Last Friday and Saturday we gathered at Mankayane and Manzini to celebrate the gift of life and service of Fr Moses Mnikwa Lupupa, a diocesan priest of the Diocese of Manzini who died on Friday 7 March.
This is what I shared at the funeral Mass:
"Having received a call from the Hospital asking us to go there, I went to the ICU and found Sr Philippina Mamba was already there. Women always arrive first... it happened at the resurrection of the Lord too. She has been a gift to Fr Lupupa and to us all for many weeks.
Fr Lupupa had just died. We prayed together. We then remained together outside ICU talking about him. At a certain point she said: “he gave himself completely to the people”. For the little I know, I believe it is true. I guess that caring for the people was more important than his own health. He knew he was not well but that would always take second place to the suffering and needs of others.
Sr Mamba's words instantly reminded me of the words we priests and bishops say during Mass in Jesus' name: “this is my body which will be given up for you”. Priests and bishops not only say this in Jesus' name but we become one with Jesus in the giving up of his and our life.
That is why for us, Fr Lupupa was a good shepherd. Looking at him we could see that Jesus we find in the gospels, giving up his own life and caring for each person.
I chose today's Gospel, taken from Luke 12 (34 - 38). There are three images. I believe we are used to reflect and talk on two of them but maybe, not on third one.
I only “saw it” many years' ago when another “holy priest” died in my hometown.
Jesus talks about not knowing the time and being ready. We always talk about this. Then comes the third image. It is a powerful one... "Blessed those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. In truth I tell you, he will do up his belt, sit them down at table and wait on them".
The Lord is serving in heaven... In the Gospels we see Jesus washing the feet of the apostles. He also tells them he is among them like the one who serves. He is not an actor. He does not do it just to give us an example. It seems to be Jesus' own identity, his "identity card".
This is how I'd like to think of Jesus and Fr Lupupa today. That Lord Fr Lupupa served daily has welcomed him home, has sat him at his table and now... is serving him. Not sure Lupupa would accept that...! Or maybe he is laughing with surprise.
One more thing.
I know we have a "way of talking", a "way of praying"... I was reflecting on that during the week. We normally say "may he (or she) rest in peace". Honestly I believe his time of rest has not come yet. We say "he now sleeps". He has already slept here. He sometimes fell asleep during our meetings...! That now is over. I believe the Lord has welcome him home and we need them to pray for us.
We use to say: "St Peter pray for us", "St Joseph pray for us". Let us now ask Fr Lupupa to pray for us. Many times you went to him and asked him to pray for you: "My husband is giving me a hard time... My wife is giving me a hard time... We have no food... We are sick... Someone has died in the family...". Do not stop now.
I will certainly ask him
- to pray for our priests that they be strengthened in their call and service,
- for our deacons that the day they become priests follow his example
- for me that I maybe a good shepherd like he was to all
- for us all that we may walk daily in the path Jesus taught us