The priest began to speak. He thanked everyone for coming, made a few innocuous comments about gatherings and transitions. The church was full – men and women, families, many in black suits and a front pew of surviving family and friends.
“Paul wrote to the Galatians, 5:19-21, ‘When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.’ – he also wrote the Romans, 8:1,’So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.’ Jerome has left us – and now his only task is to be with Christ Jesus and profess his sin before God’s judgement.”
A man in an immaculate black suit sitting with the family in the front pew interrupted clearly and absolutely, “I think that’s enough.”
“Pardon me,” said the priest.
“I think that’s enough.” he repeated, standing to his feet.
“But we’re not even into the homily yet… I don’t understand.”
“Clearly you don’t – and that why this, ” he said, widely motioning around himself, “is enough. We are here to remember our friend, my lover, their son,” he said, gesturing to the family sitting quietly next to him,” and you are going to lecture us about sin?”
He paused a moment staring the priest down.
“Look out into this audience, Father. Look out in the face of this horrible, horrible disease. Face a community that is fighting, still after decades, fighting with everything we know. When Jerome and his family said ‘have the service at St. Matthew’ – I resisted. For them it was a matter of faith, a matter of respect.
And Father, that is what I expect as a grieving widower and my community expects from you. We don’t remember Jerome as a sinner. We remember him as a promising post graduate student in physics, we remember how he could dance, we remember his fascination with Eva Perone. We remember and will always remember what a remarkable man he was. We will not stand here and let you ruin today with your antique world view and judgement.”
He turned, and ever so gently spoke to Jerome’s mother in Spanish. She nodded and she and the rest of the family stood up, gathered their things and walked down the center aisle for the back door.
“Well girls,” he said to the rest of the guests, “I think we can leave the Father to his house of sin, don’t you?”
With that, the several hundred men and women in attendance also got up and left the church.
The priest stood at the pulpit, clearly stunned. The widower watched them leave, then walked by himself out behind the last of the guests. He then turned on his step, to face the priest one last time.
“And one more thing. Think about this Father. I’ve seen you places you probably don’t remember. When you aren’t doing your job? So I know who you are.”