On December 10, 2014, Archbishop Christian Lépine celebrated the state funeral of Jean Béliveau. Here is the homily.
Remembrance, Presence, Prayer
Homily for Jean Béliveau's Funeral
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
"Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father...". This hour refers to the time of Jesus's impending death. It could have been justifiably written, "...his hour had come to die," but death is more than simply death. According to our senses, our perception, and our experience, death appears before us as a relentless wall, foretelling of an impassable boundary.
Is death the end of life? Is the death of a loved one the end of a love and a relationship? Jesus, who died praying and filled with love, transformed death into the passage toward eternal life. The love that is felt in this life has a future in eternity. The love of a husband, father and grandfather, a friend and colleague, a dedicated humanitarian... all this love has a future in eternity.
This vision of hope is based on Jesus himself, who died and rose again for us, to lead us on the path to eternal life.
For several days we have been remembering Jean Béliveau, his passion and integrity, his dignity and humanity, which he displayed on as well as off the ice. We recall how, year after year, he personified consideration for others in his relationships: with his friends, his teammates, Canadiens supporters, hockey fans, and the general public. We remember the foundation that he established after his retirement to benefit children, more specifically, those with disabilities. We are reminded that faith was of great importance to him and that he prioritized family life in his decision making. Thus the past has suddenly become very present, and Jean's paternal nature is warming our hearts today.
This time of remembrance has also become a time of presence: presence in the media, on television, on the radio, in the newspapers, on the Internet, on social networks, presence in private conversations, presence at the lying in state which was held at the Bell Centre for two days, and today, presence at the Cathedral, at this prayer event. Jean's family is present, and we are present for his family. When a person loses someone close to them, we feel powerless when trying to bring them comfort and support. It is difficult to think of something consoling to say. But isn't being there for the person what's most important? And this is what we are taking the time to do. Residents of Montreal, Quebec, and Canada, elected officials and citizens alike, are taking the time to be here, with the family and friends, to give their support to those in pain and to give thanks for the gift that was Mr. Béliveau's life.
Jesus came into this world to open the door to the future beyond death and guide us in the presence of the Eternal Father, who never ceases to see us as His beloved children. Thus the time of remembrance and presence becomes the time of prayer. We present Jean, husband, father and grandfather, friend and brother, to God, so that He may welcome him into his Kingdom, the Kingdom of eternal love.
We are in pain, but our hearts are opening up to hope, for communication has not been broken, but transformed. Jesus, before he died, knew he was going on to eternal life, and yet he said, "I am deeply grieved, even to death." He knew that death is not the end but a passage; nonetheless, this did not make him impermeable to a profound sense of loneliness. However, at the heart of his pain and his feeling of abandonment, he relinquished himself to the Father through the Holy Spirit: "Into your hand I commit my spirit."
To Jean's family I would like to say that our thoughts go out to you in a surge of affection. Our pain can give way to hope, because prayer for a loved one is the presence of God as He provides balm for the emptiness and gives us His peace. Through prayer, the future itself becomes present, for God's plan of love is to unite us for eternity, and our faith in Jesus Christ becomes the hope of reuniting in God's goodness to live eternally as children of the Light in the fullness of communion and joy.
Remembrance, presence, prayer... Let us take a few moments of silence to present Jean Béliveau, along with our grieving hearts, to God, who comforts us in all our troubles...
Archbishop of Montreal
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