Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Funeral homily – Florence Nicholas – Ecclesiates 3:1-8 ; Matthew 5:1-12; Psalm 23

Parishioner Florence Nicholas passed away at the Martha Coker Green House here in Yazoo City on June 10, 2012.  Her funeral was on June 12, 2012 at St Mary parish. Florence was a very sweet lady and a lady of great faith.  I enjoyed visiting her this past year and a half that I have served in Yazoo City.  The following is the homily from her funeral.  

     We come together today, the family & friends of Florence Nicholas, to celebrate her life, to celebrate her entry into eternal life.  As we celebrate her life today, as we mourn passing of her life here on earth, word of God gives us hope, encouragement, and comfort.   
     Having grown up in a farming family, Florence was very familiar with the passing of seasons that is described in our very profound reading from Ecclesiastes. This passage is very earthy in describing the ebb and flow that mark our days here on earth.  The seasons of the weather change and have a cycle, just as the seasons of our lives change and have a cycle as well.  The life that we live is marked by the rhythmic pattern that God has set place in the world and in our lives.  Florence grew up as a girl in Yazoo County, graduated from Benton High School, and met her husband while working in Yazoo City.  She was married to Solomon Nicholas right here at St Mary parish, and raised and nurtured her family here in Yazoo City.  Florence had a great love for Yazoo City, for her family and friends here, for all that this vibrant community had to offer when she was growing up and raising a family.   The last few years of her life she spent at the Martha Coker Green Houses, and met that reality and challenge of her life there with great dignity and grace. Part of Florence’s passing into eternal life today is part of the changing of the seasons described in Ecclesiates. 
     In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus proclaim the Beatitudes. Jesus looks out at the reality that faces us in our humanity, he looks out at this reality, enriching it with the promise of hope.  You can imagine Jesus looking out at those he addresses: the poor, those who mourn & weep, the merciful, the peacemakers, & those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Jesus looks out & sees the reality that faces humanity - He tells them that he recognizes & understands their reality. With great affection, he tells them that the kingdom of God is theirs.  Jesus give them hope, just as he gives us hope today. When we were choosing the readings today, we felt that the Beatitudes really spoke for who Florence and the way she lived her life with graciousness, humility, dignity, and modesty.  When Mary Rutledge and I used to make our weekly visits out to the Martha Coker Green Houses, we always got a warm smile and welcome from Florence.  We always asked her about her daughters and her family, and you could tell the great love Florence had for her family just from the expression on her face when we spoke to her about them.
     The 23rd psalm that we hear today is a favorite psalm for many Christians.  The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd taking care of his flock & leading his flock to refreshing waters at the end of life is a very comforting image. We entrust Florence to the care of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  We give thanks for her life.  And we celebrate her entry into the resurrection of Christ today.  

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