Celebration of the Rite of Christian Burial of for William “Buddy” Sentner – June 24, 2006

Today we commend the soul of William “Buddy” Sentner to the Lord trusting in his Divine Mercy.  Our faith in the Resurrection strengthens us even with it cannot ease the burden of the cross of grief that you bear today.  We gather here to offer our sincerest condolences to Maria, Buddy’s wife, to his parents and his brothers and sisters and all his blood relations.  We pray for Buddy; but, we also pray for you at this most difficult time.  Your pain is real; and we all share in with you – and we wish that in sharing it we could take some of it away from you.  And though we can not do that, we want you to know that you do not carry it alone.

Maria, cuenta con nuestras oraciones.  Yo se que mis palabras no pueden quitarte el dolor que te sientes en este momento.  Sin embargo, la fe nos da fuerza aun en los momentos más difíciles de nuestras vidas.  Y en este momento tan triste para ti y para tus seres queridos, quiero que sepas que no estas solo.  Con la ayuda de tantos seres queridos y tantos amigos y compañeros de tu marido aquí presentes, el Señor te ayudara encontrar la paz, la luz y la fuerza para que puedas seguir adelante.

This tragic death of William Sentner brings home to all of us the fragility of our own lives. And that he died in the line of duty reminds us of how thin that line is – that line of defense provided by our law enforcement authorities; how thin is that line that protects us from barbarity; that defends our communities so that they remain just that communities and not jungles.

Too often, our society values people for what they have and not for who they are, and when “getting” rather than “giving” is prized celebrities are taken as role models. Starlets with bare midriffs are deemed worthy of emulation; and sports personalities whose records unfortunately also include rap sheets are idolized.

Today, however, as we celebrate this Mass of Christian Burial for William “Buddy” Sentner, we honor him and in honoring him we honor his comrades who continually put their lives on the line. We honor him for his commitment, his service, and his sacrifice. Here, we see the difference between celebrity and heroism.  And today William returns to the Lord who created him; and he returns a hero for giving his life in the line of duty, for protecting and saving the lives of his comrades; he returns to God a hero.

William is a hero – and not because he did not ever know fear, but because he did not let fear overwhelm him so as to keep him from helping his neighbor. He is a hero –because in the face of evil, he responded firmly and resolutely to protect and serve the common good.

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, his sisters were distraught; and when Jesus showed up at Bethany some four days after the funeral, Mary reproached him:  “If you had been here my brother would not have died?”  At that moment, both Mary and her sister Martha felt abandoned by the Lord.  And certainly they had hard questions to ask him –as many of you might have today.  Why him?  Why now?  And I do believe that Jesus can and will answer even the hardest questions we might put him.  But, to be sure, some of the answers we will not hear on this side of heaven.

Back to Martha and Mary – they took Jesus to Lazarus’ tomb.  There he too was caught up in their grief and as the gospel tells us, “Jesus wept”. When we are in pain, is there a sense in which we can say that God is also in pain?  Our tears are God’s tears too.  God does not abandon us in our time of suffering.  God suffers with us – and as we see on Calvary, he suffers for us, in his suffering and death our own suffering and death finds meaning.  And so, even if in our grief we ask in our hearts some of those same questions Martha and Mary asked in their grief, may we also know that Jesus grieves with us, he weeps with us.  He suffers with us even as he assures us as he assured Martha: your brother will rise. Like Martha, even in our grief, we make our profession of faith:  “I know that he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day”.  And in this faith, Jesus tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

We were created more than just to die; we were created for life with God, a life that will never end – a life we gain not by self seeking or self assertion but by forgetting self and by giving self.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said:  “I can never lose one whom I have loved unto the end. One to whom my soul cleaves so firmly that it can never be separated does not go away but only goes before.

We pray that our merciful God will forgive him for whatever sins he may have committed through human weakness. But we also trust that our Loving Lord will welcome him home saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”