (The uses of joy and laughter in attaining health & happiness).
She is a very joyful person and has some wisdom to share with us today, namely:

1)  Decide to live today to the fullest – i.e., don’t die without ever living!

2)  Use your energy and enjoy the NOW; yesterday is gone and tomorrow
     isn’t here yet

3)  Differentiate between wants and needs

4)  Ask for what you need – none of us can do it alone!  To let others help
      you is a gift to them and a gift to yourself.

5)  Give something away every day -  like a smile, a kind word, a helping
      hand, a card, note or phone call.  [my mentor St Francis – “preach the
      gospel always; use words, if necessary]

6)  Don’t take yourself so seriously; we are human and do make mistakes.

7)  Learn to laugh at yourself

8)  Spend some quiet time – it might help our focus and lessen anxiety (not
      to mention blood pressure).  Psalm 45 reminds us “Be still and know
      that I am God.”

9)  Don’t waste your life with worry – deal with what is real.  We can’t
      control every situation (if you are a worry wart, then plan your time)


10) Be patient with yourself – give yourself some breathing space, time to
       limp or walk slowly through our wounds and brokenness until we can
       run again with full vigor. 

11) Focus on your surroundings – notice the beauty, “feast on the divine”

12) Choose to be a happy person; smile more, laugh more, see humor as
       gift. So today, we speak and ponder the seamlessness of life, death,
       and new life.  Not only do all living beings (plants and animals) live,
       die and resurrect in some form but so do galaxies, stars and

We can thank the pioneers like Ernest Becker and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross for addressing the denial of death and emphasizing the spiritual side of death.  Death is our consciousness moving on to another plane of existence.

All the religious traditions teach and speak about death and the afterlife.  In the goddess era many, many centuries ago it was called “regeneration,” the East now calls it “reincarnation” and the Western traditions speak of “resurrection.” 

The mystic Meister Eckhart said that at death “life dies but being goes on.” 

The Sufi mystic Hafiz declares “God has written a thousand promises all over your heart that say Life, life, life is far too sacred to ever end.”

Each of us has experienced many deaths in our lives.  Life is an eternal act of letting go.  The letting go we do at death is just one more, though very unique from all “former deaths with a small d.”

Because life is brief, it is valuable!

Because life is brief, it is all the more precious!

Let us not waste our lives!

Funeral Liturgy for Joe McVeigh
Funeral Liturgy for Joseph S. Herbert

Welcome -  Let us truly celebrate Joe’s life!

We know that Jesus is always present when we gather in prayer; may we experience God’s consolation and peace as we “pray our goodbyes.”   

May our prayer today be a profound thank you,
[THANKS Be to GOD!] for the life of Joe Herbert.

Our brother Joe has gone to his rest in the peace of Christ.  With faith and hope, let us assist him with our prayers. 

Let us pause in silence to be united with him.

God of Abraham and Sarah,
Moses and Miriam,
Lord of the living and the dead,
Hear our prayer this day as we remember Joe.

Gracious God, Most Holy One,
We pray for Aunt Carol, who mourns the death of yet another child;

We pray for Brian, who grieves the loss of his beloved companion and soulmate;

We pray for his siblings Ed, Carolynn, Diana (Ana), Charlotte, Mary, Darlene and their children, who will miss their dear brother and uncle;   

Embrace them all in your love.

May each of us who are Aunt, Uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor keep the flame of remembrance alive in our hearts.

We make this prayer in the name of Jesus, our brother, who accompanies us all on our life’s journey.  R: AMEN

Word of God:  St. John’s First Letter (1 John 4:7-9, 11-13, 16-17, 19)

Dear friends!  Let us love one another, for love comes from God. 

Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. 

Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love. 

This is how God showed love for us: God sent Jesus into the world that we might have life.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us.

God is love.  Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them. 

We love because God first loved us.


Sharing our Story(ies)

My friends, we believe that all the ties of affection, family and friendship which we experience in our lives DO NOT unravel with death. And so I ask you, what will you remember and cherish about Joe (in one or two words)? [allow time for community to respond]

Eulogy by Joe’s niece Gina

Few Thoughts/Homily by JTM (separate doc)

Our Father and Closing Prayer:

When his friends asked how to pray, Jesus responded:
O Cosmic Birther of all radiance and vibration!
Soften the ground of our being and carve out a space within us where your
          presence can abide.
Fill us with your creativity so that we may be empowered to bear the fruit of
          your mission.
Let each of our actions bear fruit in accordance with your desire.
Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share what each being needs to
          grow and flourish.
          Untie the tangled threads of destiny that bind us,
as we release others from the entanglement of past mistakes.
Do not let us be seduced by that which would divert us from our true purpose,
but illuminate the opportunities of the present moment.

For you are the ground and fruitful vision,
the birth, power and fulfillment,
as all is gathered and made whole once again.
-Based on the original Aramaic by Neil Douglas Klotz

And so let us stand, hold hands and pray the Jesus prayer as we have been taught ………………..


We rejoice because the name of Joseph Scott Herbert has been written for all ages in the palm of your divine hand.

May our funeral gathering today remind us of what we know in faith and what we await with hope ----- that nothing dies, but rather that life is only transformed into new life.

We know that Joe is now reunited with his dad, Ed (whom we buried last week); his brothers David and Donald; his maternal grandparents George & Grace; his maternal aunts, Josephine, Eileen and Lois; his maternal uncles George and Bob; and his cousins Keith, John and Darren

We give you thanks for the blessings you bestowed on him in this life and we thank you for the gift he was to each of us.

We pray also for all the health professionals who cared for Joe competently, skillfully and compassionately throughout the course of his disease and illness over many years.

Song of Farewell:   The Hand of God Shall Hold You –Marty Haugen

The hand of God shall hold you,
The peace of God enfold you,
The love that dreamed and formed you still surrounds you here today;
The light of God beside you, above, beneath, inside you,
The light that shines to guide you home to the loving hand of God.
                                                              [in the presence of our God.]
                                                              [to the loving arms of God.]     

Sprinkling and blessing of casket:
Although we will leave this place in sorrow, we are confident and full of faith that we shall see Joe again in the peace and joy of the Divine presence for eternity.

Until that day Joe,
may perpetual light shine upon you.  R. AMEN

May your soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.  R. AMEN

[Invite the family to come forward and bless the casket with water while all present stand, extend hands and pray this blessing prayer]
      Go forth in peace,
      for you have followed the good road.

      Go forth without fear,
      for God who created you has made you holy,
      has always protected you,
      and loves you as a mother.

      Blessed be you, my God,
      for having created him.
                        -Saint Clare of Assisi

Blessing and Dismissal
May God’s love, the peace of Jesus, the Christ, and the consolation of the Spirit gently wipe every tear from our eyes;
and continue to bless us, and all we love in the name of God, the Creator; Jesus the liberator; and the Holy Spirit who inspires our every breath.  R. AMEN

Go in the peace of the Cosmic Christ.  R. THANKS BE TO GOD.
Thanks to Jim Marsh for sharing this inspirational funeral liturgy and homily with us.
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,

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