by Patriarch Craig Bates
20 September 2020
I Corinthians 15:13-22
We’re all thinking about the resurrection from the dead in light of our dear brother Abp. Dick passing to be with the Lord. It’s hard to believe he’s passed from the Church militant, where he was a mighty warrior, general and prince for God, to the Church triumphant. I really miss him as a great brother and a friend. I remember great times of laughter and the meals we shared together in many places. He loved to fellowship, sometimes until early morning. I miss sharing stories of what Jesus was doing in our lives and the life of the Church, and our theological discussions. I miss working, planning and praying together as we invested in the future of the Church. The Church was so important to Abp. Alcaraz: he loved everything about the CEC, from being charismatic, to preaching the Gospel and leading people to Christ, to the Liturgy, vestments, incense and especially the Eucharist. I was so honored to elevate him to the Office of Primate: what a glorious celebration when joy filled every one of us. I’m thankful that I was able to spend time with him in Israel: he loved the nation of Israel. Now he sits among the apostles in heaven, and some day we’ll meet again. He was a good husband and father, and his family are a powerful legacy.
There’s a time to mourn. The Church has lost someone very special, and it’s ok to mourn. But we mourn not as those who have no hope: we have a hope that won’t disappoint us, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts. I think of the Bishop as a man with a smile who loved to tell jokes because he was filled with the joy of the Lord and radiated the love and kindness of God to everyone. That’s the love that’s in our hearts. We grieve because we loved him so much. Even though we know he’s with God, at the banquet table with the apostles that have gone before him, our tears are evidence of our love, as Jesus wept for Lazarus. Even though He knew Lazarus would be resurrected, Jesus wept because He loved him and Mary and Martha who were mourning.
We’ll never understand why this happened: if God were to tell us, our next word would be another “why”, because His mysteries are too deep for us to understand. We enter into that mystery, knowing that in prayer we can run to God. He’ll comfort you and meet you there: don’t run away from Him, but release your faith. God doesn’t take away hurt, pain, sorrow, suffering and death: all of us will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Don’t stop, but keep walking, and we’ll pass through it. All of us will suffer at some point and lose a loved one, and some will experience even greater suffering, but in that suffering we’re sure we’ll learn the power of the Resurrection. Even now God is working in each one of us a resurrection power, to show us once again that Jesus conquers death, that death doesn’t get the last word. Even though each of us are carrying our own cross, it’s by sharing in the life of Jesus. He didn’t take away suffering, hurt, pain, sorrow or death – He entered into it. He’s in the midst of it: He’s taking part in our life and hasn’t abandoned us: He’s with us right now, and is really present in the Eucharist in His Body and Blood.
He’s there in our humanity to give us the knowledge that death isn’t the end – it’s the beginning of something far more marvelous than what the world can offer. Life doesn’t end in death – it’s merely changed. Even now, we know that Abp. Dick’s ministry is greater than it was here on earth. He’s now worshipping without restraint or any other concern, praying with the incredible love of God having consumed him, with a joy beyond words. He’s praying for us, his family and church family, with more power and focus than before.
We won’t forget Archbishop: even as the years pass, the stories will remain; we’ll gather together and recall events and moments. We’ll pass his memory on to the next generation, to the bishop who will follow him and the young people who are being raised up, and pass on his legacy to those who didn’t know him, and from that will be raised others who’ll walk in his path. His memorial service will be fabulous: we’ll praise God and worship Him with others who’ve gone before us in recent history, and with all the saints. We’ll let the enemy, death, know that “even at the grave we make our song: alleluia, alleluia”. satan won’t have the last word – Jesus is the last word – and one single breath will destroy him.
Jesus is in the midst of our mourning, and perhaps the greatest gift He’s given us is each other. We’re connected to each other in our life of prayer, and also by technology. I encourage you to support each other. We’ve been given the gift of each other so we can know the love of Jesus is real. It’s this love that gives us hope. As soon as the pandemic ends we’ll flock back to church, hug each other, sing and worship the Lord, and show the world the hope that’s in us.
We mourn with many questions, tears and prayers, but knowing as a fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, and so each of us are raised from the death of our sins and are seated with Him right now in the heavenly realms. We’re already invited, with Abp. Alcaraz and all who’ve gone before us, before the throne. We praise Jesus with them, with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and we know that in the Eucharist we’ll taste of the banquet where we’re each headed, and we’ll be united again with those we love.
Thank you, Bp. Dick, for the work you did among us and your willingness to live sacrificially for Jesus and show us His love. Well done, good and faithful servant. You’re missed by all.