Saint Columba’s Church, Long Tower, Derry City
Each of us, everyone here, has a story – a history – built on our experience of our own family, neighbours, school and adult life. Every story is sacred, deserves respect and reverence.
When a loved one dies we go over their story, as we have done with Ryan. Ryan’s family and community know well his personal story.
The wider community and many in this church today know Ryan’s public story.
When we reflect on Ryan’s life, we think at the outset, we think of him as an athlete on his prime, who achieved much and still had great potential, a versatile and accomplished footballer, of the thrilling moments he brought to so many supporters of Derry City, and across Ireland, over the past seven years. The club management, the team, the supporters, all have been caught up in his natural footballing ability; in his courageous play. As has been said many times: Ryan would put his head where other players would not put their boot. He was brave and knew no fear. As captain he was an inspirational leader in the dressing room and on the field of play. In the last several weeks Ryan was pivotal in great performances and contributed greatly to Derry’s perfect start to the season; quick reflexes, heady play and competitive spirit, made him a great role model for many young boys and girls as well as City supporters and fans throughout the area.
We are grateful for Ryan’s powerful example.
The primary chapter in Ryan’s story is that he was a child of God. I was reminded of last Sunday’s gospel when reflecting on Ryan’s life – the Samaritan women at the well speaking with Jesus: Worship on this mountain or in Jerusalem? And Jesus said, “true worship of the Father is done in Spirit and in truth.”
Ryan’s vocation as a child of God, what of it? I have learnt in the last several days that:
– Ryan’s character was forged by the generations of his family;
– by Ryan’s own love as he expressed and lived out his life in spirit and in truth.
As Ryan comes before God for judgement, Ryan no doubt will receive first class honours.
And of Ryan’s loving family – his unexpected death has impacted on his nearest, and on all of us, as an appalling shock. We cannot fully take in the reality even as we carry out our funeral rites for our beloved Ryan.
Over and above the grief experienced at this time of heartbreak, there persists some anguished questions:
– why did it have to happen?
– could any of us have done anything?
– could Ryan’s death have been prevented?
– why has this been done to us?
We feel in some way betrayed by God, God whom we have learned from childhood to call our Father.
In our gospel extract we heard Martha’s approach to Jesus about the death of her brother Lazarus echoes the pain and confusion that we all feel in the face of his untimely death. And our faith tells us that we must never hesitate or fear to speak our heartfelt feelings to God.
God’s own Son on the Cross was forced to cry out to Him: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”
You as a family need many words, different words, at different times.
This cry is part of the story of life, and of faith, itself. God asks us to believe Him and to trust Him, even in the face of anguish and loss. God does not send these crosses which pin us to the ground. They come to us and they came to God’s own Son from the conditions of life in the world and they come across to us unbidden and unwanted as occasions for deep and anguished faith.
“I believe Lord, help my lack of belief!”
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.
God does not explain why these demands are made of us, and even, I think if He did, we would not be able to understand. Such answers belong to Eternity, at the end of time, when God will wipe away all tears.
We are people who wait, we wait for what God will do in his own way and in his own time.
I leave you with the Methodist Sunday School words: “O faithful Christian, remember your God became man and put suffering at the heart of the mystery of salvation.”
Ryan has passed through the dark door of death into the light of the Face of Christ and during this Holy Mass we pray for Ryan’s eternal peace and joy. Amen.
- Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, presided at the Mass.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 in Derry and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444