Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remembering Mabry Anders

Cathedral sanctuary display during funeral Mass
Today I buried Spc. Marby Anders, a 21-year old soldier from our parish community here in Baker City who was killed in Afghanistan on August 27. It was a most moving ceremony in a packed church with family and friends. This photo shows the Cathedral sanctuary with a large picture of Mabry along with the boots, rifle and helmet that Mabry used in Afghanistan. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

From my funeral homily:
We gather today to pray in faith, to reminisce love and the celebrate hope.
We gather as Christians in this church where Mabry’s family has worshipped for years, and where we all find comfort and consolation, especially in the midst of our sorrows. This is where we find the strength to keep going, especially when it is the toughest thing to do.
We gather here to reminisce love, the love that Mabry shared with his parents, his family, his friends. We remember the happy times, the jokes, the stories and the laughter and may he continue to be a part of our lives.
We gather here to celebrate hope, hope in a future that will always have question marks, hope in the unpredictable and the unforeseen, hope in our God who created us and keeps us alive, the God who at times asks for special people to be closer to Him, even though they are now farther from us.
We honor today a young man full of vitality, at the prime of his life who made his ultimate sacrifice. As we read in the Gospel today: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Mabry’s friends were not only his immediate family and friends, but his country, the whole of the United States of America. Mabry was the 155th member of the military from Oregon and Southwest Washington to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was the second one from our parish community, after Jessica Ellis was killed in similar circumstances on Mother’s Day 2008.
Over the past 2 millennia, the church celebrated the lives of many martyrs who died for their faith and their ideals. In the first three centuries after Christ, many unknown martyrs shed their blood through crucifixion, beheading, flaying, burning, torture and even being sent to the lions. Many others were martyred for not wanting to give up their faith, saints like St Joan of Arc, St Thomas More and St John Fisher. Even more recently thousands died during World Wars, the martyrs of Pearl Harbor, those in concentration camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor, Dakau and Treblinka. 3,000 martyrs were killed innocently on September 11, 2001, and I witnessed personally that tragedy, having to bury a few of the victims myself in New York. 

And then we have those soldiers who have shed their blood for their country in Afghanistan and Iraq, so far over 5,500 in the 2 countries. As I said earlier Mabry is the second from our small parish community, besides Jessica. Our Lord Jesus, many saints and martyrs also made the ultimate sacrifice over the past 2 millennia. But to die so innocently and tragically is not something anyone is ever prepared for. We all heard it said that children should outlive their parents. A young man at the prime of his life snatched from our midst is somehow unfair.
We celebrate Mabry’s life today. His body is gone. On Ash Wednesday we say to the people as a sign of repentance “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We honor him with a Christian burial. His soul reunites itself with God, but his spirit lives on, in the love he showed towards his family and friends, in the valor and courage he showed to serve his country, in the patriotism towards his native land and everything that is American. As we read in the first reading from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything in this life, a time to embrace and a time to be far from embraces, a time to laugh and a time cry, a time of war and a time of peace – and as reminder, we can also remember that just just as there is a time to argue, there is also a time to agree on issues that unite us, as there is time for partying, there is a time for praying; a time to challenge people but also a time to cooperate with them, a time to console and to comfort.

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