Bill, Nancy, Jess, all the aunties and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and family – we love you and are with you this morning. Thank you for having shared the gift of Andrew with us.
To all of Andrew’s friends, colleagues and to all the parishioners – the Buthorn’s extended family – thank you for your presence here. It is both a tribute to Andrew as well as a comfort for us all that is so needed at this moment.
At a funeral in the Catholic Church, we gather to pray for the deceased, for Andrew, lifting him up to the Lord, praying him into heaven, into the loving embrace of Jesus.
Yet our focus is not so much on Andrew as it is on what God has done in, with, through and for Andrew in his life. So I wish to offer a few simple, inadequate thoughts that I hope will help us at this time of loss. Near the end of our liturgy, Mike McCarty, Andrew’s uncle and Godfather at his baptism, will offer reflections that Bill wrote about Andrew on behalf of the family.
I want to set the context for a quote that will anchor my reflections. Jesus is with his closest, most intimate friends on the most holy of nights for the Jewish people. They were celebrating the Passover, remembering their liberation from slavery in Egypt to freedom.
It was on this night of celebration and remembrance when one of those closest companions of Jesus would betray him and set in motion the unfolding of his trial, his suffering, his passion and his death. Jesus knew what would happen as he said to Judas at table with him, “Do what you must.” Judas then leaves the meal and John writes in the gospel, “And it was night.” Judas goes into the darkness, into evil.
He is now alone with the eleven, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.’”
Well, our hearts are troubled. Our hearts are numb, grief stricken, hurting, confused, grieving.
Nancy, Bill, Jess – there is no way we can understand or feel what you have been experiencing this past week. Your pain and suffering are uniquely yours and we can only in some incomplete and inadequate way share in it with you as we too feel and grapple with the shock, horror, loss and pain. As inadequate as it must seem to you at times, we simply offer the gift of our prayerful presence as you walk this journey.
“And Jesus said, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.’” Jesus is asking them to believe in what he is going to tell them because he wants to offer them hope in the midst of seeming disaster and hopelessness.
“Believe me when I tell you that in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. I have prepared a place for you – for Andrew – and I will come back again and take you – take Andrew – to myself so that where I am you also may be.”
This is why we are here, at Saint Michael Catholic Church, the Church where Andrew was baptized into Christ’s death so that he might also share Christ’s resurrection. We are here because we believe that death is not the end; that evil does not triumph in the end; and that this meager existence of your lives – as wonderful and awesome as it can be – is not the final note.
We gather in faith to pray for Andrew knowing and feeling deeply those opening words of our first reading:
“My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is:
I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord.
Remembering it over and over leaves my soul downcast within me.”
Yes we are there. Yes we feel the sorrow, anger, pain and loss. Yet we are not overcome, crushed and defeated. Why? Because, as the reading continues,
“I will call this to mind, as my reason to hope:
The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning, so great is God’s faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore I will hope in my God.”
Jesus said to his closest friends – and says to us – “Have faith in me. Look to me. Trust in me. Cling to me. Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened. Bring to me your beloved son Andrew, your brother and friend. Offer to me your broken hearts and weary souls. I, I will give you rest.”
This is why Jesus left us the gift of the Church after his resurrection and ascension. He knew that we can’t do this on our own. It is too much for us individually. We need one another in Christ to bear burdens such as this. We need to help one another in Christ and be of service to one another and to this world just like Christ, because on its own, humanity despairs and drowns in its own weakness, evil and darkness.
Andrew, in his own unique way, was light in the darkness for so many. As Bill’s words will tell you at the end of Mass, Andrew was gift – gift given and shared with so many, on behalf of many.
Dr. Andrew Buthorn grew into a sensitive, attentive, professional healer as a physical therapist sharing in Christ’s own healing ministry. Now he might not have put it that way and I think would probably react with, “Phfff…FJ!” and then immediately turn the conversation to something else.
These past nine months or so, Andrew’s life shown with an even greater light as he grew in relationship with Candy and more deeply in love with her. Nancy noticed the change in him. She said to me a couple of times, “Oh, I just love her! She is a cutie-petutie! And she goes to church.” I’d look over at Bill and he would just smile and roll his eyes.
This is what one of our parishioners who used to golf with Bill and Andrew wrote:
“The great thing about the Buthorns is their ability to engage people one on one and show a legitimate interest in what they have to say. They are just caring people and Andrew was no exception, the product of good parenting and role modeling. When you talked to Andrew, it just seemed like his face would brighten and he was excited to hear everything you had to say. You just couldn’t help but like the guy.”
And Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled for I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Nancy, Bill, Jess, my sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, this is our hope. Jesus is the light in this dark moment. Jesus is the Truth, the Good Shepherd who will tend to our broken, hurting hearts. Jesus is the one who will lead us to the resurrection, to eternal life – if we but have faith in him.
As we gather to remember Andrew and to pray for him, maybe his final, unbeknownst gift to us, is an invitation to look to Jesus, (turn to the crucifix), to allow Jesus to be our Way, Truth and Life and have him help us carry this heavy burden.
Grab hold of Jesus. Literally, when you are hurting so bad, grab hold of a crucifix, of our crucified Lord and pour out your heart to him who is in the midst of your pain, your suffering, your sadness and your unique, particular situation. Jesus knows your pain. It was his on the cross for you and for me. (Pause)
One final thought I want to speak to family and friends but most especially to you Nancy, Bill and Jess.
I did not know Andrew well. I know him best from you, especially from the stories I’ve heard over these past difficult days. Nonetheless, I think it safe to say that I don’t think Andrew would want you to sink and get stuck in your sadness.
I don’t think Andrew would want you to be merely mourning his death for the rest of your lives.
I don’t think Andrew would want you building grief shrines of pictures and mementoes of memories and a future lost.
No, and please forgive me for being so brash in saying this, I believe that Andrew would say something like, “Yeah, this sucks but let’s move on. Let’s see what’s ahead. What’s the next challenge, the next adventure, the next opportunity, the next thing to try?
“Mom,” he’d say, “You’re the best. Always have been, but enough with the tears and sobs.”
“Dad, thanks. Thanks for everything. I couldn’t have had a better day than this. And oh, by the way, ‘nice shot…but I’ve seen better.”
“Jess, my brother, my friend, thanks. It’s been a great ride, but it’s time for you to take stock, take steps, take that leap of faith you talk about. Be who God wants you to be, has created you to be and don’t be afraid of it, of giving your all. You can do it.”
“And to the rest of you, thank you for loving me into the person I became. I can’t thank you enough so I’ll simply say, ‘I’ll be praying for you from the loving arms of Jesus.’”