Thursday, September 11, 2014

Joan's Mass

About 3 weeks ago, my Mom passed away.  The funeral Mass was beautiful!  She loved singing the Alleluia.  The Alleluia had to be sung with feeling, joy, and had to be fast.  One of her favorite songs was "Alleluia, Alleluia, Let the Holy Anthem Rise." It was played beautifully by the organist and sung with joy by the cantor and congregation.  What a testament to her life! 

Many people have asked for the readings and sermon as well as a poem Gerry (my Mom's brother) wrote.  So, here you go:

1st Reading:

A Reading from the Book of Proverbs
(Proverbs 31:10-17, 25-31)

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil, and all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax and makes cloth with skillful hands.
Like merchant ships, she secures her provisions from afar.
She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household.
She picks out a field to purchase; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength, and sturdy are her arms.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
She watches the conduct of her household, and eats not her food in idleness.
Her children rise up to praise her; her husband, too, extols her;
"Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all."
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

2nd Reading:

A Reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
Romans 12:5-16

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.


A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
John 14: 1-6

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way." Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."


On this sunny summer morn we gather to bid yours and our beloved Joan a warm Christian farewell.  As we shared earlier on ... Joan may have uttered her final Amen on earth with a tear in her eye ... who would doubt that she shouted her first Alleluia in Heaven.  She would be the first to bid us do the same at her Mass of Christian Burial.

In life and in death we are all defined by our relationships.  Joan Niebauer Sutula was a daughter and sister; wife and mother and grandmother; prayer partner and bridge partner; good friend and confidant to anyone and everyone.  Accomplished seamstress - the sacred linens at this Mass are her own handiwork.  How she will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by all gather before me this morning.

How many people do you know who are as relentlessly cheerful as was Joan? She always wore her smile on her face and her heart on her sleeve.  no matter how she felt in the morning ... Joan was going to have a good day and she prayed the same for you and for me.  She was a nurse by profession and a caregiver by vocation.  The perennial people person - she knew no strangers - not even in the line at Giant Eagle.  Joan knew you and everything about you.  She was a good talker but ah an ever better listener.  Someone once said - you can listen a person's soul into existence.  It was her vocation ... along with marriage and family! You were number one!

You and your soul mate did the old fashioned way!  In a throw away world - Bob - you and Joan made your vows and lived your vows.  I always thought of you and your marriage as serenity - but then you often said in the sacristy - you had to check with the boss!  The Catholic marriage ritual of fifty ears ago included this telling admonition: "Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome ... But love can make it easy ... and perfect love can make it a joy."  You went for joy and have taught those who surround and support you today to the very same each and every day!  Not even death can break the bonds you and Joan forged in life.  Love is eternal and marriage is celebrated in Heaven.

Bob Jr. - I truly believe you were truly correct ... your Mother KNEW you were there ... when she shed a single tear ... and a final breath ... A final Amen on earth and a first Alleluia in Heaven ...

What was it like ... Joan meeting Jesus face to face for the first time?
C.S. Lewis put it like this ...
"When we die and finally see God we will not say: Lord, I could never have guessed how beautiful you are!  We will not say that.  Rather we will say: So, God, it was you all along!"

"Everyone I ever loved, it was you.  Everyone who ever loved me, it was you. Everything decent or fine that ever happened to me.  Everything that made me reach out and try to be better - it was you God ... it was you all along!"

Gerry's Poem for Joan

"She loved the Lord and all other too,
     For that's what Jesus wanted her to do
Though she never had much wealth
     She served as a nurse helping others to health
She shared Christ's love with one and all
     For that, you see, was her call
She loved to cook so others could eat
     Her love for people couldn't be beat

Jesus came first, then her family too
     Then she reached out to me and to you
Ready to listen and also to pray
     She prayed for her friends every day
In sickness and troubles, she prayed us through
     She had lots of love for me and for you
She made friends of all she met
     And her love was always the best you could get

She raised her children to love her Lord
     And to listen to His Holy Word
To live their lives following His way
     And reach out to others every day
For love not shared isn't love at all
     And to love Jesus is to answer his call
To reach out to others each and everyday
     And, for them, to pray, pray, pray

Joan has gone home to Jesus, you see
     From her troubles, He has set her free
But her love still goes on from here
     To be spread by us for all to hear

She loved the Lord more than anything
     And found the peach only He can bring
She found Him each day in prayer
     And she trusted in His gentle care
Now she is with Jesus in Heaven, above
     She is with Him basking in His love
She will greet us when we get there one day
     But only if we follow Jesus along the way

For Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life
     He is the only way out of this world's strife
Joan reached out to one and to all
     Always following Jesus' call

She wanted each of us to know Him too
     For that was what Jesus wanted her to do
If you don't know the Lord, Jesus, today
     Open your hearts to Him and follow His way

He will fill you with peace and with love
     And He will lead you home to Heaven above
There is no other way to get eternal life
     Than to let Jesus lift you from this world's strife

Joan prayed that we all would know Jesus, too
     I have met Him, have you
Open your heart to His love, today
     Let His love always guide your way
Joan is gone, but her love is still here
     She loved one and all without fear
She is with Jesus and you can also
     If you turn to Him before you go."


~ Gerard L. Niebauer