The Torn Veil ~ Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer Preaching in the Time of Covid


In “Preaching as a Social Act,” Don Wardlaw offers a homiletic schema that includes three over-lapping spheres: the world of the Bible, the world of the listener and the world of the preacher. The areas of overlap, according to Wardlaw, provide the most effective points of connection between preacher, listener and biblical text.


In the following homily, the experience of separation provides the common ground between the three worlds of preacher, listeners and text: 1) the “antiseptic separation” between persons with Covid and their loved ones; 2) the “ritual separation” of the veil in the Jerusalem Temple; and 3) the “physical separation” of death.


The homily concludes with an illustration of the sacrifice of Christ, re-presented in the Eucharist, as a vision of hope that is glimpsed through torn rips in veils that separate us.


Torn Veil


Funeral Homily for Tim Garcia

January 23, 2021


A good man is like a good king,

one who brings order and security to his realm.


Also, like a good king, a good man is dependable and resilient;

a good man guards the stability of his house.

Indeed, a family with a good father always feels safe---

spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically.


Tim Garcia was a good man.


For twenty-five years of marriage, Tim gave his heart and soul to Scottie.

Together, they raised and nurtured a family whose love and harmony

are apparent to all who come in contact with them.

Their children, Jacob and Hannah, are young people

of good character and genuine humility.


And all this is but the obvious, public example

of Tim’s remarkable virtue and faith.

His was a quiet, unassuming witness of strength

that this community has admired for so long.

And it is the reason this entire community today

feels such a deep sense of loss and pain.


In these days and in these times,

good men, like Tim, are worth their weight in gold.


Now, if his loss affects this community so deeply,

we can only imagine its effect on his own family,

including his father and his brothers and their wives and their children.


Ask them and they will tell you about all the things they are going to miss about Tim

(but make sure you have a day or two to hear them out!)

They’ll tell you about fish fries and camping on the weekends.

They’ll tell you about water-gun fights with nieces and nephews

They’ll tell you about Tim being just a big kid with a big smile,

whistling in the kitchen every morning…

and making TikTok videos dancing with his daughter.

A dedicated coach.

A man who planned ahead.

A father who encouraged his children every way he could

and loved them every day of his life.


A father who, every Sunday,

served with his wife and their children.

Yes, every Sunday, here in the sanctuary,

Tim led his family to the House of God

to attend to the truth of the Gospel

and strengthen their souls with the Bread of the Eucharist.


Yes, Tim Garcia was good man.

He was a good man because his placed his life,

and every aspect of his life,

at the foot of the altar of the King of Kings.


***


So, where do we go from here?

And how will his family move on without Tim at their side?


It is as though there has been a big rip in the canvas of their life.

Tim was their shelter in the storm,

the tent that provided protection on their journey

through the wilderness of this world…

Now that tent is torn,

a gaping hole exists in the background of their lives

through which blows the cold wind

of anguish, confusion and despair.


Yet, perhaps without realizing it,

by serving at this altar with his family,

beneath this crucifix,

Tim was, unknowingly, preparing them for this very day.


Let’s go back, for a moment, to the gospel reading we just heard.

It is the story of the crucifixion.

Yet, in the background of this story,

off in the city,

far removed from the torment on the hill of Calvary,

a veil, within the walls of the Temple, is mysteriously torn.

At the moment of Christ’s death,

a floor-to-ceiling curtain,

like the canvas tarp of a tent,

on a is torn in two.

Keep in mind that, for centuries,

a veil hung in the inner chamber of the Temple.

This veil prevented anyone from gazing upon the glory of God

which resided at the center of the Temple.


Friends, there is a deep and profound message here.

The Gospel narrative is telling us that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross,

revealed the fullness of God’s glory for all to see,

eliminating the need for any such barrier or obstruction.


But that’s not all!

Like the Cross itself, the torn veil

reminds us that, when our life is torn apart,

the gaping hole in the canvas of our tent,

becomes a “see-through place.”

An opening through which we can glimpse the promised land of Heaven.


***


If that is the case, (as, indeed, it is!),

what might we see

when we look through today’s rip in the curtain?


Well, I suggest that you ask Tim’s daughter, Hannah.

Ask Hannah what she has already seen.

Ask Jacob, ask Scottie what they have seen

through the tear in the canvas of their tent

in the midst of this terrible storm.


With their permission, I will share with you, right now,

a glimpse of what they have seen through the torn veil.


A couple of nights ago,

Hannah was given a vision of a beautiful chapel.

In a dream, she saw a chapel, painted white, and full of joyful people.

She did not recognize the place, but it filled her with such a feeling of peace

that she knew the dream came from God and that her dad was at peace

and that everything would be okay.


Jacob also had a dream.

He peered through the slit in the curtain

and found himself looking straight at his dad.

So, they sat down and had a talk.

It was the same talk they had at Great Plains Hospital

before Tim was taken to Amarillo.

A talk like so many of the talks they’ve shared…

just a heart-to-heart talk between a father and his son,

a dad telling his boy that he was proud—right proud—

of the man he was turning out to be.


Scottie, too, has already peered through an opening in the curtain of her pain.

For her, the opening in the veil did not occur in a dream,

but rather, in the hospital room,

the same room where, for nearly forty days,

she and Tim listened to the words of the Holy Mass.


Tim, at this time, was in a coma, he could not respond,

but Scottie believed that he could hear the words, the sacred words

on which they have staked their lives:

“This is my Body. This is my Blood.

Behold the Lamb of God.

Behold him who takes away

all the sins and sorrow and anguish of this world.”


On the last day of Tim’s life,

as her allotted visiting time was running out,

Cottie whispered to her husband, “I love you.”

And Tim nodded, “Yes.”


This is what Scottie saw and will continue to see through the opening in the veil:

her husband’s last farewell in which he communicated

the deepest truth of his life:

“Yes, Scottie, I love you, too. I love you forever.”


***


The light of the sun grew dim.

The curtain in the Temple was torn in two.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

“Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”


Friends, today, you and I, commend Tim’s soul

into the loving embrace of God.

And, as we do so, we ask God for the grace and strength

to look beyond the torn veil to the heart of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Whose sacrifice on the Cross broke the chains of death,

whose love endures forever,

in whose Kingdom all is made new…and every tear is wiped away.




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