The following homily was delivered by Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ during the memorial mass for Jeffrey and John Hsieh last 11 February 2015.
For the past five days we have been asking why. Why do good people die young? Why have they gone so suddenly, and under such tragiccircumstances? Why did their parents not reach out to others for help? Why did their parents do this to them? How could they?
It is difficult enough to deal with death when it comes so suddenly. Over and above the grief that we feel is the anguished question, why did it have to happen this way? God, why did you allow this to happen?
When Pope Francis visited us last month, he said that to be good Christians, we must learn how to cry. “Why do children suffer so much,” the Pope asked. “When the heart is able to ask itself and cry, then we can understand.”
Indeed we can only hope that our tears these past days will cleanse our vision and help us to see more clearly. In time, maybe at the end of time, our questions will have answers. God will wipe away our tears, and there will be no more sorrow and pain.
What does God ask of us at this time? I think he asks us to look upon the cross, and consider that God’s own son suffered and died. God’s own son was nailed to a cross and made to suffer a slow, agonizing death. God’s own son was not spared the evils of this world. Maybe this year, Lent has come early for us.
We offer our grief and our tears to the Lord. We know that he is there for us. The Lord asks us for faith and trust, even if we feel we have none to offer him. The cross of Jesus, standing poised between heaven and earth, stretched out in all four directions, his arms reaching out to embrace us all, is a cruel reminder of the evil we try to escape. But Jesus on the cross also tells us about hope and love at the heart of the universe.
Maybe that is why Jesus, as he is depicted in the family chapel of St. Francis Xavier, is smiling. He knows that his pain and his suffering are not the end. There is more to come. In that chapel in the castle of Javier, the walls are decorated with dancing skeletons. They seem to tell us that death has not been victorious. In Christ, they can smile, and they can dance!
The pain of Jeffrey and John’s deaths will stay with us till the end of our days. But in time, we hope to remember them, not for the way they died, but for the way they lived as our brothers.
Last Friday, one of the last things the mother of Jeff and John did was to send a package to Xavier School. It was addressed to a friend of Amanda’s (elder sister of Jeff and John) in the Admin building. There was no explanation. Inside the package were lanyards, these things we use to wear our IDs. They are different from the ones we produce in school.
They are thicker, and the words printed on them were: PROUD TO BE XAVERIAN.
Why did Mrs Hsieh have these made? She was here for PTC. She was here for the Mother and Son recollection with John. She was at Jeff’s Confirmation in Mary the Queen. All of these events took place in the last few weeks.
In this final gift to the friends of Jeff and John, I can only guess that she is expressing her pride in her boys, in her Xaverians. During the fair, when I sat down initially with the classmates of Jeff and John, I was struck by the way many of you immediately started recalling how helpful Jeff and John were in class. Typical scouts, they were ever ready to help and encourage others.
Talkative John distributed Bibles and pestered everyone with questions. He had an inquisitive mind and always wanted to do well.
Jeff was perhaps more quiet but his classmates remember him for his readiness to help with academic work or with any tasks. He learned many skills in scouting and was available to help others. Last Saturday at the school fair, he wanted to help in the class booth even if his shift was on Sunday.
We will hear more stories about Jeff and John. On Facebook, even their Chinese teachers who are back in China have expressed their appreciation for them and wish them a good journey onwards. 一路走好！
Jesus promises us rooms in the Father’s house. Jeff and John, along with their whole family, have gone there. Let us accompany them with our prayers, and let us also take inspiration from these two Xaverians, these two scouts who availed of every opportunity to become better.
John, in his Guidance workbook, said that he didn’t want to become infamous and to waste his life. His slogan to remind him of his life goals is this: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a surprise, but today is a chance to change.
Jeff and John, we will try to change for the better each day. We know that you are proud to be Xaverians. We will strive to be persons for others, as you always did.