Homily for the Funeral of Deacon Don Wise

Homily Notes from Father Paul on the Occasion of the Funeral for Deacon Don Wise (April 23, 2019)

Helen Keller learned a great deal about trust in her life as one who was both blind and deaf. She learned to trust people, upon whom she was often dependent. She learned to trust herself and lived a highly productive life in spite of her handicapping conditions. This great woman believed there are four essential things to learn in life that are signs of a good life. They are:

• To think clearly without hurry or confusion;

• To love everyone sincerely;

• To act in everything with the highest motives;

• To trust God unhesitatingly.

This extraordinary woman came up with a very fitting   description of a truly remarkable man – Donald Wise.    He lived well his calling in life as a husband, father, grandfather, Deacon, and friend.  Don was a comfort to many in hospitals, homes, or wherever they were bedridden.  He was a inspiration to many, many people in how he lived out his faith day in and day out and ministered to them.

The last time many of us saw Deacon Don was at the Holy Thursday Commemoration of the Lord’s Supper.

  • As one who serves, he dried the feet of a few parishioners.
  • As one who teaches us, he blessed us with incense reminding us of our call to holiness.
  • As one who ministers in the name of Jesus, he fed us with the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • As one who models discipleship, Deacon Don spent many minutes in silence and prayer in the presence of the Eucharist after the service ended.

How fitting that he who loved God so much died on the day we remember God’s great love when Christ died on the Cross.

And so we are sad and do mourn, because death has separated us from a much beloved man.  At the same time, we are Christians who turn to God’s Word to remind ourselves of God’s promises and our faith.  Deacon Don chose these readings for this funeral for us to hear and draw comfort.

From the Old Testament Book of WISDOM: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead; their passing away thought an affliction, and their going fort from us utter destruction.  But they are in peace.”  What better place could there possibly be for Don to be than in the hands of God?

ST. PAUL compares the loss of our physical body at death to taking down a tent that provided shelter for the one inside.  It is the person inside the tent and inside the body who is important and eternal thanks to the salvation Jesus won for us on the cross. Elsewhere St. Paul tells us that when we die, people of faith like Don receive new, glorified bodies that will have no suffering, pain, aging, or impairment.  The preface for the Eucharistic Prayer today puts it this way: “death means that life is changed, not ended.”

Deacon Don chose the passage from John’s Gospel without knowing when he would die.  Yet it is so appropriate because JESUS speaks about his Paschal Mystery and ours.  Jesus died on Good Friday to overcome the power of sin and death.  We Christians are called to die to sin and selfishness so we can live for God.

When 19th Century missionary David Livingstone returned home to Scotland after sixteen years in the jungles of Africa, a group of students asked,  “What sustained you amidst the toil, hardship, and loneliness of your life in the jungle.  Livingstone answered, “It was Jesus’ promise, ‘I am with you always.’”  This is the message of Easter; this is the heart of our faith; this is why we gather in a church to give thanks to God.