Readings for the liturgy: Book of Wisdom (7: 21-30), 1 Corinthians 2:6-9, Matthew 19: 27-29.
Today is about remembering and, in that remembering, celebrating.
In remembering, we bump up against facts about a life we knew, in this case, a woman we knew, and we have to admit, there is probably more we didn’t know.
But, the gift of death leads us to explore both what we remember and what else was there which we didn’t get a chance to know.
People are here today who knew Joan in a variety of ways:
- Carol, who knew her as a sister – knew Joan as her older sister and grew into knowing her as her deepest of friends.
- Then, there are Susan and Patrick, who knew her as their aunt/ a woman to be loved, admired, relied upon, a good listener, and I’m sure you knew, loved you with a love that was bottomless.
- And, today also with us is Dan, a family friend, who often made it possible for Carol to visit Joan.
And, we have Dominican Sisters with us who knew her as a sister in community.
We can’t forget today to mention Sr. Jorene Cieciuch, Joan’s close friend and band member who, for years, traveled on home visits together.
We also have sisters who knew Joan as a mentor in religious life – a leader in the community, a teacher in college. We also have those who served as her healthcare advocates. Although not here today there were hundreds of colleagues with whom she served in her various ministries.
And, all of them, whether they knew her as Sr. James Cecilia or Sr. Joan Coffey, knew her as a Dominican.
When I began to think about what was it that made her stand out for me as a Dominican, I mentally went through the list of Dominican “in words,” we use: the Pillars of Dominican life:
Fidelity to Prayer – Study – Community and being Mission-centered.
I also thought of our motto of Truth – seeking truth-
Giving to others the fruits of our contemplation
Love of the Sacred Word.
And, for the past 25 years we added, “being women of Hope – Called to be Hope in a Dominican way. After going through these, it all came down to one word for me. One that summed up all I have just mentioned (at least, I felt it did) And, that word for me for Joan was the word, Wonder.
That sense of wonder that is the stance of the student, the learner. That is Very Dominican. Joan had a sense of Wonder that led her to pursuing God under all those guises I have just mentioned.
This sense of Wonder led to Awe which led to Joy. So…. Prayer led to Wonder / Study led to Wonder / Community brought Wonder and sometimes pain, Being of service to others led to Wonder.
Everything opened her up to Wonder, which I believe was the particular characteristic she had in common with the thousands of Dominicans who preceded her – including St. Dominic himself.
I was satisfied with this conclusion…… for a couple of months.
Remember, I said that death gives us a chance to remember what we had experienced and unearth what we didn’t get a chance to know about someone? That’s what happened two weeks ago when I received copies of the Scripture readings Joan chose for today’s liturgy. I didn’t wonder but I was haunted by the question – Why did she choose these?
I asked myself, “What was she sharing about herself that she didn’t put into words when she was with us?” “What does she want us now to be reminded of about our God?”
I laid out the paper copies of the readings on my bed – my “desk.” I read them: 1st Corinthians, then the Gospel passage from Matthew, then the lines from Chapter 7 of the Book of Wisdom. After some silence, this was my surprising conclusion:
Joan Coffey – our friend – the one we all knew was someone who tried to live a balanced life – She was very careful about what she ate. She was faithful to exercise – her favorite being walking. On bad weather days, the many laps in Short Hills Mall – or outside in good weather. She loved to walk.
In this liturgy, through these readings – I believe she was letting us know that she had a hunger. A hunger she was always seeking to satisfy – but not one that could be satisfied by any item on a restaurant menu –
Joan Coffey had a hunger for God. She was hungry for the fullness of God. And there was no timidity in her choosing to satisfy this hunger – She wanted it all!
That was the little note I made for myself in the upper left hand corner of the page after I read the passage from the Book of Wisdom. That’s when it hit me!
Certainly we can find other passages that speak of God’s fullness – but – this selection from Chapter 7 of the Book of Wisdom bulges with descriptive words –21 to be exact!
We are reminded that God does not skimp in making divinity available to us. All of God is available to all of us! All of God is available to all of us! In how many ways, especially through the mystics, does God say –
“I give you myself – all of me.” One of my favorite passages from Julian of Norwich (my favorite 14th Century English mystic) is where, during one of her Revelations, she thanks Jesus for giving himself completely to us by his death on the cross.
And, what does Jesus say to her in response? “If I could have given you more, I would have.” I ask you : How much more is there to all? Our God – Jesus His Son – Their Loving Spirit
All their love is beyond our imagining, but not beyond our reach. It is ours for the taking. To satisfy our hungry heart .
I believe Joan’s heart was hungry for God. I believe she wanted to give her all in response. When I think of God, I like to think of God as a gambler.
God has gambled all on us – Given all to us – Pushed all the chips to the center of the table- Patiently waiting for that action to be reciprocated.
May Joan intercede for us to have the courage to make our move!