Funeral of Anne Pietrzak

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In the Old Testament text chosen for this day, the Lord God gives us a glimpse of the future He has in store for all believers: “Behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things (that is, the sorrows of this life) shall not be remembered or come into mind. No more shall there be an infant who lives but a few days, for the child shall die a hundred years old” (Is 65:17, 20) This is not to say that anyone will die in the new heaven and new earth. They will not. Death shall be no more. But in describing eternal life in terms that we mortals can understand, God speaks of a child living for a hundred years. For most of us, especially for children, a hundred years might as well be an eternity.
In the Great Litany of the church, we ask God to deliver us from a sudden and evil death. Notice that we do not ask God to deliver us from death, but from an evil death. We ask, instead, to be granted a blessed death. And what does this mean? Some would say that a blessed death is to spend one’s final moments surrounded by family. This is surely a great comfort, but by itself, it does not constitute a blessed death. Others would say that it means to have lived a full and happy life before falling peacefully asleep at home, but this also is not what is meant by a blessed death. A blessed death is this: to die in the faith of Jesus Christ.
Beyond all doubt, God granted this blessing to Anne. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mk 10:14). Anne’s mother and father did just that over a hundred years ago, bringing Anne to Jesus when she was only two weeks old. And after Anne was granted entrance to the kingdom of God, that is, to the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church through Holy Baptism, she continued in that childlike faith and confession until her blessed departure from this earth, more than one hundred years later.
I was taught at seminary that a pastor’s job, in the simplest terms possible is this: to teach his people how to die. This sounds a bit morbid, but it’s true. Nothing else ultimately matters in this life but a blessed death. But this is a lesson that Anne had learned long before I was called to this parish, perhaps long before I was born. Anne, who had been brought to Jesus as a little child, did not waver in her faith as the day of her heavenly homecoming drew near. Her trust was in Christ, who raises the dead, who had promised to change her mortal body to be like his glorious body in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. I was, however, privileged to be with Anne at her first communion of her second century.
God bestows countless blessing on all his children, but as I thought of Anne’s life over the past week, I couldn’t help but ask, “Who could have been more blessed than this?” To have known Christ for one-hundred years, to have experience the love of God for all this time, to have had dear Christian friends for all of that one-hundred years, to see her children and grandson brought to Jesus and embrace the faith, to receive the Body and Blood of her Savior one final time on the day of her death, and then finally, to spend her last moments at home, surrounded by loved ones, before falling peacefully asleep in Jesus, confident in death in the promises of Christ which had sustained her through the long years of her life – does it get any better than this?
Truly in Anne’s life, from the first moment she was brought to Jesus until her blessed death, we see a glimpse of the future that God has in store for every one of his children, the future that our Lord Jesus purchased for us with his blessed death: “Behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. For the child shall die a hundred years old” (Is 65:17, 20).
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