Homily for the Reception of the Body of Fr James McInerney
The homily for a funeral should not be a eulogy. That is to say, when we gather together to commend a soul to God, we do not do so to praise them, but rather to pray for them - to ask God for his mercy and forgiveness. We plead him to free the departed soul from purgatory, to cleanse him from him sins and to welcome him into his glorious presence. We do not come together to celebrate the achievements or praise the virtues of the one whose loss we mourn, but rather to praise Christ, whose death and resurrection makes it possible for us to dwell in God?s presence.
This is true for every soul, and for every funeral, no less that of a priest, no less that of Fr Seamus.
And yet, our prayers are more insistent, our petitions more earnest, because of our respect, our affection and our love for him.
He is a sinner standing before God?s throne of mercy, as we all are - yet who can find a bad word to say about him?
It was on Boxing Day evening that Fr Eric, the hospital chaplain, rang me to tell of Fr Seamus sudden, shocking and unexpected death. I had seem him just two days before. He chatted away about this and that in his typical bright and cheery manner. Fr Eric described as ?chirpy?, and I?ve thought several times since how appropriate a description is was of him. Positive, jovial, kind, good humoured.
He had an excellent singing voice. I?ve got a recording somewhere of him singing ?What a wonderful world? - I think he could have been a crooner. Many of us will remember him singing at his jubilee celebrations, and he needed little excuse to burst into song.
He had a bright and sometimes dry sense of humour. When he supplied for me at Hanley he always refused to take the offering and the stipend. ?You must, Father,? I said, ?at least - let me give you a gift?. ?Just do one thing for me, Peter,? he said - finally relenting as I thought - ?remember me in your will.?
And this positive attitude on life, this musical in his soul, no doubt was closely connected with his Irish heritage, which was so important to him. When St Patrick?s Day fell in Holy Week he came down to the party in the club in Hanley and asked if he could park at the Presbytery. ?That?s fine?, I said. ?But remember it?s Holy Week, Father. Don?t have a drink!? ?Peter?, he said, ?of course I won?t be drinking.? Then he added, by way of explanation, ?I?m Irish?. [Of course, he didn?t drink anyway]
In his last illness he was private, and many did not realise how ill he was. But he was not secretive and did not seem to be at all afraid. At the Deanery meeting about a month ago he was very matter of fact about the cancers which were spreading in his body. We could say he was brave, but it was rather more prosaic than that, it seemed a kind of acceptance.
He stands before God now, and we come to plead God?s mercy and forgiveness from our great love of God - who has blessed us so much in this wonderful person, this caring priest, this holy man.