Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Mass of Christian Burial for Officer Isabel Nazario
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
September 12, 2008
Once again the tragedy of violence, pain and separation has struck our community, our city, our Commonwealth. Isabel Nazario, beloved mother, loving daughter, dear sister, fiancée, friend, member of the Philadelphia Police Department, Strike Force South C Squad Officer has been taken from our midst.
Once again the solidarity of our people has been mobilized to embrace and envelop with affection all those loved ones who experience so deeply the pain of violent separation. The reaction of every sector of our civic and religious communities is a credit to our people. The participation of our civic dignitaries, the extraordinary presence of so many fellow police officers, the families of other fallen officers as well as the solidarity of the members of Officer Nazario’s own religious Catholic community is both a blessing and a witness of how much she was respected and loved. For all of this we are deeply grateful.
At the same time the Church endeavors in this Mass of burial to offer to her beloved family and friends the consolation of the Christian faith, which holds out an unbreakable hope in the face of what would otherwise be the victory of death over life.
In our first reading this afternoon from the Book of the great Prophet Isaiah, we are comforted by God’s loving promise: "The Lord of hosts will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.... On that day it will be said: ‘Behold our God to whom we looked to save us.’"
God’s promise to His people of immortality ensures definitive victory over death and evil and the final reward for goodness in the life of Officer Nazario and all of us.
In the twenty-third psalm which we have proclaimed we express our trust in the Lord God, whom we address in tender words: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake." And the psalmist goes on with confidence to exclaim: "Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side...."
Dear friends: God is not mocked. Evil and violence do not have the last word, but yield before the luminous promise of God, in which we find victory and life beyond death, life without end.
For this reason, as we heard in our second reading, the great Apostle Saint Paul was able to encourage the early Christians in the face of death, saying: "We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep....Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words."
The final message of consolation which the word of God presents to us today comes from the Gospel according to Matthew. The words that Jesus Christ Himself speaks describe the important scene of the final judgment of humanity by a good and just and merciful God. Let us listen again to these words: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.... Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’"
These blessed words of Jesus Christ lead us back to see the great value of generous and dedicated service in the life of Officer Nazario. Her daily contribution to her loved ones and to the whole community, the service performed—like that of all faithful police officers—involving risk and so much personal effort, and numerous acts of kindness in favor of the neighbor designate Office Nazario as a recipient of God’s loving mercy in the Kingdom of heaven.
We who remain in order to complete our own call to dedicated service, pause now in admiration and thanksgiving. We ask God, our loving Father, to receive into His eternal embrace our sister Isabel. We pray that her legacy of service and Christian love will remain for years to come a treasure for her beloved family, for her partner in the Police Department who escaped death, and for this whole community which she served even with the sacrifice of her life.
May you rest, Isabel, in the love and peace of God, in the beloved land of Puerto Rico, as you await the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.