Paying Respect

February 4, 2022
Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Sirach gives us a beautiful eulogy for King David.

With his every deed he offered thanks 
            to God Most High, in words of praise.
With his whole being he loved his Maker
            and daily had his praises sung;
            He set singers before the altar and by their voices
                        he made sweet melodies…

A eulogy sets a particular frame of remembrance around a person’s life. Like Sirach today, that frame tries to capture the positive accomplishments of the person who has died. We set aside any mistakes and negativity. Or we acknowledge them as Sirach has done for David by invoking God’s forgiveness:

The LORD forgave him his sins
and exalted his strength forever.

To tell the truth, I’ve attended a few funerals where I wondered what the speaker might come up with in a positive regard. You know, you need more than a sentence or two for a decent eulogy! Despite my wondering, every tribute has provided an enriching lesson on the sacred beauty of a human life, and how hard most of us try — even if we make a ton of mistakes.

There are times when I leave such a life celebration thinking, “Gosh, I never realized that about him!” or “Wow, there are so many things we don’t understand about someone’s life!”

If only we could treat every living person with the same respect their eulogies inspire!

Icon of St. John the Baptist (16th c.) Dionysiou Monastery

In our Gospel, we read the sad and violent story of John the Baptist’s martyrdom. It’s a passage filled with the best and the worst of the human heart. One would wonder what kind of eulogy could have eventually been crafted for the likes of Herod, Herodias, and Salome!

But for John the Baptist, Jesus had given him the perfect epitaph even before John died.

I say to you, among those born of women 
there is no one greater than John;

In the verse, Jesus also reveals what it takes to earn greatest accolade in God’s eyes:

… yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God 
is greater than John.

Luke 7:28

When Jesus spoke that verse, John had not yet died. If Jesus said anything about John after his death, the words are not recorded. All we have is this poignant response from Matthew:

Photo by Maria Orlova on

Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it.
Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.
As soon as Jesus heard the news,
he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone.
But the crowds heard where he was headed
and followed on foot from many towns.
Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat,
and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 14:12-14

As we pray today with the legacies of David and the Baptist, we might consider what we’d want to see engraved on our own tombstones. I’ve told my friends I’d like to see this:

She was kind.

Still working on it! 😉

What about you?

Music: Lay Me Down – in this song, two icons of country music, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson sing their own kind of eulogy. (Lyrics below)

I raised my head and set myself
In the eye of the storm, in the belly of a whale
My spirit stood on solid ground
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down
When I was a child, I cried
Until my needs were satisfied
My needs have grown up, pound for pound
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down
When they lay me down someday
My soul will rise, then fly away
This old world will turn around
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down
This life isn’t fair, it seems
It’s filled with tears and broken dreams
There are no tears where I am bound
And I’ll be at peace when they lay me down
When they lay me down some day
My soul will rise, then fly away
This old world will turn around
I’ll be at peace when they lay down
When they lay me down some day
My soul will rise and fly away
This old world will turn around
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down
When I was a child, I cried

5 thoughts on “Paying Respect

  1. John Butts

    Sister Renee you are truly gifted. I love today’s Lavish Mercy. Growing up in an Italian/Irish Family, I have been to many funerals where I always leave feeling like “I never knew that about them.” Or, even sometimes, “I wish I knew that person they were speaking about.” I have even had the honor and blessing of giving the Eulogy at a few family members. I recently joked (well maybe it wasn’t a joke) that I would like to video tape my own, so no one would have the pressure/responsibility of doing so. I think maybe, in a way, I am also thinking, what if it’s someone that is not a fan or harboring something from the past (enter sibling name here) LOL! But seriously, perhaps that should be a new trend, recorded Eulogies. What do you think?
    Also, your request for your tombstone, (Enter God forbid here, as the older Italians would say when you spoke about dying, as they made the sign of the cross) while accurate, as you are truly one of the kindest, most gentle, graceful and grace giving people I have ever just wouldn’t be sufficient for the world to know who lays here. Not to mention, you are a most beautiful vessel of God’s Love and Mercy, which flows through you and outward to all who have the gift of knowing you and/or benefiting from the many gifts you offer, such as Lavish Mercy. Have a wonderful day sweet Friend. Love you dearly!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lucille Hillerman

        Thanks, Renee! I miss you too and hope to see you one day soon. 🙏Ann’s storytelling was beautiful as was the person she was to everyone. Love to you, my friend!❤️💛

        Liked by 1 person

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