Dearest Colton left this world at 6 months old. I have the privilege of knowing his parents and was blessed to give the homily at his funeral.
Today we are gathered to celebrate the short life of an infant who has been called home to heaven much sooner than any of us expected. As a baptized member of the Body of Christ who never committed any personal sin, Colton has left this world and has gone straight to heaven. While this is a cause for rejoicing, we are still justified in feeling sadness and pain at our loss.
Certainly today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes makes clear that there is an appointed time for everything. Today is certainly a time to weep, a time to mourn the loss of this beautiful child of God.
When tragedy strikes in our lives, we are left with a sudden and unexpected hole in our hearts. When we try to put into words how it feels, our throats stop up till it actually hurts, our eyes grow tired from the tears, and the only thing we can do is weep for the loss we have suffered. To lose a child brings up emotions that no doctor can heal, no medication can remove.
The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. Nikki, Robby, I’m not telling you anything you do not already know and feel. We all share in some degree your grief and pain at the loss of this precious child’s life. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else…our Faith.
Our despair and suffering are not the final or ultimate reality. That’s the promise of Christ, the promise of his resurrection. We are gathered here today to entrust Colton to his new, eternal life.
I met Nikki and Robby in August of last year to plan Colton’s baptism. A week ago Sunday I received a message from Nikki that Colton was very sick and had been taken to Children’s Hospital. When I arrived at his room Sunday afternoon, Nikki and her Mom were there with Colton.
I was privileged to personally witness Christ’s love for Colton through the eyes of these two beautiful women, whose gaze remained fixed on his precious face as they prayed for him.
At that moment I knew that God was holding Colton in the palm of his hand and remembered Jesus’ words that we heard in today’s gospel passage: “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
The Holy Spirit was truly present in Colton’s hospital room that day and he certainly remained powerfully present to this family for the remainder of the week as they struggled with making a decision as to whether or not they should subject Colton to a very risky and invasive surgery.
Nikki, Robby, your love for Colton is a divine quality. It reveals the ongoing and active presence of God in you and your family. You do not stand alone in these circumstances. God has always been present. He was never more present than at Colton’s death.
God neither causes nor intends death. He is the God of life, love, and compassion. When our tears fall so do God’s. When our heart breaks so does God’s.
When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are TRUE.
Death was not part of God’s original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Yet God did not leave us in death’s power. He sent us his Christ, his only begotten Son, who died and rose again to conquer death!
As palpable as our sorrow is today, the greater reality is the love of God, the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the healing of our lives.
Your child has departed from you, but he has gone to be with Christ. For you his eyes have been shut, but they are opened to the eternal light. He is gone from your table, but is now seated at the table of the saints in heaven.
You are sad, and understandably so, because you no longer see the beauty of the face of your child, but rejoice that through his baptism he is now looking upon the face of Christ in the presence of the entire company of heaven.
This is the greater reality into which we entrust Colton and ourselves. We do it together with, and supported by, family, friends, the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, of whom Colton is now one.
Every time we entrust ourselves to this new life, the life we all receive in baptism, we celebrate Easter resurrection. Today is Easter Sunday for Colton. That is why on this day, in the midst of these difficult circumstances, we can sing to Jesus, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
God bless you.