21 January 2008

Among the dead?

Mass for the Dead: V. P.
3.1-6, 9; Rom 6.3-4, 8-9; John 6.37-40
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, Univ of Dallas

Can we count ourselves among the foolish this morning, among those who might believe that our sister, V. is dead; can we count ourselves among those who might believe that her passing was an affliction, or that in going out & away from us she went to her utter destruction? Are we being foolish this morning to believe that dying is the last thing we do? For the just, death is never an affliction; death is never the last step to destruction. The just are in the hands of God—at peace—and for them, death is the final work of trust, their last adventure in faith. What they leave behind is the worming doubt, the nagging to despair, and the longing for rest at last. If we, those of us still here, look at V.’s death and see no more than affliction, destruction, punishment, we fail then to see God’s grace and mercy. How do we hope for more than we are if we are blind and deaf to the grace & mercy promised us after death?

Here is our hope! Listen to Paul teach the Romans: “Brothers and sisters: are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death. . .” The Good News is that we are all dead! To be baptized is to die with Christ. To die with Christ is to be buried with him. To be baptized, to die, and to be buried with Christ tells us just one truth: “…just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might live in newness of life.” Newness of life. Not a new life. But our lives renewed. Paul writes, “We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.” And because we were baptized with him, died with him, were buried with him, and raised up from the grave with him, death has no final power over us.

Are we among the foolish this morning, believing that our sister, V., is dead? V. has died. Her family and friends feel a painful want for her presence. They mourn; they miss her. But are they foolish in believing that she is dead? Jesus taught the crowds: “…this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life. . .” Though we may die, death has no final power over us; no power to hold us in the grave, no power to keep us scattered or entombed. The power that drives us, fills us with reasons to live now and forever is the hope of the resurrection and our lives eternal!

Though always here and ready to shout out its joy, HOPE will be quiet for a while—silent in honor, in sorrow. Taken aback a bit by grief, the work of mourning must be done. And there is no lagging in faith to cry, to want her back, to hear her when she speaks; there is nothing shameful in seeing her where she has always been. God will not flinch if you must know, “Why?” When we trust in Him, we know the truth; we abide with him in love, and His care is always with us.

Our sister, V., has died. Are we foolish enough to believe that she dead?

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