Homily - Fr Leo Skelly

You might perhaps think that the Gospel we have just heard is a very short one indeed. However much has been made, over the centuries, of that single verse from Chapter 19 of John's Gospel that the McKeirnan family has chosen for this funeral Mass for their Mother.

Learned theologians have seen Mary the Mother of Jesus standing there beneath the Cross as the high point of all that we humans were able to do in the face of what was happening.

Jesus came into the world as a Gift from the Father to turn back the tide of evil we humans had haplessly let loose at the dawn of creation. No one else but Jesus was perfect enough to accomplish this task. Jesus needed to suffer, in His human nature, the pangs of generosity that would be needed to outweigh the lack of love which had plunged the world into despair.

The rest of the human race hardly realised just how bad things were anyway, and they took very little interest in the event that was unfolding there on the Cross. There was just this one person who wanted to stand with Jesus and let Him know that it was appreciated.

Most mothers do the best they can to stand with their children on life's painful journey. Few are as well-equipped as Mary the Mother of Jesus, but still the average mother does what she can. — A mother of seven children, such as Irene McKeirnan, had plenty of practice. And she rose to every occasion like the valiant woman she was.

A life of 95 years like hers has exemplified for us those highs and lows listed for us in this morning's reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes. All of us must travel along this same road, of course, but few get to travel so far, and few get to struggle so deeply as she has done with just why God does the things He does and allows to happen the things He allows. Irene McKeirnan did successfully what wise people always end up doing. She knew there were no answers to be given in this life to such questions. So she learned to content herself with being as happy as she could each day, and to doing whatever good lay in her daily path - for her children and grand-children, and for anyone else she came across who needed help.

Who could possibly deny that, after 95 years of life, having fought the good fight to the end, and having kept the faith, surely the time must have been approaching for Irene to leave this life. And, even though we would always, very naturally, want to cling on a little longer to one who was so precious to us, and even though we feel the parting of such an inspiring person, we need to allow her to claim that prize which the Lord, the righteous Judge, has in store for her.

And I have no doubt that on her way to do that she would turn and point out, as Mothers always do, that St Paul's promise went a lot further than just promising a reward for one person. She would say that the same reward is on offer for all who wait for the Lord to appear.

So let us give thanks for all the inspiration Irene McKeirnan has given us in her long and faithful life. Let us commend her to God's love, and let us also do our best to follow the path she has trodden ahead of us.

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