mercoledì, gennaio 15, 2014

A tribute to Tom

A tribute is something owing to someone for something they have done for us, a debt we need to repay.

What we got from Tom is no small thing. So what we owe him in return is something great.

And what we got from God in Tom - his person and character, our meetings with him and the way they enriched us, how great a thing that is! So it's no surprise that what we owe Him in return, what we need to give in return, starting right now, is no small or easy thing either, but something hard and high in self-cost.

Here in the presence of Tom's Eucharistic Lord we aren't surprised to hear that the debt we owe, the debt we must repay, is a debt of gratitude.

But another thing also is brought us here together this evening, something harder to speak of. We want to remember Tom and send him Home with good prayers, but we are full of horror.

The unspeakable circumstances of his death and the added violation of his memory by the indecent coverage are making it hard for us to grieve for Tom.

One of the people who had the heavy responsibility of telling people about Tom's death told me that when people asked how he had died, they could not utter the words, they were, quite simply, unspeakable.

We needed to come together this evening to find a word that can get us through these circumstances so we can face and feel our grief at losing Tom. And that's why we are here, here in the presence, the Eucharistic Presence, of that Word.

Tom and his life in one minute!

If we'd only read his official 'bio' we could be forgiven for thinking he was at heart an 'issues' man, that what mattered most for him were social and legal and political issues. He really cared about those, to be sure, but once you met him you realised that he was something far rarer, Tom was a people person, par excellence.

Pope Francis calls on us to 'go forth' to meet everyone, bringing the Gospel, alive in our lives, with us, as the primary medium of evangelisation.

Wasn't that Tom to a T - bumping into people anywhere and everywhere, making connections with them, leaving life-long impressions on us, or encounter with him changing us for the better.

The heart of Tom's life's mission, looking back now, was just this, he went about doing good in simple one-to-one ways, meeting people and lighting up their lives with his interest in them as individuals.

And he did this in an instantly recognizable Tom O'Gorman style - made from the blending of three of his personal qualities.

First, there was that vulnerability about Tom that marks someone who has been through suffering, and it made him sensitive to suffering in others and instinctively 'there-for-them'.

Second, he had that exasperating and often infuriating quality of plunging into a disagreement without even a moment's notice, with anything you might say, challenging you to defend it as rigorously as he contested it vigorously, This quickly launched any meeting with Tom out of shallow waters into the deeps. God's contrarian I think of him as.

But he had a third quality that transformed these conversations into something more personal, his sense of humour. The way he played with clichés and stereotypes, satirising them with them with acerbic and hilarious exaggeration, turned what could have been a confrontation about an issue into a person-to-person encounter full of fun and revealing the personal decency and greatness of soul that was the real middle of the man.

Now Tom is taken from us.

A little group of us meet for the Rosary once a month and afterwards we take it in turns to share a short reflection on something we feel strongly about. In the last month or so, it was Tom's turn and he chose to speak to us on how Jesus' last cry on the Cross helped him deal with suffering.

This is the core experience, insight and practice of the Focolare spirituality, meeting Jesus Forsaken in each suffering, seeing that experience in unity with His cry of abandonment from the Cross, "My God, My God, whv have you forsaken me?" I remember how Tom struggled to put into words what can scarcely be expressed.

But from that last talk of Tom's, ever since I heard the news of his tragic death, one sentence keeps ringing in my mind - Tom said Jesus said, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."

Isn't this a word from Tom for us right now, the word which his Eucharistic Lord, gave us to help us make sense of our suffering, even that of a violent death.

It is no easy word to say and to mean, this word, but it is the fulcrum and force we need to encompass the unspeakable circumstances of his death so we may access our grief properly and reclaim our memory and love of Tom, and as we say in Ireland, walk him out to the gate, and with good prayers, help him off on his way Home.

We owe Tom that.

Joseph McCarroll