Friday, October 6, 2017

In Memoriam Barnie Robinson (7 October 2017)

Here is my homily for Saturday's funeral of Barnie Robinson, long-time member of the Parish of Saint Faith's.

7 October 2017

            In the Roman empire of Jesus’ time a person’s social importance was measured in various ways.  One measure was the person’s power.  A rich person was more powerful than a poor person.  A military leader was more powerful than a farmer.  A person who knew the secrets of other people was more powerful than a person who had many secrets to conceal.  Power was respected and feared because power could be used to coerce others.

            Another measure was a person’s authority.  Authority came from the formal role that someone played in society.  An elected official had more authority than an ordinary citizen.  A father had more authority than a child.  A husband had more authority than a wife.  A religious leader had more authority than a lay person.  Authority was respected more than feared because authority depended upon persuasion rather than coercion.

            But the most important measure was a person’s dignity.  Dignity was a bit more elusive than power or authority.  Dignity was found in a person’s sense of pride in oneself, a sense of self-respect and self-worth.  Persons who used their power for the common good and who exercised authority properly were considered worthy of honour and respect.  Even a slave could have dignity.  Even a poor person could have dignity.  Even a simple citizen could have dignity.  Losing power, losing authority were nothing compared to losing one’s dignity, one’s self-respect and the respect of others.

            We are here today to mourn the death of Barnie Robinson.  We mourn the ending of her life with us on earth and the loss of her physical presence.  If she held power, it has departed.  If she exercised authority, it has passed.  But, if there is one thing we are not here to mourn, it is the loss of her dignity, her own self-respect which was evident to the end of her life and the respect in which we all hold her even after her death.

            Barnie’s dignity was a Christian dignity such as Paul describes when he wrote:  ‘Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. . . . Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12.9-10, 11-12)  Barnie’s Christian dignity was clothed with compassion, kindness, patience and thankfulness (Colossians 3.12, 15b).  Her Christian dignity was manifested in her concern for ‘the interests of others’, whether the interests of her family, her friends or her parish (Philippians 2.4b).

            Barnie wore Christian dignity as magnificently as she wore the pearls she loved.  Death cannot take this from her nor can death take the imprint of that dignity from our hearts and minds and souls.  The stamp of Barnie’s dignity surrounds you even now in this Parish that she and Bill have loved and served so well.

            So mourn her death.  It is right to do so.  Miss her presence at gatherings of family and friends.  It is right to do so.  Long to see her handwriting on a note of encouragement.  It is right to do so.  But do not fail to give thanks to God for her witness to a life of Christian dignity in a world where dignity is often held cheap.  That, my friends, will endure as long as her name is remembered as a blessing.  And that memory will be a long one.

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