At the Solemn Mass of the Resurrection for Carolina “Camilia” Mickey
2 May 2015
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Carolina grant her an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 4:16–5:9
Perhaps one of the most powerful images we confront in Church every year during Eastertide, and which we hear again today, is Jesus’ description of the Good Shepherd from the Gospel of John. It is a powerful vision of who and what Jesus is, what Jesus does, and helps understand how God operates. It is another instance of that upside-down vision of what leadership and power look like I spoke about during Holy Week at and Easter. It is a portrait of a leader exercising authority with Love as the ultimate objective, holding the interests of those over whom that authority exists as the greatest of priorities.
Jesus says, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is willing to put his own life on the line for his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who stands by his sheep even when danger comes near and does not run away when things get difficult. Even more powerfully, Jesus goes on,
I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has come to know and understand and love his sheep. Connection, relationship are at the centre of this relationship of loving care. Jesus knows his sheep and, as we hear in another passage, “calls them each by name.” Jesus knows and calls each and every one of us into that loving relationship, even those whom we have not yet met, who may be far away. His aim, his loving purpose is to bring all together, somehow, perhaps in some way that we can not yet envision, in Love into one flock.
The Good Shepherd does not look like the image we may have in our mind’s eye of a powerful ruler, some big, strong man with a beard. The leadership, the power, the authority of the Good Shepherd does not look like that which, just as much in our day as in Jesus’ time, we have come to expect. It is leadership, power, authority expressed from the margins, from those whom society may discount. It is that of a young shepherd boy (...or girl?), from a carpenter from Galilee born in scandalous circumstances, it may very well look like a small woman, born in another country decades and decades ago.
We gather today at this Mass to remember and celebrate the life of Carolina Mickey, born in Cuba in 1928, who emigrated to the New York in 1948 and who made a life here on the Upper West Side in circumstances that were far from easy. From all that I witnessed over the past eight years, and all that I have been told by the people who knew and loved her for much longer, Carolina embodied, incarnated, in many ways the Good Shepherd. With love and care she persistently tended her flock and was a force to be reckoned with. God's redeeming loving care shone forth in Carolina’s life and in her the power of love and resurrection life were manifested for all of us to see.
Carolina’s life made a difference to all those whom she encountered, she connected with people, and people cared about her in return. She lived as each of us is called to live, responding to God’s call to model Jesus’ the Good Shepherd in our daily lives, in our relationship with others. God's love is expressed into the world most of the time in and through the lives of God’s children—through the lives of people like you and me. In fact, I believe most fervently that God’s love is expressed into the world more often than not in and through the lives of the people, who from outward appearance, we might least expect, whom many underestimate. Woe be the person who underestimated Carolina Mickey! Indeed, woe be the person who underestimates the power of Love for one’s sheep to be profoundly transformative and redeeming.
The passage we heard from Isaiah gives us another very clear image of what God calls us to do and how we are to engage those we love and the world:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
God calls each and every one of us to the kind of life Carolina led as a Good Shepherd to bring those “good tidings to the afflicted,... bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty.” We are called to comfort those who mourn, who are in fact us today. Today we can wear that garland, carry that oil of gladness, wear the mantle of praise, all of which we know Carolina, that “oak of righteousness” wore herself, both in her life and in her death.
Each of us is given hope in the Resurrection life, when the fulness of this vision will be accomplished, because we saw that life shine forth in Carolina’s life. And we know today that Carolina is held tightly in God’s embrace as we all await the continued unfolding of God’s Loving purpose.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Athanasius, 2 May 2015
© 2015 Andrew Charles Blume