Funeral for Robert J. Wallig, 89

In late 1942, at the young age of twenty-two, Robert Wallig went off to war. He bravely answered his call and helped in winning the Second World War. He served as an army medic, in the European theater, earning a Bronze Star. Bob was going to go on to become a medic after the war, but the coming of the first of his five beloved children and changed his and Donna’s plans. I am told that Robert never liked to talk very much about his wartime abroad—which is a strong indication that he witnessed and experienced some very difficult things back then.

There are not many World War II veterans still around, but I tell you, there is still a world war being fought today, and you and I are in its combat theater. I am not speaking so much about the War on Terror or any other particular war between peoples or nations.  Such wars among flesh and blood are just the manifestations of a broader, less visible war.  The World War I’m speaking of is a spiritual war being waged between Christ and the principalities and powers who oppose Him.  We cannot see this spiritual conflict directly, but we can see in our world the consequences of its victories and losses.  We can feel and recognize its skirmishes being fought inside of us.  The battle is for our souls. This is why the Church here on earth is called the Church militant, and why St. Paul so often uses military language—because we are in a war.

 Our demonic adversaries in this campaign are more evil than the Nazis and manipulated by a leader far more dark than Hitler. Yet we should not be afraid.

For “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Fear is the only real weapon our enemy has. Their strategy is to make us mistrust our Lord and to choose another, renegade path of our own, to divide us, apart from God and apart from one another. But we fight together as a band of brothers on the side of Christ, who has already won the greater part of the battle. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The only way a Christian can be lost in this war is through surrendering to the enemy.

Occasionally, we may be wounded by sin during this cosmic battle, but these wounds can be healed, through the sacraments which Christ, our field medic, has provided for our care. Yet even after the gapping wounds of our sins are closed through the sacraments, scars can often still remain; scars of fear, guilt, sadness, bitterness, resentment, regret, and the like. After we have fought the good fight by the grace, and are honorably discharged from this life, such scars can still remain an can delay our entry into the Church triumphant in heaven; where the saints now fully enjoy their victory won. Instead, our scars may keep us just outside heaven, in what is called the Church suffering, or rather, the Church healing, for the path to our healing can be painful. This is a place of hope called purgatory, where souls are being healed, completed and made perfect for heaven.

Like the general of Israel, Judas Maccabeus, whom  we heard about of in the first reading, let us offer sacrifice and prayers for our fallen brother.  Our prayers, united to the one and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we really encounter here at the Mass, can help to heal Robert of any and all of the scars he might have.

I’m sure that all of you know Robert far better than I, you know what sort of man he is, and from what I have been told that is very good, so you have the well-founded hope that he is well on his way in Christ. But I ask of you, a favor for him, the same favor that I would ask for myself if it were possible for me to preach at my own funeral:  to please pray for him. It can only do him good, and perhaps very great deal of good.

In the decades after the war, Robert did many, many things. Among these, Robert worked as a custodian for one of God’s own homes, a church in Kenosha.  He also worked as a manager for others’ residences, including apartments here in Marshfield. He repaired the boilers, emptied the trash, painted the walls, cleaned what was dirty, and did whatever else was necessary for the place to be ready and just right. Jesus tells us, in our Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Christ has been at work, busy preparing a perfect place for Robert. So let us help Robert to get moved in, and to become completely settled, in this new home.

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