The Ultimate Radiation Therapy
A funeral homily for a woman who worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Agency
The Ultimate Radiation Therapy
By The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
Today we say farewell to one we knew as a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow parishioner, a human being. We commend her to the care of her Creator, knowing that already God is doing better things for her than we can ask for or imagine. We say farewell in the hope that we will meet Greta once more in the New Jerusalem.
An aspect of Greta’s life known, I am sure, to all of us was that of a public servant working for the common good at the intersection of science and administration, health care and social policy. That career culminated in Greta’s membership on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States Government.
Nuclear radiation. Nuclear energy. Nuclear power. These phrases point to awesome realities. We human beings, made in God’s image, now investigate what glues together the material creation. We volunteer ourselves as apprentices to that Wisdom which sustains the world. Sometimes the results are horrific. Sometimes they result in immense benefits. Who is the greater risk taker in this, we may ask: God or us?
Greta labored for the common good in disciplines that for many of us remain a landscape completely unexplored. Yet this role as civil servant was only part of who she was. And the reality of nuclear radiation, nuclear energy, nuclear power is not itself a stopping point. This reality is but a reflection, however awesome, of a dynamic far greater, one that Greta knew about because she was a believer.
Atoms and galaxies, hermit crabs and human minds, the immensities of space and the intimacies of love—all these are contingent, they hang upon something else, upon a mystery some greet from afar, and others dare to call by name. All of these come about through a power greater than nuclear energy, something of which the most devastating explosion is hardly a faint echo.
That power once brought into existence Greta and you and me. That power sustains us from one moment to the next. But is that power greater than death and bodily dissolution? Can the voice that first called us out of nothingness into existence do the same again when we die?
A Christian memorial service is an Easter liturgy. All its significance comes from the resurrection of Jesus. What happened on the first Easter morning was not an isolated event, a freakish curiosity. Instead, what occurred was the detonation of a power greater than the glue holding together every atom.
Easter was a reverse explosion able to destroy death, able to bestow life. The ripples of that explosion continue to surge outward, never decreasing, ever increasing. It offers the ultimate radiation therapy, and promises a day when death will be no more.
By faith Greta claimed that power. Worshipping in this church, she welcomed it as a gift. Now she has gone to the place from which it flows.
The citizens who welcome her there belong to a city whose energy comes from a source deeper than the atom and more ancient than the stars. Their city is illuminated forever by the radiant love of God.
- Copyright 2008, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications), a book devoted to helping clergy prepare funeral homilies that are faithful, pastoral, and personal.