There is just so little of us that can be considered our essence. The word “essence” is defined as the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, and it derives from the Latin word “esse,” which means “be.” Our essence is who we are in our most intrinsic and indispensable way, as what we were created to be, how God sees us.
I was at a funeral recently, and there, in our church and in front of the beautiful altar, were the remains of my friend, cremated down to all that remained, a handful of ashes. My heart ached because I struggled to see him as when he was alive, and all I could think of at that sober moment was that this which we were able to see was not all that he was. His essence was and is much more than what physically remained of him. He is more than ashes.
Many of our loved ones have gone before us to see our Lord’s light. We celebrate their memories and what they left of themselves behind. We celebrate that which defined them, that which they shared directly with us. That little bit of them that stayed in us enriches our lives.
I lost my maternal grandparents when I was still young, but I kept in my heart all the love they had for me and the cherished memories from the short time we spent together. From all the wisdom they carried, I learned many lessons, and from that which was their essence, I learned to emulate the faith they wielded and embrace the hope they nurtured. I remember what they did for everyone; all of these things were who they were. Their essence stayed with me, and I carry a part of it in my heart, the part that allows me to see them as God sees them, in their most intrinsic way, the actual fabric of their being. I want my friend’s essence to live on like that in all the people he loved.
Yes, so little remains physically, but not much of this is needed, for what was truly important, the essence, lives in us. As I look back at the community attending my friend’s funeral, I see the many he served and loved. He was a humble man. Many people did not even know his name, but he was always the polite gentleman who joyfully opened the church door for them. That was the humble gift of self he would offer to God and the community every time he was around. In his very essence, he was a humble servant, and we can count ourselves lucky to have received from him the love and joy he shared from his relationship with Christ. The little bit of his heart given to us is still beating in each of our hearts.
My friend was Irish, and in the traditions of his ancestry, the bagpipes were playing. Our hearts were united in the heart of the song, reminding us that we would also be going home at some point. While we still can, let us take advantage of the opportunity and live our lives in the most essential way. Let us live to become as Christ sees us, how we were created to be in His image. Let us grow in love so that we can share it; may this love become a seed that blooms in all we touch. Let us grow in hope so that our friends may see the light of Christ. Let us grow confidently as people of the Eucharist. At the Eucharistic banquet, Christ is present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We receive His most essential self during communion, and we pray that we may become what we eat. In the Eucharistic mystery, Christ shares himself personally with us. Let us take in His essence and live his love in thankful joy. Let us be Eucharistic and spread more of our joy in Christ to the world. May nobody ever confuse our essence with the handful of ashes that may be left behind.
Let us pray: Lord, we pray for the faithfully departed, that they may be sharing in the light of Your face. Helps us also, Lord, to grow into the people You envisioned, that we may be all be reunited one day in Heaven. Amen.