St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

The Christian Meaning of a Funeral -Homily September 21, 2014

Death, for a Christian, is the gateway to eternal life in Christ. As St. Paul reminds us, even though we mourn, we are given hope and comfort in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4: 1317.) The pastoral ministry of the Church and its funeral rites are directed to placing the event of death in the context of our Christian faith. Let me share with you some passages of the Order of Christian Funerals (OCF), by which the Church sets down directives for the celebration of funerals.[1]


1. We believe that the life of our soul does not finish with death: At the death of a Christian, whose life and faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life.


Our spiritual life does not end with death. There is an indication of this. Tell me: does love depend on the physical strength of a person? Do old people love less because they are old? Love grows with time, it does not diminish with age. The love we have for our brothers and sisters does not depend on our body. Our capacity for love transcends our body, goes beyond our physical strength. This is an indication that our soul does not depend on the body, and so our soul lives even when the body may die. Remember the energy of John Paul II in his last days, or the power of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.


You yourself may have seen it in your relatives or friends before they pass away. For me it is difficult to explain, but I have felt it many times in those people I have had the opportunity to accompany in their illness: sometimes it seems that they die when they want: they hold on until their last child arrives from afar. Sometimes it amazes me their patience, or how they hold complaints in order to make it easier for their family. I still remember one who, in his bed of pain at the hospital, tried to sing in front of me: he was almost in agony, in his last days Another person died one minute after I finished his last rites. They had been waiting for me for almost an hour: when I arrived, he clearly noticed my presence, and ten minutes after he passed away.


What I mean to say is that there is in ourselves something that cannot be explained simply by physical causes. There is a power that seems to grow when every other power in our body is shutting down. It is an indication of our soul, of our spirit, of that part of ourselves that cannot die.


2. Characteristics of a Christian Funeral


A funeral liturgy is a consolation, because it reminds us of the future resurrection and allows us to participate at the Eucharist: The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist.


We give thanks to God for life: Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of a life that has been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just.


We pray for the eternal rest of our beloved ones: The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to Gods mercy and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins. In this, we act according to the Scriptures, as we read in the book of Maccabees: [Judas] then took up a collection among all his soldiers which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin (2Mac 12:43-45)


Finally, at the funeral we remember that we are in amystical union with those of our brothers and sisters who have passed away: At the funeral rites, especially at the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints. Although separated from those who remain, nevertheless the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercession.


Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who have passed away. Let us remember that they are with us in spirit, that we can still do something for them, and they can still love us and they remember us also in their own prayers.Fr. Andrew




A Birthday Thought-September 18th

Give thanks, for the Lord is good(Psalm 118). The Lord appears to Paul, who was his persecutor, and makes of him an apostle (cf. 1 Co 15, 8-11). The Lord allows a sinner woman to touch him, and grants her forgiveness for many sins (Luke 7:36-50). The Lord is good, the Lord is merciful, the Lord gives more than we are ready to expect.


The Lord has shown his love to us in three ways. First, he called us to life. Second, he called us to be Christians. Third, to a particular vocation.We could not have asked to be born, but God thought that it would be good to have you on earth, so he could love you. We didnt ask to be baptized, but God wanted you to be his own child. And before you could ask for forgiveness, he died for you on the Cross, and remained with open arms, to show you that he will always be ready to forgive you. He is ready to forgive much more than we would expect.


In his mercy, finally, he called you to a particular vocation.A vocation to share with other people the love you receive from him. With a human family, or with his own family, the whole Church. The Lord knew that it was not good for you to be alone, so he prepared for you a family, the most beautiful family you could ever think of.


For me that family today is St. Michaels Church, my parish. The Lord gives always more than we are ready to expect. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, my family.-Fr. Andrew





September 29, 30 & October 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,6, & 7, 2014

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[1] Cf. OCF, #46.