Homily for the Funeral Mass of Allen Soppet
6 February 2018
St. Christina Church – Chicago, IL
On February 6, 1989,
29 years ago to the day,
members of this family were together just a few miles from here
on Ridgeland Avenue
at St. Louis de Montfort Church for the funeral Mass
of my grandfather, Dennis Kiley.
At the age of 51, he died
unexpectedly, in his sleep.
I wasn’t born yet,
but I know it was a challenging time for many in my family.
There was anger, pain, confusion, hurt, a sense of abandonment,
a “what now?” attitude.
The question on everyone’s lips was: “why?”
During that difficult time,
my family learned something important:
God did not take away Dennis Kiley.
In the same way,
before I say anything else,
I want to say something very bluntly:
God did not take away Allen Soppet.
Allen Soppet did not take away Allen Soppet.
A drug took away Allen Soppet.
There is nothing about our being together today
that should feel “okay”,
because it isn’t okay; it’s not supposed to be okay.
and it’s okay to be heartbroken, ripped apart inside,
and it’s okay to say that this sucks.
The question today, too, is the same: why?
He’d worked so hard,
he’d tried so hard,
he’d had success in his fight,
and the reality we face today seemed less and less likely as time went by.
We are in a place today
that just one week ago
we could not imagine.
The Gospel passage this morning has perplexed me for a long time.
In other places when Jesus heals someone,
he has a direct encounter with them.
He touches them, or speaks to them, or they cling to the tassels of his cloak,
but in this account he doesn’t do any of that,
not initially anyway.
Rather, Luke tells us that Jesus
touched the coffin
and, when he did so,
the bearers halted.
There were no coffins at the time of Jesus.
Likely the man was laid upon a kind of platform
on which he was carried to his place of burial.
Why didn’t he touch the man? Why didn’t he simply call out to him?
Jesus reached out and touched
the thing that was carrying the dead man
further away from the living,
that was delivering him to the grave.
I honestly did not know Allen that well,
and that is a source of sadness for me.
I knew, of course, of Allen’s struggle
with his addiction,
but know nothing of the cause
or the struggles and pain in his heart.
We were able to get a sense of his experience
from the last thing he posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning:
“You’ll never meet a strong person with an easy past.
Be proud of your scars, they tell your story better than you can.”
He posted that with the comment:
“Scars build character and my past doesn’t define me!”
Scars are left when open wounds finally close.
They are reminders, indeed, of the past
and each one tells a story;
they tell of wounds, usually deep ones,
and stories they tell are often painful to hear.
Each one of us has hurts in their hearts.
And at every moment,
we have a choice:
How will we cover, conquer, and control that pain?
Will we turn to a substance?
Will we turn to work? Or to sports? Or to money?
Will we turn to our family, our spouse, a coworker?
Will we turn to God?
If you find yourself in a position of pain,
of loneliness, or desperation
and are tempted to turn anywhere
except to things of light, and truth, and vulnerability,
hear Allen’s voice
and go another way.
Jesus is not a rainbow, he’s not kumbaya, he’s not a snuggie, or a slurpie machine;
he is the Lord, the anointed one of God;
he is King and Lord, and Lover and Friend;
he is savior, and healer, and redeemer,
and he is the one who comes,
who always comes,
to make all things new.
He is the one with the power to conquer death,
and to forgive everything.
Ultimately, he is the one to whom we must turn
because he is the only one who will ever deliver
peace and joy.
He is the one who sees what carries away from him,
and reaches out to us in every moment
to stop that movement,
and to raise us up.
A new void exists in our hearts.
A new wound, a new pain.
A new set of answerable questions.
We sit in the deafening silence caused by what we do not know.
We wonder what we could have done differently,
how we could have helped him better,
how we could have stopped this from happening.
especially to you,
Megan, Teresa, Samantha, Colleen, Donna, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Margie;
To all, please hear me:
you did the best you could.
Allen did not die because you didn’t do enough.
Today, we are forced to wait in humble silence
before the mystery of this tragedy;
we sit in silence, but never in despair.
Instead of dwelling on the answerable questions,
we choose today set our sight on what we do know:
We know that Allen loved us, and he knew that we loved him.
Today is the perfect day to look back with joy and gratitude to God
for the gift that Allen was for us.
Today, we have come to proclaim the name of Jesus,
and to rejoice in the power of that name.
We know that, by the power and grace of that name,
Allen’s death does not mean we are cut off from him.
We must pray for him, we must intercede for him,
and we must commend him to the tender mercy of Almighty God.
We believe that Allen now lives with the Father,
completely engulfed in that marvelous divine life
of the Triune Godhead;
we believe that now there is no such thing as woundedness in him,
there is no such thing as addiction in him,
there is no such thing as scars in him,
and there is no trace of any darkness in him;
he is God’s now;
he is in the hands of the author of life, and of light, and of peace.
As we come forward in a few minutes to receive from this altar
the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ,
we are receiving, in a much smaller way,
the same divine life which envelops Allen even now.
It is the Eucharist that we will be as close to Allen as ever
until we meet him again in the House of the Father.
On October 11, 1987.
Allen died with Christ in the waters of baptism
and rose with Christ as a new creation.
On that day,
Allen became a son of God the Father,
and on that day the Good and Merciful Father
promised Allen never to abandon him.
He promised to love him and to forgive him,
and that , whenever the time would come,
he would give Allen a share of his kingdom.
Today, we are called to let Allen go on his way,
to lay down his cross,
to forget his scars,
and inherit his place in the kingdom
which has been prepared for him from the beginning of the world.
We let Allen go on his way,
and entrust him into the arms of the Father
with a prayer of confident hope.
Please remember your dignity.
What has been promised to Allen,
and what Allen now knows,
has been promised to us.
We give Jesus the room to work within us
as he reaches out to us to stop the things that carry us away from him;
May we do what we need to do to see that our scars do not conquer or define us;
in order that one day, in the fulness of time,
we may see the face of Jesus,
and see his hand,
and hear his voice,
as he looks into our eyes and says,
“I say to you, Arise.”
rest now in peace.