St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Mystery of Death - Homily September 14, 2014

 

Today the Church wants us to reflect on the mystery of our redemption, the mystery of the love of God, the mystery of his death on a Cross. Jesus suffered death for our salvation. Jesus won heaven for us at the price of his blood.

 

This gives me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of death for us Christians. It is a while that I wanted to talk about this. When the moment of death comes, it is too late to reflect. But my intention today is to help us understand the mystery of death with regards to the celebration of a Christian funeral. What does a funeral mean? How do we Christians face death? Is it a celebration? Is it a moment of sorrow? Why do we pray?I will use for my reflections a beautiful document of the diocese of Pembroke on Christian funerals.[1]

 

“At the very difficult time of a loved one’s death, the Church joins with those who mourn in their sorrow and prayers for the deceased.” It is interesting to note that it is assumed that death is a moment of sorrow. Of course we have consolation and joy because of the resurrection, but that consolation is not about something present. The resurrection is our hope, but now we have a problem, something is missing, someone is missing. It is important to recognize that and to grieve over death. When people try to make of a funeral a celebration, there is the risk that we have not the opportunity to grieve. We hide our sorrow, hold our tears, and do not let nature express itself naturally. This is not good. Instead, to grieve over death is something human, something natural, something good, and it produces good fruits. Jesus himself wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (cf. John 11:35).

 

First of all, to grieve over death releases our sadness. It also expresses our love: we cry because we miss someone (cf. John 11:36). To grieve expresses that we understand what happened: it expresses wisdom. We understand that it is not the same to die than to live, that if life is serious sometimes, death is even more serious.

 

Then, to grieve over death leads us to pray for our loved ones. When we say: “may they rest in peace,” we are doing for them the only thing we can do: to pray. We believe that our sufferings during life help us to purify our sins, but it may happen that our purification is not yet complete when we die. In that case, we have still to undergo a certain kind of purification that we Catholics call purgatory. When we pray for the death, when we say “May they rest in peace,” we help them in that purification, we make it easier for them.

 

Finally, to grieve over death help us to remember that life is short, and we have to be ready. It makes us think that our separation is only for a while, until we all meet in heaven again. To grieve over death reawakes in us the thought of eternity; it is a reminder that there is a heaven we have to conquer with our good works. It makes us remember that there is a Father in Heaven waiting for us.

 

Death is no more the most terrible thing for a Christian, because our God went to death and came back again, he rose from the death. He rose from the death not only to show us his power, but “as the first fruitsof those who have fallen asleep” (1Co 15:20). He rose from the death to show that death will have an end also for ourselves, and life will be eternal. His death, and our death now, is just the way to eternal life. May we be always ready for our final encounter with our Lord. May we always live for the one who died for our sins. May the Holy Virgin Mary intercede for us, so that one day we may say to Jesus: “You died for me, I have lived for you. Let me live with you forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions to operate the “I-talk”

On Gossip, Part II

 

Last Sunday I spoke about gossiping, and the Gospel of today invites me to continue on the same topic. Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”

 

Jesus doesn’t say that the first thing we have to do when we have been offended is to post it on Facebook, to go to the Newspaper, or to say it to all our friends and relations.When he says: “Tell it to the Church,” it is because this is the only option left to obtain the correction of our brother or sister.

 

If we pay attention, what Jesus wants is the correction of your brother. The only reason to point out the fault to your brother or sister is your love for that person. It is that you yourself want his or her correction. The reason you speak is because you love that person, not because you are hurt and you want to release you anger. Out of anger, we only hurt and want revenge. Out of love, we only heal and produce peace.

 

It is true, sometimes corrections can be as difficult as a surgery, you want to take out what is wrong, but you need to do it with so much care, in order not to produce a worse wound and ruin everything. The hand of a surgeon needs to be perfectly precise. If he is upset and trembling, he will not risk the cut. That is what happens when you correct in anger… If we are angry, it is better to delay the correction.

 

I want to tell you something I heard when I was in the seminary, and I believe it comes from St. Alphonsus. Gossiping kills three people: the person whom it is talked about, the person who listens, and the very person who speaks.

 

We kill the person we are talking about, when we gossip, because we destroy his or her reputation in the eyes of other people. It may arrive to the point in which the other person cannot get a job for what we have said, or may be abhorrentto those who listen: “He did that? I would never have my kids approach him. It’s better to avoid him.” It may also be that gossiping does not kill, but it always hurts. Reputation is like a porcelain cup: once you have broken it, it is almost impossible to repair it as it was before.

 

The second person that is killed is the one who listens. You need at least two to gossip. When we gossip, we make the other person sin (of course, if the other listens to me willingly and with bad intention). If what I am saying is serious, both myself and the other person may commit a mortal sin. Before speaking ill of anyone, I have to think that by doing so I am not only committing a sin, I also make my brother or sister who listens commit a sin.

 

The third person that is killed is the one who speaks, because of the sin he or she has committed. Of course, there is always resurrection and forgiveness, but in this case it requires an extra thing: the one who has gossiped needs to repair the damage of his or her neighbour. The fame and reputation I have stolen, I have to give back. If I have spoken ill, I have to speak well of that person.

 

Gossiping is not only saying lies or exaggerations, one can also gossip saying something that is true. When I reveal a true sin of my brother without necessity, or to the wrong person, or out of anger, etc., I am not doing what the Lord said.

 

The apostle James says that the one who domains his or her tongue is perfect (cf. James 3:2). How do we obtain this control of our tongue? Practical suggestions: try always to speak well of people, especially of those you have sometime spoken ill. If you cannot say something good about someone, don’t say anything. When another person says something bad about your neighbour, minimize it, change conversation, say something good, makea joke.

 

The best way is, when you speak, think that you are speaking about your son;when you listen, think that they are speaking about your daughter. We forgive everything to our children, we cannot even believe that they are wrong even if they are, and if we hear something bad about them, we will always minimize it. Because we love them. That is the way to speak. We have to see our children, more than that, we have to see Jesus in our neighbour. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me.”

 

May all our words be kind, and may the Lord help us to see Jesus in every brother and every sister. May his words be kind to us on the Judgment day.–Fr. Andrew



[1]A funeral in the Catholic Church: Questions and Answers. Reprinted for the Diocese of Peterborough with permission of the Diocese of Pembroke.(Available at the office).