How does one say goodbye to a brother, a pastor, a mentor, a friend?
They say that life is unfair, but I posit that it is death that is unfair — and I find the unfairness of it to be extremely irksome.
It is difficult for us to be here at this funeral but it is also very good and very right to commend our brother, our pastor, our mentor, our friend to the God who gave him life. It is also very necessary.
To the eyes of the world, Father Steven Moore is dead, but to the eyes of faith he has never been more alive. This misperception by the world is understandable because the world — everything in it and every one in it — has limits.
Those of us who knew Father Moore saw in these last 18 months, time and again, how those limits manifested themselves as he fought the disease which eventually took his life.
It is not fair and in view of this unfairness, it is not surprising that the vision of the world is limited since it cannot see the whole picture. But of course, if you think about it, God is not fair. God is merciful.
We are here to thank Almighty God for the gift of that mercy given to us in the life and ministry of Father Moore.
Now today is the fifth day of the Octave of Christmas. For the rest of the world, the Christmas season is over, but here in the Catholic Church, we are just getting rolling. Having prepared during Advent, we began on Christmas Eve and continue with the season of Christmas right up until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 8.
To quote the great social philosopher Charlie Brown, “Can somebody tell me what Christmas is all about?”
Well, it’s about hope — a hope that was born in a cave in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, heralded by angels, adored by shepherds, venerated by magi, feared by King Herod, and recognized by Simeon as the promise of salvation.
The hope that was born that day was that the infinite, ineffable, Almighty God, entered fully into the very limits that define human existence.
As we heard in the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Whatever the incarnated God touches, he transforms. This happened in Bethlehem when he took on our human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. He did it again at the Jordan when he transformed the waters of baptism into the primal sacrament. And again it happened at the wedding at Cana, raising the institution of marriage to a sacramental dignity.
Then, in the Upper Room, he transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper and established the holy priesthood.
This is the very same priesthood of Jesus Christ, into which Steven C. Moore was ordained on June 12, 1976 — a vocation that defined his life from that day forward.
Pope Francis recently remarked, “There is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood, to be called to follow Jesus, to be with him, to bring Jesus to others, to bring them his word and his forgiveness.”
The pope is right. There is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood, to continue the saving and merciful mission of Christ, to make the hope that was laid in the manger a reality in the lives of everyone he touches so that they truly know in their heart of hearts that he is Emmanuel – God with us.
It is at once an awesome and humbling vocation. Referring to his own ordination to the priesthood, Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests once said: “One kneels in the awareness of his own nothingness and rises a priest forever.”
Priests, with eyes of faith, hearts on fire, arms that embrace and with hands that touch and transform this limited world, carry on the saving mission of Christ, the great high priest.
What a beautiful thing, to see this reality lived out in the priesthood of someone like Father Steven Moore — with wit, with tact, incredibly keen perception, kindness and, yes, love.
But it was not so much what Father Moore did, it was the way he did it — with awareness of the human sensitivities involved.
Father Moore lived his priesthood in this limited world and made our little part of it better.
In view of a life lived thus, we can begin to understand why the world, though often puzzled by the priesthood, nevertheless respects and admires the priest. Deep down, despite all of its limits, the world knows that it needs the priesthood, which is in fact the transformative touch of the mercy of God through the hands of his priests.
Yes, God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever should believe in him should not die, but have eternal life. How grateful we are that God so loved Alaska that he sent us Father Moore.
Father Moore was fond of ending funeral homilies in a particular way.
He said, “I often think that some of the greatest gifts that God gives us are those people he sends into our lives, who mold us, who shape us, who challenge us, who love us. We are better for having known them.”
Let us give thanks to Almighty God for the gift of Father Moore — a priest of Jesus Christ forever, in the order of Melchizedek.