Bp Rochus Tatamai speaks at the funeral of late bp Patrick Taval msc
2nd Timothy 2:8-13; Psalm 22; Alleluia verse Mat.11:25; Matt.11:25-30
We die with the Lord in this present life so to live with the Lord forever!
The life and death of each one of us has its deep and profound impact on us. Alive or dead has deep influence on each other and on one another. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord… (we have no life of our own, rather our life and death is a participation, a sharing in His, through His, and with His life, death and resurrection). This explains why Christ both died and came to life, it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living ( Rom 14:7-12)
Our gathering today in this Eucharistic Celebration is a special congregation, we gather as a faith-filled community of Disciples of Christ, pilgrims and companions on an earthly journey, we are actually on transition, moving forward and journeying towards the Father’s House. We are witnesses to Jesus Christ and his resurrection, a faith community who believes that for us Christians, physical and bodily life does not end, death does not have the final say, death does not spell the end , death is not game up or full time, its not yet finished but rather physical bodily life is changed, transformed and transfigured into the glowing and glorious Risen Life of Christ who historically through his earthly life, passion, death and glorious resurrection defeated the power of sin and death once and for all and now he lives forever! Alleluia, Christ the Lord is truly Risen, Christ is Alive to die no more, he lives forever, He is Emmanuel – the Living God present with us until the end of time and into Eternity; we rejoice Alleluia!
It is true that in reality we experience this emotional pain, the reality of physical loss and are confronted with an acute deep sense of not being there anymore, physical Absence, now there is only a seeming wish for and desire for the physical presence and personal encounter with our beloved brother, priest and bishop, Patrick Taval MSC. He can no longer share in our human and everyday physical activities yet deep down we know that his is present and alive with us is a spiritual way that cuts beyond the limitations of time and space.
The first reading from the 2nd Letter of St Paul to Timothy is Bishop Patrick’s favorite, his choice as the motivation for his life, ministry and Pastoral commitment. He must have meditated on these lines, throughout his formation years, earlier at St Mary’s high school, Vuvu, with the Christian Brothers, then at St. Peter Chanel Minor Seminary College, Ulapia, under the Australian MSCs, further during his novitiate year and especially during his Priestly Formation years at De Boismenu College and Holy Spirit Seminary Bomana.
When he was ordained a Deacon, he prepared his invitation and memorial cards for priestly ordination with those words we’ve just heard: Here is a saying you can rely on…St Paul exhorts young Timothy…
“If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him. If we disown him, then he will disown us. We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self…” These words highlight and underline Bishop Patrick’s own faith experience and interior encounter with God when he decided to be a Religious and member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC). These words defined the motivation, pastoral zeal and the summary of Bp Patrick’s personal life, ministry and service of God in his different capacities, as a priest (Pastor), a Novice Master (Formator), Auxiliary Bishop, Coadjutor (Pastor-Administratior) and eventually the 3rd Bishop of Kerema Diocese, and will take his proper place in history as the first Papua New Guinean (1st National Bishop of Kerema). In this intense moment of emotional and physical sense of separation,termination, loss and absence we need assurance and confirmation in our life as Christians and Disciples of Christ. As St Paul reminds young Timothy that the bottom line in life is that “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him” – St Paul in a sense telling Timothy and as Bishop Patrick also discovered that, the present physical life we are living now in the present is in fact an ongoing death that we are dying with Christ to share fully in his Resurrection. Just because we are breathing we reckoned that we are alive and we are living while in fact, the inverse or the opposite is true and more accurate.
What we claim as our life, that we are alive and actually living, St Paul exhorts us and in fact reminds us today in his second Letter to Timothy that this is not true. We have died with Christ, in our baptism in order to share fully in his resurrection. What we are going through now or seemingly living through now is in effect we are dying our death with Christ in order to be born to eternal life. Death now becomes the open door we enter through into the fullness of life with and in Christ. Remember the Good news that I carry… Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David, it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that come with it.
This is it, the spiritual insight into St Paul’s understanding and definition of life as opposed to death… If we have died with him, then we shall live with him. In reality this means we die in this life to ourselves and our self-centeredness and selfishness so to allow Christ to become more and more evident in this passing life so we can live fully in and through Him forever.
This discovery of the eternal truths is only made possible in and through Jesus Christ who reveals his Eternal Father to us and the Promised Gift of the Father who is the Holy Spirit to be with us until the end of time. We heard these words in the beautiful Gospel passage of St Matthew 11:25-30 – I blessed you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clear and revealing them to mere children. It takes the simplicity of heart and mind and the humility of human spirit in order to understand the heavenly mysteries. It takes the poverty of mind and heart to access the riches of God the giver of life
As a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart he entrusted his whole life in response to Jesus‘ invitation to “Come to me, all you who labour and are over-burdened and I shall give you rest.” In his various ministries, as a priest, formator and shepherd, Bp Patrick wanted to share this personal and spiritual experience and invited others around him to this encounter and experience of the Divine.
Mom em tingting tumas long yupela olgeta blong hia lg ples, bai oli planinim yupela olgeta long displa longwe ples (foreign land)? 29April13 21 49//Mum is worried that all of you from home; you will all be buried there, in a foreign land?
My mum asked very basic questions: about family, clans and relatives, the land, death and the grave. Though she is a very devoted Legion of Mary; very influential Christian mother, exemplary in charity and good works. Yet when it comes to life and death, the cultural values and Melanesian world-view takes centre-stage.
My response was: “Avavalai… ra umana missinari…” “Alas for you missionaries…, mum sounds more like a wailing cry, a long and prolonging echoing of agony bringing up vivid memories of a seemingly dispirited mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pieta, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart holding the dead body of the Son at the foot of the cross on Calvary, the same body years earlier she held that young and innocent body of the infant baby-boy. She once held with joy and deep sense of wonder on the occasion of his birth in Bethlehem, over 2000 years ago. Every mother’s dream and wish is the best for their children.
This question poses for us some very underlining and core beliefs and value systems we hold dear and near to us as human beings, as Melanesians, as Christians, as Disciples of Jesus Christ, as Witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ.
These issues are about our families, our relatives, this is about our land, this is about our identity and destiny, who we are, what we have and how we relate to all these and how we behave accordingly.
Take time to recall the images of the Mission cemeteries like at Wirui in Wewak, Alexishafen in Madang, Rabiamul in Mt Hagen, at Par in Wabag, at Yule Island, Mainohana and Kubuna in Bereina, at Kopkop in Kavieng and at Vunapope in the archdiocese of Rabaul just to name some. These cemeteries are holy grounds, sacred spaces, and prophetic goldmines, beautifully decorated and enriched with crosses signifying the remains of the bodies and bones of the committed and selfless missionaries and as well as generous laymen and women, all collaborators in the Lord’s vineyard. They simply left their land, left their families and relatives, their country and people, their conveniences and opportunities to come to our land and give their whole lives as well as their death for the sake of Christ and the Good news they proclaimed. Their lives and their death speak volumes for us today and challenge us to go beyond cultural limitations into the dignity of our universal call to holiness.
PNG is a Christian Country and we are all Christians, disciples of the Risen Lord, but how do we embrace the Challenge of Christ and to be prophetic witnesses in our daily lives and death. In the sacramental lives, are the marriages truly Christian where one man and one women, a husband and a wife take each other in a covenantal love to be self-giving, love giving and life giving as Christ to his body the Church? Are we single man and women living a committed single life in order to enrich and support the families? Are we Religious and Priests, consecrated men and women to Christ and his gospel remaining credible witnesses in the face of all kinds of trials and temptations? How can we continue to be prophetic and spiritual reminders to our brothers and sisters that there is life beyond the grave?
The vows we take are our own consecration to be a full time dedication of our lives, our talents and skills, our life and death for Christ and his Church, for Christ and our brothers and sisters.
The first sacrifice for our parents is for them NOT to have any grand-children directly from us as we in turn will not to have the possibility to having children of our own. We may have nephews and nieces but we remain a prophetic remainder and witness of the life to come where there will be no more giving and taking because all will be fulfill in the presence of the Lord.
The Vow of Chastity expresses our life of inclusive love of all and for all as Christ loves everyone in his body the Church. The vow of Obedience challenges our false sense of independence and autonomy to be always in relative to our dependence on God for everything we need in this present life. We seek and discern to fulfill God’s will for us as expressed in the Church through the proper authorities. Our poverty underlines our commitment to properly and responsibly utilize all for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
If this is the call of duty and pastoral witness then our life and death is for the Lord. For us Christians we do not call any place here in earth “home”. There is only one home that is also our final destiny and that is to be fully in body and soul in the presence of the Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
If we live, we live for the Lord, if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. Come to me, all you who labour and are over-burdened and I shall give you rest.” Bp Patrick the Lord calls you to go across to him to begin your fullness of reward which He had prepared for you since the foundation of the world. May your rest in peace and let perpetual light shine on you now and forever!