Yesterday in Plan Grande we sent Emiliano home to God.
Emiliano had been injured by electrocution several years ago and had been confined to his bed for several months. The pastor came at one point to anoint him and hear his confession. Communion ministers came regularly to share the body of Christ with him.
I met him first a few weeks ago when I went to preside at a funeral celebration of his father in their house.
Emiliano was so thin, emaciated, but at peace. “Me ha traido lo más especial”, he told me. “You’ve brought what is most special” – the Body of Christ.
After the funeral celebration in their home, I talked with his brother, who had cared for his father and his brother for years. He made sure they were fed and well taken care of. I later learned that he had been imprisoned for six years on false charges.
I was thinking about Emiliano yesterday morning. Then a son of my neighbor, Gloria, one of the Communion ministers, came and told me that he had died.
I found out later that he died in great peace. He had not been eating for several days and was suffering great pain, crying out when someone tried to move him. But Friday morning, he ate a little and then fell asleep. Waking up, he prayed, “Lord, have mercy, Lord,” and passed on to the Lord.
About 2 o’clock Gloria arrived and told me that the family was asking for a funeral. She was willing to do it but asked me. Though I really believe in avoiding gatherings, I said yes, but asked that there be careful spacing of people in the church.
I don’t have access to the English funeral rites, but in the Spanish liturgical book I have there is an invitation to prayer. In part it reads,
“Que el Señor sea misericordioso con nuestro hermano, para que, libre de la muerte, absuelto de sus culpas, reconciliados con el Padre y llevado sobre los hombros del buen Pastor, merezca gozar de la perenne alegría de los santos en el séquito del rey eterno.””
“May the Lord be merciful with our brother, so that, freed from death, absolved of his faults, reconciled with the Father, and carried over the shoulders of the good Shepherd, he may merit to enjoy the everlasting joy of the saints in the entourage of the eternal king.”
Each time I pray this over the body of someone who has died I cannot help sharing the beauty of one image – the one who has died being carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd. I often ask people to reflect on this image, how God loves us so much that he carries us. I sometimes encourage people to think of the deceased person being held in God’s arms, “chineado” as we say here in Spanish, a phrase often used in terms of a person holding an infant or a small child in her arms.
God carries us – on his shoulders or, as a mother, in loving arms.
Praying over the coffin of Emiliano, I rejoiced that God was holding him – and that Emiliano felt the love of God, even as, I believe, he felt that love in the midst of his pain.
May Emiliano rest in God’s loving arms – and may we remember this.
As if God continually tries to penetrate my heart, this morning I prayed Psalm 28. Verse 9 reads:
Save your people and bless their heritage;
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Be our shepherd, Lord, and carry us forever.