I have had in my heart the Catholics and others that knew Daniel Phillips just 30 minutes north of me in the Diocese of Little Rock and by extension the family and their "extended family " of a young 19 year old Seminarian that died in a tragic car accident.
How does a Bishop just days before Christmas explain the death of this young man. Our Faith tell us he is more likely to be in a better place. Still that does not exempt us from asking the questions of why and in the end we find God's time is not our time. Anyway I thought this was a wonderful homily by the Bishop that uplifted me after I read it.
According to this young man that attended the funeral all of the Diocese of Little Rock Seminarians were in attendance as well as most from his seminary from Dallas. Let us keep his family this Christmas in our prayers as well as the young man that devoted to all to Christ . Here is the Bishop of Little Rock's homily.
Homily for the funeral of Daniel Phillips, a seminarian of the Diocese of Little Rock
12-21-12--Wis 4:7-14; PS 27; 2 Cor 5:1,6-10; Lk 12:35-40
Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. But you and I feel the darkness of this day for another reason: the wreck that took Daniel's life and the loss we have suffered as a consequence. But our faith in Jesus, to who...m Daniel gave himself so fully, invites us to view this tragedy through the prism of faith. That's what Daniel would want! Let me share with you some thoughts that help me embrace God's will, despite the bitter loss I feel.
1. Daniel was following Jesus fully and faithfully. In the Gospel you just heard, Jesus said: "The Son of Man will come when you least expect him" and "it will go well for those servants whom the master finds wide-awake on his return." I had my last serious conversation with Daniel 3 weeks ago when I visited him at Holy Trinity seminary and I can attest that Daniel was wide-awake spiritually. At that time I was impressed by how happy he was to be a seminarian and how certain he was that God was calling him to open his heart to the possibility of becoming a priest. Daniel was a man of prayer and very considerate of others. He had a very big heart and did such thoughtful things. For example, he knew that I would be leaving Holy Trinity at 5:00 am the next day to catch an early flight, and there he was the next morning waiting outside my door at 5:00 am to walk me to my car and see me off. I know I wouldn't have been that thoughtful at his age, or for that matter, probably even now! Yesterday I recalled that, you know, we speak of baptism "by desire" in the case of people who have already decided to be baptized but die before actually completing RCIA. Well, if there were such a thing, we could say that--by analogy--Daniel had already received, in a certain sense, the sacrament of priesthood "by desire" and so I'd like to think that our Lord will arrange things so that this great and holy desire of Daniel's will become a reality in the great liturgy of heaven, Daniel concelebrating with Jesus our High Priest.
2. As we heard in our Second Reading, believers walk by faith, not by sight. Daniel was at my house Sunday for a Mass and seminarian Christmas party, and in my homily I spoke about fear and adversity. And isn't fear of death our greatest fear? And the loss of loved ones our greatest adversity? On Sunday I reminded Daniel and the others that when we pray the Lord's Prayer, we praise God and his kingdom in the first half of the prayer, and then in the second half we ask him to provide for us, forgive us and protect us from the Evil One, freeing us from fear of all that could do us harm, which is not the same thing as exempting us from having to face adversity, indeed quite the opposite. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus--walking by faith and not by sight--on the path of sacrificial love that leads us to our own personal Calvary. And notice: this is not just resigning ourselves to enduring unavoidable adversities, but rather embracing the cross with love, modeled on the love with which Jesus embraced his own cross for our salvation. When we ask God in the Lord's Prayer to "Deliver us from evil" we affirm that God has broken the power of the Evil One and therefore can bring good out of evil--even the school shooting in Connecticut, and all other bad things that happen--like Daniel's accident. This is verified for us today in Daniel whom God has used, to some degree, to break the power of evil --how many 19 year olds do you know who spend their weekends on the Adoration Team at a Search retreat, as Daniel did last weekend? And verified also in the ways God is already bringing good out of this bitter loss, though we can't see it quite yet. Today God is inviting us to see more clearly what really is important in this life...and I'll bet he's calling some of you to step forward to take Daniel's place in the seminary and eventually in the priesthood. Maybe some of you for whom he spent some of his last hours in this life in prayer, in Adoration last weekend?
3. Believers grieve differently. We actually may grieve more intensely because the deeper the relationship--and spiritual relationships are the deepest of all--the deeper the relationship, the more intimately our lives become intertwined, and thus the more wrenching it is when one is pulled away. The loss feels like something is being ripped out of our very self...because it is. Indeed, it would be really sad if we did not feel this intense grief, because that would mean there wasn't much to our relationship. And yet our grief is a grief full of hope, confident that God will continue to provide for us and for Daniel as only he knows how.
4. God measures time differently than we do. Our First Reading speaks of the just man who dies early and says that while we generally think of wisdom as the accomplishment of old age, the young man who lives a blameless life can already attain that wisdom normally associated with the elderly. And since the reason God made us was "to know him, love him and serve him in this life, so as to live happily with him in the next," Daniel suffers no loss--we're the ones who have suffered a loss! But Daniel enjoys a great gain in being able to return to the Lord, even though at an age that seems to us way too early. In this we are like children watching a parade through a knothole in a fence: we can't see the entire parade, nor can we see its final destination; we see only what happens to be passing right in front of us at that moment. But God sees the entire parade and it is his direction that the parade is headed.
On December 25 we celebrate Jesus' birth, a date chosen because it was just a few days after the Solstice. No one knows Jesus' real birthday, so the Church picked a day in which God's creation expresses in its own way the true meaning of Jesus' birth: that in Jesus the light is more powerful than the darkness. The Solstice is on the 21st but it's not until the 25th that we can really tell that the darkness is receding and the days are getting longer and brighter once again. And the light is more powerful than the darkness also for us. Daniel is in a good place, so let's support each other with words of faith and reach out to each other with love and compassion, confident in the great hope we have in Jesus our Savior, who rose victorious from the grave.