Tom O'Neill Funeral Homily

By Father Tom Lindner Sept. 4, 2009

We have brought Tom-our mentor, priest, brother-our friend to this place today, a place he loved, a place where he stood in our midst and spoke of Jesus.

We have brought him to this place, and here, of all places, he would want anyone speaking of him to be brief, and he would want me to speak more of Jesus and the hope and life held out to us by Jesus-he would want that more than anyone speaking of him, of Tom.

However, how could we not speak a few words of this man who meant much to us, and who so often pointed us beyond our own concerns and small worlds, to the Kingdom Jesus preached, and the life that could be lived in his name.

When Tom and I spent some time last week sitting on a bench along the Mississippi, we made mention of Senator Ted Kennedy who had just died the previous day. I mentioned to Tom that one line kept coming back to me from Senator Kennedy's speech at the Democratic convention last year, almost a year to the day of his death. The senator already knew he had cancer and that time was short. Still Ted Kennedy spoke with great energy and conviction about health care reform-about his determined ideal that even the poorest American would have access to regular medical care. He described it that night as "The cause of my life."

Tom nodded as I remembered that night and those words. I wonder now if he'd ever considered the cause of his life. He wouldn't have spoken of it this way, but so many of us know all too well that the cause of Tom's life was the gospel. Tom would never have acknowledged that he had gotten close to realizing his cause. He might claim that he'd just begun to follow along the way of Jesus. But he was further down that path than some of us will ever be.

And, even in his stumbling, he offered an important witness of forgiveness, of honesty, of redemption. As well as any of us, he tried again and again, with some missteps but often with renewed diligence to follow the way of the one who was the way.

In pursuing the cause of his life, Tom encouraged us, challenged us, amused us, rankled us, he no doubt made some of us angry, and he left at least a few of us nearly falling out of our chairs in bouts of laughter. He inspired us, comforted us, maybe even in some ways amazed us. In his attempts to follow the way of discipleship, he helped us recognize something more, something new about our own potential as disciples of the on who shows the way.

In following the way, Tom asked questions. Maybe that, more than anything is what we should remember about Tom. Like the Thomas in today's Gospel, our Thomas was not afraid to admit he didn't get everything, understand everything, know every wrinkle. He was willing as well to ask the hard questions. I think he'd learned through his life that it was the fear of asking the hard questions that caused the most problems and maybe even showed the least faith.

Finally, today, we will stand around the altar where Tom stood with us. We will share the meal where he and we gain not just sustenance, but life itself. Throughout all his time here, Tom has hungered with us for this sacred food, and that life.

Today he still is here with us in the great communion of saints, where we sing to God's glory and taste a bit of heaven in every bit of bread. And every sip of wine. The body and blood of the one who shows the way. Together here, we find strength to continue on our way, that way. And realize we never, none of us, make this journey of life and faith alone. Tom did not, we do not.