July 2016 | Hōngongoi
Reflections | He Whaiwhakaaro
Fr Colin Karalus was a priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington for 60 years. Ordained on 23 July 1956, he died on 28 March this year. A Requiem Mass for Fr Colin was held on 30 March. Cardinal John Dew was celebrant and Cardinal Tom Williams and thirty priests concelebrated. Fr Michael McCabe, parish priest of the Parish of Our Lady of Kāpiti, gave this homily.
Gospel: John 20:1-9
When a loved one dies we tell stories – we do that to come to terms with their death and our own grief and loss, but equally, because our lives are shaped and reshaped by those who love us. Even when that love passes on in death we remain the work of those who have loved us.
Mary of Magdala, Peter and the Beloved Disciple are united by their belief in Jesus. He had changed their lives. He understood them – their lives had been radically reshaped by his love. They were shattered by his death. Mary and the Beloved Disciple – together with the mother of Jesus and others – had stood beneath the cross and watched his suffering painfully unfold while Peter, who could not come to terms with a suffering Messiah, ran away.
Mary arrives first and, when she sees the stone moved and the empty tomb she runs back to Peter and the Beloved Disciple. They, in turn, run to the tomb, but Peter runs out of puff and is a distant second. He is still the leader, however, and the Beloved Disciple waits for him.
The body of Jesus had gone – only the burial cloths remained – fragile proof indeed of any resurrection. Mary, we are told in the following verses, sits down and cries. Peter is stunned and terrified when he enters the empty tomb, but the Beloved Disciple both sees and believes when he enters the tomb.
The Scriptures then provide us with a vital clue – up to this moment ‘they had failed to understand the message of the Scriptures that he must rise from the dead.’
In other words, while the grace of the Lord’s resurrection is a transforming grace, it is most assuredly, not immediate for any and all of the first witnesses to the resurrection. They all take time to understand its full meaning. It was the same for Colin. It is the same
But the Beloved Disciple both sees and believes and does both together – seeing and believing.
He becomes a model of faith for us as we honour Colin today with our prayers of Requiem. But so does Mary of Magdala in her constant searching for Jesus in his apparent absence – she is a model of the Church – as is Peter – impetuous and bumbling, but a man with a huge heart who was not afraid to say sorry and not afraid to change – and often.
Thus, we have three quite diverse stories in Christ all serving as models of the Church today:
- the beloved who sees and believes
- the searcher constantly looking for Jesus
- the repentant sinner looking to return home.
All three disciples reveal the transforming grace of the resurrection precisely in the twists and turns of their own stories and journeys of faith – and do so differently – teaching and reminding us all that Jesus is a great respecter of different personalities and different temperaments. It takes us a long time to fully appreciate that simple fact, and, frequently, we only fully appreciate this after a brother or sister of Christ has died.
Jesus is a great respecter of different personalities and different temperaments.
In every parish and in every apostolate there are people who do believe this and who believe – that we are all called by name, that we are all forgiven in Christ and that through his merciful love Christ loves us all into greatness. It is these people who continue to call the ordained priest to holiness of life, to forgiveness and prayer, and to selflessness over and over again – and they do so precisely by the integrity of their lives
Colin, as with all of my brother priests here today, and myself, was deeply grateful for the presence of such people in the 11 parishes he served in during his nearly 60 years of priesthood – people who reminded him that the transforming grace of the Lord’s resurrection is gradual, though persistent.
We have, as the Parish of Our Lady of Kāpiti, been blessed to have Colin with us for many years. We have been blessed by his gift of prayer and hospitality, his deep love of his brother priests, his loyalty to the parish and by his ministry as a compassionate confessor to many. We have been blessed by his gift of laughter and joy.
We have been especially blessed during Lent to witness the way Colin embraced the Lord in his suffering and in his dying. To be with him as he made his final journey of faith, to witness the further softening of his heart in Christ has been a privilege.
To all of you, family, friends, parishioners or priests, can we say thank you for the ways you have reminded Colin – and ourselves – that our lives are shaped and reshaped by those who have loved us in Christ.
Rest in peace Colin and pray for us that we may continue to look after each other.