JUNE 13, 2006, FUNERAL MASS OF FR. THOMAS BOND- JOHN 11:21-27
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE SHOULD DIE, WILL COME TO LIFE. These are powerful words. Soon after Jesus spoke them he himself was to give proof of their literal truth in his own person. His resurrection followed in a matter of days after he made this general promise. Without such a promise would we have been able to interpret with confidence his resurrection as a pledge of our own? That Christ, Son of God, the sinless one, faithful to the Fatherís plan at the cost of his frightful sufferings and death, merited to rise glorious and take his seat at the right hand of the Father. But can we who are mortal and sinful, even though reconciled by the cross of Jesus with the Father, can we hope expectantly that death will be but a stage on the way to new life of body and soul?
St. John wrote these words many years after the Lord rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He did so because he fully realized how fundamental they are to the faith. We are invited to believe not only that Christ rose for our justification, but for our resurrection as well. His resurrection is more than a reward of personal merit; it is at the same time a pledge of our own future resurrection of the body. We recall these truths now as we come together to commend our Father Thomas to the Lord in this funeral mass, for the firm hope the supply has been his guiding and strengthening force for the many years that he lived among us, and more. For he had been formed to the religious life in the Dominican Order. He was deeply marked by their admirable traditions, and, following in the footsteps of their greatest saint and theologian, studied St. Thomas Aquinasí teaching with much application. Not long after successfully completing his Doctoral studies in Philosophy, he was sent by his Order to teach in their important University of Santo Tomas in Manila, The Philippines. From what he told me that assignment was certainly not his choice, but he undertook it precisely in the spirit of faith and trust in the Lordís promises.
He soon had occasion to learn by experience that suffering and the threat of death are preludes to the resurrection for those who follow the Lord Jesus. For six months after he arrived in The Philippines, the Japanese attacked that country. Before long they were subjecting the city of Manila to severe air attacks. He told me that one day, during the bombardment, he came to the building where his room was located, and, about to enter, felt a strong foreboding that he should not spend the night there as he habitually did. When he returned the next day he found the place seriously damaged by a bomb that fell just adjacent to his own room. I believe it was his practice of serious prayer that rendered him so sensitive to such inner guidance. Once America entered the war, he was considered an enemy alien and interred in a prison camp until the prisoners were dramatically liberated by American paratroopers. It seems that his two years of confinement were a preparation for the cloistered life. After serving a few years as chaplain and professor in a College he entered Gethsemani Abbey in 1949, just in time to be sent to the foundation made at Mepkin, S. C. that same year. Following his vows he taught philosophy to the students there and came to Genesee on loan to serve as philosophy professor temporarily. He soon came to feel more attracted to this community and asked to change stability here. He never regretted that choice and rendered services that are much appreciated as teacher, then retreat master and confessor both for guests and for monks. His gentle ways made him very popular as confessor.
Of the numerous homilies he preached at the community mass the one that impressed me most concerned his mother, and it led me to the conclusion that he owed a great deal of his strong faith to her. He told us that when carrying him in the womb she suffered serious medical problems that threatened her life from heart failure, as I recall, and was urged to abort her fetus. She never considered such a course, and knowing the risk carried him to term. She recovered nicely and lived to a ripe old age! Her faith carried her and her son through to a happy end, in more ways than one.
Faith and hope were the springs of Fatherís religious life. He had a strong piety based on a solid theological knowledge, and never wavered in his devoted fidelity in spite of being subject to bouts of anxiety that toward the end of his life repeatedly assailed him. He was a man very responsive to kindness and was invariably grateful to those who showed him consideration. He availed himself of the many occasions offered him to express his gratitude to the brothers in the infirmary who cared for him the last years with such dedicated attentiveness. He was keenly appreciative of their services that make it possible for him to spend the final years of his life in the monastery and not in a nursing home among strangers. Increasingly, Fr Thomas took on a simplicity and child-like trust in Godís love in his declining years. His patience, his endurance in spite of anxieties and trials of health, and his perseverance all flowed from his faith and his firm hope in the risen Lord Jesus. His faithful witness gives us reason to hope with thankful spirit that the Lordí words are even now fulfilled.in his servant Thomas: I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE SHOULD DIE, WILL COME TO LIFE
And may each of us here give witness to this same hope until we meet again on the day of Christ Jesus, and God will be all in all.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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