Homily from the funeral Mass for Msgr. Lawrence J. Stuebben
March 31, 2017 | posted by Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette
Homily for the funeral Mass for Msgr. Lawrence J. Stuebben
Tommy and Mary Jane…and all the members of the family, thank you for allowing us to be here today! We share your sadness, but we also share your great satisfaction at having had two brothers, two uncles, two “fathers” who have served the Lord and His people so well.We praise God with you today and will continue to do so in the days to come.
Archbishop Gustavo, we are so pleased that you are leading us in this funeral liturgy, as you each day lead the Archdiocese so faithfully, uniting us in praise, prayer, and service.We also know that you represent to us all that amazing line of Archbishops -- Lucey, Furey, Flores, Gomez, and yourself – and their auxiliaries – whom Monsignor Larry served so well during his lifetime.Where you men were, there was Fr. Larry, uniting himself to the mission of the Church.We are very grateful that you have called for theuse of the resources of the Archdiocese and CTSA, our TV station, so that many more of Fr. Larry’s parishioners, colleagues, and friends could “fit” into his preferred venue of St. Joseph Catholic Church, downtown San Antonio, for this prayerful time and gracious send-off of our dear Fr. Larry.
My brother bishops and priests, please know how encouraged the family is by your presence and your prayer today.Fr. Larry belonged to many groups, owning them even as they “owned” him.But there was no “group” in which he held membership that meant more to him than the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.He was many things to many, but he was always a priest first.
Welcome also, to the whole Church—every person, every group, every society and organization, every friend, every consecrated woman or man religious, every married couple or family guild, every priest or bishop or seminarian, every East or West or North or South Sider, every rural person, every homeless person, every documented or undocumented immigrant, every fisher of fish or fisher of people, every parishioner, every venerator of St. Hubert the hunter, every person initiated in the faith, every unbeliever who loves, every opponent, every student, every storyteller, every Tarocki player, every sipper of bourbon, every lover of the earth and sea, every single person longing for relationship—indeed everyone that Fr. Larry touched with his vibrant smile, with his strong faith in the Triune God and His Church, with his enduring enthusiasm and infinite optimism, with his warm embrace or firm challenge, with a pastoral home visit, with his endless curiosity, or with his sacramental exchange of grace.That is the one common bond we share this morning—somehow, someway, sometime Father Larry has touched our lives and left an imprint of Jesus’ love on our being.And it was very good.
Some long time ago Father Larry summoned me to his cluttered abode (weren’t they always so?) and we brushed aside enough papers to make an archeologist impressed.Having finally sat down, he asked me to preach his funeral “Preach,” he said, “it needs to be done.”“I’m not sure I can make it through it,” I said.
Ignoring me, he said, “I don’t want a eulogy, leave that to Today’s Catholic and CTSA and the newspapers.”
“You mean,” I said, “like all of those 45-minute history sermons we listened to from you at every event or funeral?”He smiled knowingly.I cried.
“Then you better help me out with great readings,” I said.“I’ll do my best,” was his reply… but no eulogy.
“Okay, but let’s not do it too soon,” I said.Fr. Larry said, “AS IN ALL THINGS GOD WILL DECIDE.”
God indeed has decided, and now is the time!God has claimed the one He loves and has brought him home to that place where there are many dwellings—God’s eternal home, described by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.
So what is it that Fr. Larry wanted us to know about this God and God’s impact on his life, presented to us in the Scriptures chosen for us by Fr. Larry himself?(By the way, the list changed many times before his signature made all the plans “final.”)
Although death is indeed troubling, Larry wanted us to hear again Jesus’ words: “Don’t be troubled, there is much room in the Kingdom for us all.”Jesus was reflecting the confidence that grows from knowing God’s love and mercy, which form the basis for faith itself.Jesus, too, was nearing the end of his earthly life and wanted His disciples to greet His coming suffering and death not merely with the anxiety that comes with death, but with the new mind and heart that comes from their relationship with Him and His coming resurrection.Jesus would die as He had lived; offering it as service for the salvation of the world.At the core of every relationship that Fr. Larry had, this sacrificial service was key. In fact, he believed that to be embraced by God’s kingdom and to embrace that kingdom in return is our very reason for being.
Fr. Larry’s confidence as he faced death was rooted in his great sense of his personal history … his story in faith.He knew that God had blessed him by placing him in the home of George and Clara Hanzen Stuebben – a home filled with the Catholic faith and above all with love.God had also blessed him with two brothers, George and Tommy, with whom he could work and worship and fuss and feud and have fun.God’s goodness was lavished on him by drawing him in his earliest days into the family of the Church by baptism, and by surrounding him with believers and lovers of God, who taught him of the dignity of every human person, the dignity of human work, and the absolute necessity of enjoying life to the full.God’s loving initiative is meant to be responded to with great joy – and few have known this better than Fr. Larry!
By choosing today’s first reading about Isaiah’s vision of God’s glory, Father Larry clearly wanted us to notice the mercy so dramatically described there. This passage is one of my favorites and was the first reading at my ordination.Fr. Larry was himself touched by the splendor of God and by the merciful ember of forgiveness, and in response he was prepared and eager to communicate it to the rest of us – “Here I am; send me!”He knew that mercy not only forgives but also restores us – our “wickedness is removed [and our] sin purged.”Father Larry never stopped seeking to restore us all to our heavenly Father, reflecting God’s grace that is extended to us in His constant presence and endless love.
It was, however, Fr. Larry’s complete surrender to the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that has gathered and captivated and converted us the most.Like St. Paul, Fr. Larry was a devoted servant of the Gospel – the Good News which he never ceased preaching; the Good News that shouted God’s plan to bring about a new creation through Christ Jesus; the Good News that changed all of our relationships.And like St. Paul, our beloved Larry wanted everyone “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” which explains his joy at having had the opportunity to help bring the Vicar of Christ to our state and city.It is no wonder that Fr. Larry considered that moment in time, those 22 hours, to be a seminal event in the civic and spiritual history of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.Our present Holy Father’s reminder that we are all missionary disciples stirs the memories of those days when we received as guest John Paul II, the missionary pope, and experienced the joy of the Gospel he brought.
As important an event as that was, however, it is the rest of the passage of the letter to the Ephesians that I’m certain Fr. Larry would like us to hear today, since he wanted no eulogy.Again like St. Paul, Fr. Larry wanted us to know that our own vocation in baptism or marriage or ordination were as important as anyone else’s.He prayed that we would be strong in faith and service as was Jesus, as was Paul, as was Fr. Larry himself.This service changes the face of the earth.Why? Because it reveals something – in it we recognize the length, width, height and depth of Christ’s love.Love begets love.Service flows from relationship.Fr. Larry believed – and he tells us today – that the power of God is at work in us—NOW.He believed and lived and died with the certainty that, considering all the incredible things which the eulogies about him have correctly reported, we can do immeasurably more.He gave us confidence…that is, he walked with us in faith…and he wanted his own love and service to be contagious.
There is no doubt that Fr. Larry felt he walked on the shoulders of those who had gone before, and he invites us to now walk on his grace and his shoulders.As we lay him to rest, his work is now ours.Love and imitate the Christ.Care and support the Church.Visit the sick and the untouchables.Love your spouse and children.Be forgiven and offer mercy.These and countless more opportunities for love and service are ours.Immeasurably more than we can imagine.That is how we become, like Father Larry, not just storytellers of salvation history, but truly participants in our own salvation and that of others.
Thanks, Fr. Larry, for everything.We will now do our part.