Dear Father Munn,
As I sit down to write this, I find myself at a loss as to what to say in such a short amount of time to honor your memory and bring glory to God in such a moment of such sadness in our lives, and yet also a moment of hope which springs eternal in the life of a believer. As I etch these words onto the canvass of this homily, I can hear your voice echoing in my ear, “It’s not ABOUT me Timothy.” Perhaps the only way I can unravel the secret of how to tell the story of the Resurrection and touch on the life of your life is to work backwards. Let’s look at the day of your passing:
You celebrated Mass here at Most Holy Trinity, and it was the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. THE two great converts to the Christian faith, whom you called the “bones and muscles” of Christianity. You sir, a great convert to the Catholic faith, giving honor to the great converts of the early Church. The readings that day included a reading from 2 Timothy, which we have repeated in today’s liturgy, and Scripture provided these prophetic words: “…the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” A convert to the faith honoring the greatest converts to the faith in Peter and Paul. And how did you come to convert to the Catholic faith? You intimated to me that, of all things, you were converted by Paul VI’s encyclical Humana Vitae. At a time when priests and nuns and lay Catholics were rejecting the document, you were converted by the eternal truths presented by this humble Pope in Rome. (We have another priest with us today, Fr. John Markham, who also converted to the faith because as a doctor, he saw the consistent ethic of life presented in Church doctrine). Fr. Munn, you had a great love of the truth, and you also believed in the great capacity of people to hear the truth. So many people would come to confession and say, “Fr. Munn told me to do this or do that…” and some would come in and say, “Fr. Munn was mean to me in confession” to which I responded, “you mean, because he told you the truth about yourself?” The answer was always, “yes.” The truth hurts, and that’s why it IS the truth. True love consists in telling the truth. Thank you for that great love.
The great truth we celebrate today is the truth of the dying and rising of Christ to new life. Death could not keep our Lord shackled, and he burst through to new life – resurrected life – on Easter morning. All of Creation that came before Him, and all of eternity that came after Him is redeemed by this power over death. We believe in faith in the power of Christ to raise you to new life today Fr. Munn, and we pray that the Lord in his goodness will overlook the foibles and traps that made you a human being, and welcome you into the kingdom prepared for you by the Father in Heaven. Just as it looked like the ministry of Jesus ended in miserable failure on the cross, no one could predict the good that would be wrought in his Resurrection from the dead. So the same with your priesthood: we never know the good we have planted, and when those seeds will come to fruition in the life of the faithful, for we walk by faith, and not by sight. Just as the victory of the cross was a contradiction to those who looked upon the dying Christ, so too was your life Father a contradiction in many ways ~ a married priest in the midst of a celibate priesthood; a man of deep piety and prayer who also enjoyed healthy language and ripe stories; and a man of Eastern mysticism and of Roman appetite.
A married priest. It is said of a bishop that he has the “fullness” of Holy Orders. I always enjoyed our own Bishop’s reflection that he felt he had the fullness of Holy Orders as a priest and pastor. In many ways Fr. Munn, you had the fullness of priesthood as you were able to celebrate the Eucharist, and enjoy married life as well, and in this life, your marriage accomplished what every marriage is called to accomplish: your marriage pointed entirely to Christ. What a difficult vocation it must have been to be the wife of a priest, but we salute you Jan today for creating a model of what it means to be the wife of a priest. Fr. Munn, we know you were grateful that Jan joined her vocation of marriage to your vocation to the priesthood: it showed in the way that you loved each other. Central to that marriage; central to the life of the Church; central to your priesthood Fr. Munn was the Eucharist. The unbloodied sacrifice of Jesus Christ which you offered to God the Most High. The words in the Gospel of John today reveal the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, “I am the Bread of Life…whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Central to the life of a priest is the celebration of the Eucharist, and Fr. Munn, you celebrated Christ with true reverence and sacred circumspection. Real presence on the altar; real presence in your marriage: all made possible by the enduring power of the Resurrection.
Having been here for only a year, I am constantly amazed at the number of people who knew you and whom received your counsel and the benefit of your wisdom and spirituality. You were the consummate wordsmith and artisan of the homiletic craft, and you always preached in ways that sparked the sacramental imagination of the faithful. Your homilies, your life as a priest, your marriage and family life all indicated the one thing that you tried to convey to us in your ministry: that it’s all true. That there was a Christ; that he suffered cruelly for us; that he died for us; and that he rose from death and showed us the path to eternal life. The words you spoke in the Eucharistic prayer reveal that great truth and that abiding hope: “the blood of the NEW and EVERLASTING covenant” ~ everlasting…for all time, in every age, forever and ever.
We realize today in our gathering that your life, like every life, was an unfinished symphony. It is left to us to build on that symphony and hand it over, uncompleted, to the next generation. The symphonies will remain unfinished until Christ returns and brings harmony to all of creation. We are thankful to you today for making the symphony of salvation sound that much sweeter to us through the gift of your priesthood. In spite of our faith and our great hope in eternal life, we do grieve and suffer. As you so often pointed out in your own funeral homilies, our tears are a way of honoring your memory. When we suffer, we are reminded of the image of Christ on the cross, but we realize that there is an empty side to the cross – the empty side that we must hang on from time to time, and join in the Lord’s suffering. Yet as we hang there in our sorrow, we realize that Christ is right behind us, and we know that the cross is only a temporary station, because Easter always follows Good Friday. Resurrection comes to those who suffer and yet believe. Your own belief Fr. Munn inspired and fostered our own belief. Many thanks for persevering in that faith, in spite of the many times you yourself must have hung on the empty side of the cross.
We offer this celebration of the Eucharist for you today Fr. Munn, that the Christ you fed us with will now feed you with the gift of eternal life. We trust in faith that He has received you, and that you are with us and praying for us now in ways beyond our understanding. Your departure from us is sorrowful, but only a temporary absence, as we believe that we will see you again when we all gather at the feet of our Lord in Heaven; and we know this is all possible because showed us his saving power by rising forever from the finality of death. Your departure from this life was sudden and unexpected, but we pray that on the Feast of Sts.Peter and Paul, when the Lord came to receive you, that your soul heard the words that it has longed to hear from the moment of your baptism: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
Well done Father.
Your devoted family and friends, and those whom you gave life to in Christ Jesus our Lord.
P.S. Please say Hello to Deacon Ephraim for us. Amen.
Fr. Martino Nguyễn