Lk 17.1-10                    Habakkuk 1.2-3, 2.2-4                1Tim 1.6-8,13-14

This week we farewelled 2 of our long-term, faithful parishioners, first Merna Moloney at 98 and then Dawn Ward, just short of 96. The tributes were extensive, reflected too in the numbers who attended their Requiem Masses.  We’re all the better for having known them as we express appreciation for their love and friendship and contribution to parish life, as well as to their loving families, who spoke so well of them, both fortunate enough to see great grandchildren come into their lives too.

One often finds more out from grandchildren’s perceptions as they grow up so lovingly and  positively influenced by grandparents, who have all care and no responsibility, to some extent, other than to provide love, fun, general entertainment and encouragement.  Granddaughter Jane said of Merna that her joy and pride in her grandchildren was paramount, and that, in her humility, she “never drew attention to herself, and would usually deflect compliments given to her, but she did talk about the achievements of the family… It was probably faith that brought her peace, and with it a kind of childlike joy and wonder that remained with her for her entire life… Like the Queen, Nan lived a life of service. But like St Therese, after whom this church was named (a very apt reference, as this weekend happens to be her feast day, did you know? 1st October!), Nan’s was the little way of service. She did ordinary things – motherly and grandmotherly things – but with extraordinary love. It always seemed that nothing made her happier than when she was doing something for someone else… Nan called everyone ‘love’, but I think she was really love in action, always willing the good of the other and doing what she could to ensure that good was realized.”  It’s hard to beat that!

Said grandson Matthew: “She was also a very tolerant woman. And forgiving… Nana Merna also had a great sense of humour… Howe lucky we were to have you all this time!”  There was also mention of Pa Tom (of whom I heard, used to wake up the parish priest for morning Mass, if he hadn’t turned up, no such problem with today’s Mass times!!) , and what a great loving partnership they were for over 60 years of marriage.

Although the eulogies went for 45 minutes, all provided excellent homiletic material to fit today’s Gospel, which, at first, I found a bit daunting, as to what to make of it!  And, to my mind, a good long life is worth a good long reflection, from different perspectives!

Dawn, on the other hand, wanted no fuss for her funeral, and had detailed exactly what readings and music she wanted, readers and pall bearers, even what she was to wear, thank you cards, Irish Blessing (no doubt in memory of husband Denis!), “We’ll Meet Again” with Vera Lynn, leaving the church.  Then, there was clearly what she didn’t want: NO slideshow and no second reading!

Of her, Bernadette, her daughter said: “She was grateful for her 5 children and all they did for her… Throughout Dawn’s life, faith was a constant. She certainly joined the frequent flyers of St Therese’s Essendon, kneeling in prayer, even at 95. She enjoyed so many of the parish events and parishioners… Dawn walked to Mass each week for decades a part of her exercise routine.”  So we can learn from her that there’s a double benefit of coming to Mass – spiritually and physically, well integrated!!

Both Dawn and Merna had to deal with deep grief and loss during their long lives, not just as widows, in having children and grandchildren, tragically predecease them, but gained strength from their faith, no doubt sorely tested, in a loving, gracious God, whom they served so faithfully.  My good friend and predecessor here, Bill Attard, when I informed him, responded: “Two very special women. Merna had a cheeky warm disposition that was so endearing. Dawn was like a mate from day one, a woman before her time.”

And so the apostles’ request today to increase their faith, is something we can see lived throughout the long lives here of our 2 dear friends, who have shown us the way to live that faith in action.  It’s hard to find better examples as role models, so I thank them, and their eulogists, for providing me with the input for today’s thoughts on the Gospel!

Meanwhile, the path of discipleship for you and me continues, without high expectations of return or reward, apart from the satisfaction of knowing that we continue to strive to do the right thing by others, and so finding fulfilment and happiness in being people of service, in all humility.  Like Therese of Lisieux, and her ‘little way’, we are reminded to persevere, especially when things are rough, or the going gets tough, as can and will happen, for all of us, at various times in our lives.

In writing to Timothy, and so us too, Paul sums up the qualities needed, in being a Christian witness, with love and self-control, facing up to the hardships with determination and faith, reflecting and having the strength to produce the fruits of the Spirit.

The Jerome Biblical Commentary (named after 4th century Jerome, whose feast day we also celebrated this week!), has the heading ‘inward renewal of discipleship’ for this section of Luke’s Gospel, following extensive coverage of the resistance and hostility of the religious leaders to Jesus’ message and person. Yet, on he goes, on the journey to Jerusalem, unfazed and determined to fulfil the Father’s will, in doing so.

Scripture scholar Raymond Brown suggests: “The disciples who had followed Jesus might get the idea that they had done something great, but they are to tell themselves they are unprofitable servants who have only done their duty.”

Then Brendan Byrne SJ states: “We do not serve in the hope of gaining payment or reward coming to us as our due… Rather, conscious through faith, of the immense benefits we have received from God’s grace, long before any good work or virtuous action on our part, our Christian service must primarily be an expression of faith and be motivated by abiding gratitude for all God has already done for us.”

So there it is, a further call to a duty of gratitude, humility and service, responding to God’s love and grace, freely given in the first place, to all.

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