Thursday, May 31, 2012

Faith and Funerals

Over the 10 years that I have been Pastor of Holy Faith, I have presided over at least 300 funerals. One might think that conducting so many funerals would be depressing. I certainly share the sorrow of families who have a loved one who has died. The funeral we had this past week was particularly sad; it was the funeral of a 19 year old young man who died in an accident. As I spent time with his grieving parents and grandmother, I deeply felt their sorrow, and carried it with me to prayer, especially as I had first met this boy when he was 9 years old and watched him grow to a fine young man.

I do not find doing these funerals depressing, however, for just as I try to help strengthen the faith of the grieving, I find that my faith also gets strengthened as I recall the hope of Resurrection and everlasting life.

We, of course, grieve when one we love dies and will not be with us anymore in this life; but for those who "die in Christ," our faith assures us that after any needed purification, those believers will enter into heaven. For them this is joy. The Catechism says that "Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness." (#1024) We can only imagine what "supreme happiness" is like and what it means to have all human longings fulfilled!

I preached at the funeral for that young man on Thursday about Jesus who speaks a word of peace in our storms. This Gospel passage is so meaningful:

                                                                                    "On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"" (Mark 4: 35-41)

Jesus is going to make sure we get "to the other side," and he will speak a word of peace into our storms. I have found this true over and over again for myself and for others. Sometimes it takes awhile for us to hear that word of peace, but Jesus promises: "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you." (John 15.27)

There is a song which is sometimes used at funerals; I want it sung at my funeral one day:

Be Still My Soul (Lyrics)

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.