Jimmy Lynch had an aversion to funerals. Although for many years he would be at morning Mass every day, no matter what - rain or sun, well or unwell - as soon as he saw that it was a funeral, he would turn on his heals and walk back home. I am not sure why that was, I suspect it was because it was getting a bit close to the mark, and as he was getting older and the possibility of death loomed larger it was something he wanted to keep firmly at the back of his mind. It was a journey he was putting off, a ticket to board the train he wasn’t prepared to purchase. It wasn’t because he had any lack of faith, like many he wanted to put off the day to another day – as Dylan Thomas says in his poem, rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Today Jimmy cannot avoid this funeral, which cryptically he said he wouldn’t be turning up for. Today he can’t turn on his heals. Today he can’t walk home. Today he can’t put it off for another day. Today the ticket has to be bought for the journey, the train has to be boarded, it’s leaving the station. These prayers and this Mass is offered for him to speed him to heaven, on the final journey, even although he might have been the reluctant journey man.
Jimmy had no lack of faith – he prayed a great deal and attended Mass very regularly. We knew he said his prayers because we could hear him! In the quiet of the Church he thought he was whispering his prayers but we could hear him at the other end of the church and in the sacristy. But it didn’t matter that we heard them because they weren’t directed to us, it was God that heard them and know that he trusted him cared for him and had great faith in Him. That bond of faith stretched right from the beginning of his life right to the end, right to the end – in his room, in his bed and in his final hours. If he was asked to keep the light of his baptismal faith burning brightly he most certainly did it right to the end.
The Gospel of today’s mass finds the apostles about their work, fishing on the sea of Galilee. At the end of the Gospel the apostles receive an invitation that sounds also like a command, come and follow me. Hearing those words: they don’t know where he wants them to go, they don’t even know who it is that is speaking to them. But there is something in his voice that makes them accept the invitation and obey the command. We have no doubt that these are not pushovers, they are by no means ‘softies’ who would go with anyone, or do anything anyone asked, no one can ‘pull the wool’ over their eyes, these are tough worldly men. But there is something that changes them, there is something in this voice, something in the command, something in the invitation that is irresistible, they go with him, they join with him, they follow in his wake. They are to go to the hills and towns, they are to watch what he does and to listen to what he has to say. It becomes clear why he invites them, because they are to tell others what they see and hear, what they know, they are to be his witnesses in Judaea in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
I am sure that whenever Jimmy heard these passages about the apostles he pricked up his ears, he also was a fisherman, all his life. He could read the waters where the fish might be, he could wait patiently for them to appear, he used all his techniques to catch them out. Like the apostles he had the trained eye and the sharpened instincts for the task. Like them he was also called to know the Lord’s friendship in his life and like them that encounter changed the direction of his life, set him down on a path that was different, that led him a different way, the way the Lord wanted him to go. Like all of us he was not perfect, like these Apostles he was head-strong, at times foolish, at times stubborn….but he got the invitation, the words were addressed to him too….come follow me.
Sometimes we say people will miss the deceased. I will tell you some who won’t miss Jimmy. The fish won’t miss him, he was their enemy. The rabbits he snared won’t miss him, he was their hunter. The finches that he caught won’t miss him, he was the one who caught them when they were flying about. The insects that he used in great quantities won’t miss him.
We carry from this church some comforting words – the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them, they are in peace; nothing can keep us from the love of God, no angel, no prince, nothing yet to come, not even death itself. There is a caste iron promise here that we will build our life, that we can look to the future, that we are secure in God’s protection, his compassion and his love. It’s a kind of armour which things bounce off, it gives us confidence in our weaker moments – we are surrounded by the love and compassion of God.
Jimmy was one of 6 children. He was born in Bridgeton in Glasgow and moved to Overton in Halfway when his father purchased a shop. His first job was as a dustman but he was reckoned to be too ‘wee’ for the task. The main job that he was engaged in most of his life was as a plasterer and slaterer and a good one at that, well known for the quality of his work and training others as well. He went under the name Kipper Lynch, to his work mates and friends, some might not have known him as any other name. He had good hands and could turn his hands to anything. He loved outdoor pursuits: fishing, hunting and the country life. He would spend long hours fishing and even had ferrets that followed him around and even sometimes got into the house. He was married to Rose for many years and we especially remember her at Mass today, like Jimmy, Rose was a very dedicated member of the parish, she had a big heart and even looked after the priests here in the parish house. Rose and Jimmy had a big family of 12 children, those children are here with their children as well. He was a rather strict father, black was black and white was white. There were hardly any grey areas. He steered a straight course in life and expected others to do the same. He was stubborn, fixed and hard to move at times. Like any father he was proud of his children’s achievements and proud too of the grandchildren who had done well in life. In later life he met Barbara and found much happiness with her. Friendship, companionship were to be the mark of their journey together. They looked out for each other and cared for each other very much.
He was a very dedicated member of the parish and would be here most mornings, first in. He would tidy up the books and the church and settle down to his prayers, which we could all hear. He would occasionally try to nip out before others, I would send him back to his seat, he would meekly go back. Like the rest of his family, he was very generous to the church. His sister Agnes brought vestments and things for the church as did Jimmy and other family members…it wasn’t that they were well off, they simply cared for the church and this church in particular that they had always known all their life. On behalf of priests here I would like to thank them for their kindness and generosity.
There are many types of death. People can die young. People can die in tragic circumstances. People can be plucked away when it seems like the worst time to go. This was not the kind of death for Jimmy, he died after a long life, all his family were grown up and their families too. He had a very contented old age. The illness when he came he fought and was able to keep going. He died peacefully in his own home and his own bed. This was a peaceful death after a long life.
The Mass meant a great deal to him. This great prayer of Christ which he nourishes his people. This great prayer where he intercedes for the world. This great prayer of the Mass in which the sacrifice of the cross is present. All of this meant everything to him: it brought him great peace of mind, great consolation of spirit, great encouragement in good days and dark days. Now at the end it is once again the prayer that he turns to in order to speed him to heaven. He had great trust in the mercy and compassion of God which was present to him through the Mass.
Today we pray for Jimmy’s eternal peace. After the business of life a hush descends at the end. The toil of life is over, the job given is over, the responsibilities of life can be laid to the side. In the end we go to God who has made us in life, has created us for life, has handed us our life…we go to God, who in the end, wants to grant us an eternal life.