2016.11.28 - In Memory of Jarrod Fisher
God’s Mercy endures forever. Today we gather together topray for a man, a husband, a father, a son, an officer, a friend, who has tragically died. And we pray for him with the faith that knows that “God’s mercy endures forever.” Our God is a Father who dearly loves his children. And just as a Father holds his children accountable for their actions, so too a father finds every reason to bestow mercy and forgiveness.
We pray for Jarrod in imitation of Judas Macabeaus in our first reading. Judas’ discovered that soldiers who had fallen in battle were wearing an idol around their neck. This idol was accounted against them. But Judas, knowing that our God is a God of mercy prayed for them. As the scripture passage reads, “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been a useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” In the same way, we stand before a God of mercy with audacity, imploring him that Jarrod’s tragic death may be blotted out, and that the jealousy of God’s fatherhood may transport him into heaven. We pray that Jarrod’s words can be those of our Gospel, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And that Jesus’ reply can be the same, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Not only do we entrust Jarrod to God’s fatherhood, we also place our faith in the Holy Spirit who is known at the Paraclete or the Advocate. I have often referred to the Holy Spirit as the ‘Divine loophole,’ in other words, if there is a way out, the Holy Spirit will find it. The Holy Spirit does for us what one facebook post encouraged the Jarrod’s children to do, “Life hass past by, if we want it or not, but the important thing is to be proud of the things Jarrod did and to keep him forever in your heart!”
Jarrod has done much for which we can be proud. Despite the challenges of marriage, he loved his wife Julie, who was the only woman that could tame the “Maumee Macho’s” heart. It took a pompon girl from Kansas to rangle a soldier from long distance and make him bump up his timeline for marriage. As one person said, “Julie Sanders is something special for this high standard bearer to bend his rules.” He loved his children too. His loved didn’t keep him from discipline or correction, teaching them to say, “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” or holding them accountable to proper behavior. But he also knew how to play, running on video games, rushing to the fast track stand at Disney Land to get the fastest access, or telling the kids, “You can have as much ice cream as you want, as often as you want”…words any kid could hold on too. He was loved by his mother, father, brothers and relatives. The pride of seeing him function “like a machine” on the day he graduated from boot camp, where would could only tell him by his nose, (or his walk… that McKenna can imitate), and where his brother took joy in messing with him. Maybe his graduation could have earned him one of Jennifer’s tootsie rolls. He was a fast friend. And not himself alone; but his family with him. How many Facebook posts I saw that talked about the joy of the Fisher family coming over for dinner, drinks, and fellowship. A man can be known by his family, and how proud can Jarrod be of his! One person wrote of his family, “The Fisher family were welcome friends. They were the cutest, sweetest and most loving family.” Another said, “He was a great father.” And another said, “A loving husband.” His friendship was shown by his care for his neighbors on a lawn mower that just needed a full cup holder for payment! And his friendship was not limited to those he knew… but also to strangers on the street. He never passed by a homeless person without offering them something for their needs. And he coined a phrase that should echo in our hearts, “It could have been Jesus.” That is a lesson we can live by – treat others knowing that they could be Jesus.
When I asked the family about Jarrod’s character they were quick to list many traits: driven, determined, proud, funny, rough on the outside but soft on the inside and passionate. One Facebook post stated he was “young, determined, strong willed and dedicated to accomplish everything to the highest standards.” Another said, “Jarrod was fun-loving, responsible, a diligent friend, father and soldier.” And still another said, “His laugh, humor and smile were infectious.”
Jarrod was also a man of faith. His grandfather cried when Jarrod returned to confession and first communion after being away from the faith for a while. Jarrod lectured at Mass, served on the parish council, loved family dinner, and cared for the homeless. And while his faith was not overly outspoken, he always prayed before meals, even before snacks, and that is always a little witness to the God who provides for his children. And Jarrod took his family to Mass. And if his kids questioned why they had to go to Mass, or do other actions of faith he would say, “We’re doin’ it for Jesus.”
But to know Jarrod was to know a military man. As his dad and brother said, Jarrod was a true patriot. Julie said that Jarrod felt called to the Army, and this was a calling that he lived up to. Chase remembered that his Father most loved the success that came from cooperation among his soldiers. His stories about the field were stories about his men. And when he was complemented he would simply say, “It was my boys who did it.” Jarrod was also motivated by the goals and advancement the military offered. It is truly unfortunate that Jarrod was unable to hear that he was promoted to Major the weeks before he passed. One has only to read the inside cover of the program to see how much his military service formed his identity. The Fisher family lived Johnny Cash’s song, “I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere.” Jarrod followed his career and his wife and family supported him. I myself am proud of Jarrod’s service to our country. My father served in Vietnam and I am honored to be the son of a soldier. Jarrod served in Iraq and Afganistan, and we are honored that he stood on the edge of the blade that protected his country. Jarrod truly earned his awards, even the Bornze star. Jarrod was a man who fit his uniform. Commissioned on 9-11 of 2008 Jarrod served this country in a world that had changed. And we can all do what his nieces and nephews did: look “with awe at him with his uniform on.” What an honor it is to be respected by fellow soldiers who called him a “strong leader,” a “well respected officer within our ranks” and “very approachable.” Today’s service is not only one of praying for Jarrod, it is also one of honoring a man who served his country.
For all of these reasons, the Holy Spirit, Jarrod’s advocate, has more than ample evidence to call down God’s mercy on Jarrod. God is our Father, the Holy Spirit is our advocate and Jesus Christ is our brother. Jarrod called the front picture of our program, “smokin’s Jesus.” And Jarrod is now meeting Jesus, who is not only our bother, but also our judge. And we pray Jesus will judge in Jarrod’s favor. Taking one’s own life, like chemical warfare, is never acceptable. The collateral damage is too great and the devastating effects are too insidious. A military man’s battle rages in the heart and mind as much as on a field; and his weapons must include counseling and the courage ask for help as a much as fatigues and bullets. And like Judas Macabeus, we are gathered here today to pray that this action might be blotted out. Jarrod himself is meeting the Drill Sergeant of all drill sergeants. And “smoking Jesus” will have the brim of his hat at Jarrod’s forehead calling him to task and driving him to purification.
You see, St. Paul told us in the second reading “I tell you a mystery.” And today we are standing in front of the mystery of forgiveness and hope. We are in front of the mystery of salvation knowing the Father who loves us sent his only Son to die in our place. Just like Jarrod disposed of an ordinance when a youth unwittingly pulled its pin, our Jesus Christ took the hit for us when he died on the cross.
We Christians have an audacious faith. Could it be that the Jesus Christ who died in our place would not also do everything necessary to forgive us of our sins? We must remember that the greatest military conquest of all times was accomplished on the Cross. The devil was routed and death was destroyed. And the beasts that pursued Jarrod cower in the presence of the savior. This is why we can make St. Paul’s taunt our own, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Even in the face of tragedy we have hope in the God of Mercy and the Spirit of acquittal. And we have hope that the promise of paradise is open to Jarrod through the forgiveness of our savior, so much so that we can continue to say with St. Paul, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You see, Jarrod and the kids had an inside joke about “butt whoppin’s” – they would call going to get ice cream, “butt whoppin’s.” People would look at the Fisher family a little funny when they would hear Jarrod say, “who wants a butt whoppin’” and then see four excited children say, “me, me, me.” I can only hope that the day we meet our savior, or this day when we pray for Jarrod, our husband, father, son, brother, friend, and officer, that the “butt whopping” we receive turns out to be a lot like the surprise of ice cream rather the voice of a drill sergeant.