Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThdphoto by:
Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, D.D. MA, SThD
photo by Lou Echano Dominguiano, Sto. Nino de Taguig Parish
Today, we celebrate the funeral mass for Kristel Mae which is also a mass of thanksgiving for her. One wonders how two contrasting emotional moods of grieving and gratitude are possible in today’s Eucharistic celebration.
In a funeral mass, the emotion of deep sorrow is experienced because after days of being with the dead body of Kristel during the wake services in her home, we finally lay to rest her dead body when she is buried after this mass. How can Jun and Judy, her parents, thank the Lord for the death of their only beloved daughter? For all of us gathered here, she has been a good daughter, relative and friend. How can we express a positive disposition of thanksgiving when we know that we will no longer see Kristel’s physical body once the coffin is laid to rest in her grave? We still feel overwhelming sorrow and pain for the loss of Kristel, someone dear to us.
Remember what Pope Francis said in Tacloban and also in the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T.). He said that during a time of tragedy, all we can do is weep and be silent. He told us that we cannot say anything and that it is normal to just cry. For Jun and Judy and for all of us, it is okay to cry and be silent; it is okay to grieve and to mourn.
However, the Eucharist means thanksgiving. Every mass evokes from within us to express gratitude. It is an opportunity to be grateful to the Lord for all the blessings we have received in life. In this sense, the Lord invites Jun and Judy, and all of us, amidst this seemingly negative experience of death, to thank the Lord. So what do we thank the Lord for?
First, we thank the Lord for his compassionate and loving presence, during this unexpected, tragic death of Kristel. Pope Francis told us that, as we cry silently, we just have to set our gaze on the crucified Lord who understands everything and assures us that he is with us during these trying times (cf. Homily, Mass in Tacloban Leyte, January 17, 2015). As Catholics, we are grateful to God because, during this negative experience of loss and death, we can hold on to our faith to carry us through.
Secondly, we thank the Lord for the gift of Kristel. After her death, we discovered her goodness and holiness. We learned how Kristel became a volunteer of the Catholic Relief Services to help the Yolanda typhoon-stricken victims of Samar. We also found out that instead of buying a cake for her birthday, she would use the money to buy notebooks and ballpens given to children who cannot afford them for their school use. Indeed, the words from our first reading affirm Kristel’s fate that the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God (cf. Wisdom 3:1). Even our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans describes how Kristel lived her life—that she lived and died not for herself but for God and others (cf. Romans 14:7). And our gospel tells us how Kristel, in more ways than one, was judged to merit God’s kingdom because she fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed strangers, visited the sick and those in prison (cf. Matthew 25:34-35)
Finally, we thank the Lord for receiving Kristel in heaven. We are consoled today because we know that Kristel is with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, with Mary and all the saints in God’s eternal kingdom. We look forward to the time when, one day, when God calls us, we will be with Kristel in what we all hope for—eternal life.
Pope Francis shared with us and, even in his papal flight back to Rome, that Kristel’s did not die in vain, that “she died in service” (January 19, 2015). Thus she was truly a “model of service” in her youth. We pray that there may be many more “Kristels” who will follow and live a life of service for God and the Church.
** This is the English translation of the homily delivered by Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, Bishop of Pasig during the funeral mass of Kristel Mae Padasas, the youth volunteer who accidentally died when scaffoldings hit her due to strong winds and rains brought about by typhoon “Amang” at the time when Pope Francis celebrated mass in Tacloban on January 17, 2015. Most Rev. Guiseppe Pinto, DD, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, was the main presider of the mass that was held on January 27, 2015 in Sto. Niňo Parish Church, Signal Village, Taguig City which belongs to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Diocese of Pasig, Philippines.