Michael Jennings (2000-2016)

Funeral and wakes are part of life. But that doesn’t make them easy….

Think about how you felt this week. Remember getting the news that Michael died on Saturday. If you were able to make it, think about driving to the wake last night. Think about the drive here. If you are like me, you probably felt a mixture of deep sadness, anger that God gives life… and then takes it away, maybe a little awkward thinking about what to say, maybe a little anxious.

And yet somehow, out of that sadness, we all made it here. Not out of obligation, but because we want to be with the people we love so much, who are hurting, right now. We want to walk with them in their grief.

And that means the world to Peg, Tom, Liam and Kayla.  Despite their sorrow, their many emotions, their shock… I know they are so grateful for all of your prayers, your support, and your love.

But none of us does this alone.

We come to Church to ask God a favor.  We ask God… Please be with us. Please be with this family to comfort them in their loss. Please let the healing begin. Please, Lord. We know you can do it. Do not turn your back on us. Give us the strength we need to carry on.

On the day following the Resurrection, two disciples weren’t able to pray that prayer. They walked away from the loss. They took their anger, their confusion, their anxiety and they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. See, Jerusalem was where the dream was supposed to happen, where everything was meant to end in triumph. After their hard life of sacrifice doing the right thing with Jesus, they expected to be rewarded. Not cast aside.

Back then, Emmaus was a holiday town, a Roman Spa, a place of human comfort… like going to the Cape in summer, or skiing in Vermont in the winter. Since their dream was crucified, they just wanted to get out of town. They wanted food, drink, no stress. Everything they had committed to had just crashed and burned. Who wouldn’t do the same?

The problem was they didn’t want to deal with the tragedy. This was the first day of the week. This was a knee-jerk reaction, by all accounts.

But suddenly, Jesus appears. He talks to them, encourages them, and somehow gets them to turn back towards Jerusalem.  And even though they don’t recognize it, He begins to heal them. He tells them to go back and face the difficult situation, the persecution, the anxiety, the loss… and be present for the others. The early Church is depending on them. He gives them hope.

Today Michael is free. His soul is free of his physical limitations. Today he is shouting for joy, dancing, walking, talking, saying ‘hi’ to my dad. He’s never been happier. I’m sure he misses all of us… but he’s having a ball.

Imagine if we could see Michael right now. Would we recognize him? Imagine he’s standing here, a healthy, handsome teenager, radiating with light and joy in the presence of God. He can finally walk and talk.

What would he say to us? To you? If we gave him a microphone, how would he describe his life now? You know, when Jesus healed the blind, the mute and the lame in the Gospels, those who were cured immediately stood up and told everybody what happened. They shouted out how overjoyed they were with their new life.  How they so much appreciated what God had done for them.

Maybe that’s what Michael would tell us… That no matter how difficult, our physical handicaps are not the final word. That we should thank all of those who try to make our life here on earth more bearable. That when we gather for Mass, when the bread and the wine are transformed into the body and the blood, we are being reminded that this life – no matter how painful or burdened – is only temporary.

That our death is not the end.

“Turn around”, he’d say. “You’re heading in the wrong direction. You don’t need to avoid the pain, the suffering, and the challenges any longer. The way to peace and healing is to see the pain and suffering for what it is — temporary.

So get going… You’ve got a lot work to do. People are counting on you. Yea, I know every day is going to demand a lot from you, especially in the days ahead. But you can do it. Look at my life, my fifteen years, my sleepless nights, my medical problems, my cries.

No, you will be healed, he’d say. Open your eyes, Jesus is right beside you. You will be victorious over your doubts, your sins, your setbacks, your limitations…  God has big plans for you, this Year of Mercy, and an even bigger reward.

Just look at me… Just look at me now!”

3 thoughts on “Michael Jennings (2000-2016)

  1. Vicki A

    Deacon Chuck, What comforting, beautiful sentiments. Your words brought tears to my eyes. I will pray for Michael’s family and Michael. Thank you for sharing this wonderful message with us.

  2. Patti

    I didn’t know Michael but I do know you and Amanda. I am so very sorry for the loss you have all suffered . Today I am thinking about Michaels immediate and extended family and my prayers are with you all.
    What a beautiful image you have painted for his entry into heaven where
    The promise of life eternal and free is promised.
    God bless


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