We had our annual memorial service last night for those who died while homeless or formerly homeless. It was a moving ceremony; bagpipes, song, poems, scripture, candles, names read, bells tolling. I was asked to offer the final prayer, which I’d like to share with you now.
Holy One: We are here to mourn the passing of so many beautiful souls, too many. Although there is an empty space in our hearts and in our lives, we know…most loving God… that those who have passed on are now at peace. We know that your grace and forgiveness is freely given for all, and upon the hour of their death they were freed from all their physical and spiritual pain as they entered into Your heavenly realm as innocent and beloved as a newborn baby.
We also believe that God knows our suffering. Be with us, Holy One, in our grief, in our pain, in our loss, and help us to feel your comforting presence as we mourn the loss of so many.
We also pray that those who hear these names, those who have a place to lay their heads, are discomforted. We pray that tonight touches hearts, and moves us to change systems that oppress; to remove barriers that keep people from having their basic human needs met. We pray that we can do this work so that no more people die from homelessness, that no more people freeze to death in a tent, that no more people are victims of senseless violence on the green, that no more people’s lives are shortened because of barriers to adequate shelter, food, or healthcare. Forgive us for not doing more and help us to open our minds to creative possibilities beyond what we’ve always done so that next year we are not reading 35 names here in a long cold night of winter.
Bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial works, so that we act from a place deep within our hearts.
Bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
Bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, loneliness, homelessness, substance use, trauma and mental illness, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all .
“A Franciscan Blessing”
May God be with each and every one of you as you leave this place. May God watch over you, and keep you safe and warm now, and in every season of your life.