Thursday, November 21, 2013

Catholic Funerals and the Four Last Things

From the Archdiocese of Washington:
It is generally agreed that things are out of balance most Catholic funerals. Our silence about important matters, such as judgment, purgatory and a proper preparation for death makes a good deal of what we do unintelligible. Why are we offering Mass? Why do many of our prayers ask mercy and beseech the Lord to received our deceased into heaven? If its all certain and even a done deal (since Joe is already “in a better place”) why do any of this at all?

The priest should surely speak with confidence to the love and mercy of God and assure the family in this regard, especially if the deceased had faith. The Lord Jesus loves sinners and died for us. Surely he will have mercy, if it is sought.

But God’s mercy cannot be preached without any reference to human freedom and choice. Neither can judgment be understood  without any reference to the promise of perfection and the need for it before we can enter heaven. Scripture says regarding heaven, Nothing impure will ever enter it (Rev 21:27) and describes the denizens of heaven as the spirits of the righteous made perfect (Heb 12:23). And we are admonished, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

All of these notions must balance and frame our discussion of mercy and the confident hope that we can give our loved ones back to God.

But too many Catholic funerals lack this this balance. And this lack is on the part of both the families who often speak of salvation without reference to judgement, grace or mercy, and the clergy who often fail to preach in a way that sets forth a clear teaching on death, judgment, Heaven, (purgatory) and Hell. (Read more.)

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