Most of the funerals held in our parish church are not large gatherings. The church is usually half full with people who want to show their respect to the deceased and their care for the ones who live on.
Sometimes there is an untimely death and then the church is filled, for tragic loss touches people in a different way; we all share in the pain even when we are not close to the family.
I went to a funeral yesterday that was different from either of those kinds; a funeral that filled our church to overflowing even though the woman we were honouring and remembering had lived a full 80 years.
'Jesus told the disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.'
She did not have an exceptionally large family, she did not have an important position; she wasn't wealthy, powerful or in the public eye. Why, then, did so many people want to be present for her and for her family?
As I entered the church, I couldn't help but think that these many people were themselves a testament to a life well lived. The stories that were told of her confirmed my thoughts; she loved well, she lived her faith with grace and humour and attentiveness to the people around her.
She raised a family that in turn raised their own children well and the faith and goodness rippled out into the community.
Most telling, though, was the recounting of her last two weeks in this life. She learned she was ill and, knowing she had only a small amount of time left, she filled each of those days with love for her family, daily calling the grandchildren to join her in praying the rosary.
She exhorted them to be faithful to God, to go to church, to live with the same faith with which she had lived that they might join her in the eternal kingdom of love she knew was waiting for her.
The readings this Sunday all speak of faith and trust in God: Moses holding up his arms in prayer all through the long day of battle; Timothy, called to remember his first faith; the parable of the unjust judge and persistent widow, and Jesus asking, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
All three of these readings are echoed in her life and the lives of the many people who have set an example of faith to us. Like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses' arms when he didn't have the strength to continue, there are those who strengthen us in our faith by their persevering love and support.
Like Timothy who learned as a child the way to salvation, we have been formed by those who have faithfully taught us by both word and example, as she gave those early teachings of faith to her children and grandchildren.
And like the widow who perseveres in pursuing justice, we have the example of those who persevere in love and faithfulness even in the face of death.
So we can hope for a positive answer to Jesus' question of whether he will find faith when he returns, for we have seen the evidence of faith in its fruit, and are thus inspired to also become living examples of faith.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)