Homily delivered at funeral of Officer Ashley Guindon

Funeral Mass held at Sacred Heart Church in Springfield on March 7, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – What follows is the text of the homily delivered by Fr. Mark Stelzer, the principal celebrant of the funeral mass of Officer Ashley Guindon:

“Along with Bishop Mitchell Rozanski who honors by his presence today, all of us gathered in this church extend to you, Sharon (Ashley’s mother), our deepest sympathy.

Gathered in this parish church which has meant so much to Ashley’s family through the years, we also extend our sympathy and an assurance of prayers to Ashley’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and other family members whose sorrow is great because their loss is great.

We recognize that this is the church and parish in which you have celebrated Baptisms, First Communions, and weddings. This is the parish whose grammar school and high school many of you attended.  This is the parish served so faithfully for so many years by Ashley’s great-aunt, Sister Mildred Saint John, who was on the high school faculty during my own student years here at Sacred Heart School and then served the parish as the secretary and bookkeeper until the time of her death.  This is the church in which many here today gathered just a few short years ago for the funeral of Ashley’s father, David, who instilled in his daughter a commitment to the service of this nation and its people.

Respectful of the great loss you have experienced as a family, we welcome and thank federal, state and local dignitaries from Virginia, Massachusetts, and beyond who recognize your loss and join us today.

Most especially, we welcome Officer Guindon’s “brothers and sisters in blue” from Prince William County who honor their fallen sister.  It was my honor to speak with many of you yesterday at the wake.  Your respect for Ashley and many kindness to her family and each other touched me greatly.  The heartfelt support your Chief and other superior officers offered the younger officers in your ranks was moving.

We also welcome and salute law enforcement officers here today from near and far who never met Officer Guindon, but who gather to honor her service and the unspoken bond that unites all law enforcement officers and their families.

Today we pray for Ashley’s co-workers – Officer Jesse Hempden and Officer David McKeown – both seriously injured alongside Ashley on that frightful night in the routine exercise of their duties.  We assure them and their families of our prayers and support in the days and weeks ahead.

Those of us who grew up in a law enforcement family know firsthand the constant fear that any day of a loved one’s duty as a police officer could be his or her last day of duty.  Any day could spell the End of Watch.  Sadly, that unspoken fear became a reality for Ashley’s family on February 26, 2016.

Today, less than two weeks later, our sorrow remains great because our loss is great.

No words spoken today by a homilist or eulogist can eradicate the deep sorrow Sharon and those who love Ashley most feel today.

No words we speak to one another today can lighten our loss.

In the words of Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.  A time to be born and a time to die.  A time to mourn and a time to rejoice.  This is our time of mourning.

And yet, we do not mourn as people who have no hope.

When our human words fail at a time like this, we find hope in the Word of God that speaks to us in today’s first reading of a valiant woman who, like Ashley, “works diligently, taking pride in her inner resources and strength (Proverbs).

We find hope in the Word God that reminds us in the second reading what it is, like Ashley, “to run the course, to fight the good fight, to finish the course” knowing that “God who was her beginning will be her end.” (2 Timothy).

Our gathering around this table of remembrance in just a few moments reminds us that as often as we tell the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, nothing – absolutely nothing – death, trial, tribulation, or the sword — will ever separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.

In today’s gospel, we witness Martha’s distress at the death of her brother, Lazarus.   She tells herself that if only Jesus had been there, things would have been so different.

Notice just how little Jesus attempts to say or do.  He knew that the time was not right for extensive conversation or a lengthy sermon.

Like ourselves, Martha needed to mourn.   Jesus knew that.

And so, rather than any long discourse, Jesus makes one simple statement: “Your brother will rise again.”

That one statement is followed by a simple, but direct, question asked of Martha and everyone here today: “Do you believe this?”

“Do you believe that there is more to life than what we see now?”

We can’t tell by reading the text how long it took for Martha to answer this crucial question.

Given the prior tone of her conversation with Jesus, I suspect that it might have taken her some time before responding with those words of faith, “Yes, Lord, I believe that there is more to life than what we see and know now.  I believe that my brother will rise and that I will see him again on the last day.”

For some, that “yes” of faith comes quickly.  For others, that “yes” of faith comes slowly.

When death comes so quickly and to one so young, when death comes as a result of  domestic and gun violence or some other dire societal problem, our “yes” to the big questions of faith comes all the harder.

The big societal questions aren’t ours’ to resolve today.   For everything there is a time and a season.

Today, in this Year of Mercy, in this church so dear to Ashley’s family, we simply hold the death of the Lord deep in our hearts confident that God is with us in our sorrow.

Today, in this Year of Mercy, in this church so dear to her family, we hold the death of Officer Ashley Guindon deep in our hearts, praying that God whose name is mercy will – in the days and weeks to come – bring our world and all of us deep peace.

A deep peace we wish for Ashley’s Mom, Sharon, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her many cousins, and all who loved her so very much.

A deep peace we wish for the good people of Prince William County.

A deep peace we wish for each of ourselves.

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