30 November 2012

Death. . .from whom no one can escape.

E.H. Funeral
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lake Lawn Funeral Home, NOLA

Writing in the 15th century, Thomas a Kempis 13th century, St Francis pens a verse that is at once unsettling and comforting: “Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister, bodily Death,/from whom no one living can escape.” It is unsettling to praise death. Perhaps even more unsettling to call our death and dying, “sister.” Why bring the end of living into the family? Why commend her on a job well-done? If death is our sister, an everyday presence in the family, then, like any good sister, she is reassuring, certain, constant. There's comfort in knowing that there is nothing special about death, about my death or yours. No one escapes; we all die. In fact, we are born to die. As animals of flesh and blood, we wear out, fall to disease and injury, and eventually our allotted time is up. And if we were nothing more than flesh and blood animals, we'd mourn for a while, consign the dead to the immortality of memory, and live until we too become a thought for others to call to mind. However, Paul reminds the Romans of a great Christian truth, “No one lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” In Christ, each life is extraordinary, every death sacrificial. 

We are here this morning to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the long life and Christian death of Ms E. We could say that we are here to mourn her, or to remember her, or to send her on her way back to God. But none of these express the whole truth about what we are here to do. Paul teaches the Romans that no one lives for oneself or dies for oneself. He writes, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Ms E. belonged to the Christ and offered her life in service to her family, following the excellent example of Our Blessed Mother. If we are here this morning to pray for the repose of her immortal soul, then we are also here to be reminded that no one who lives with Christ as she did ever truly dies. Christ is lord of the living and the dead, those still serving him here and those who live on with him forever. With the whole Church, the whole Body of Christ, we commend to the Father, through our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, the life and death of our sister, Ms E. H. May she now continue to live on in the hope of the resurrection and life everlasting. 

Teaching the crowds, Jesus says the most outrageous thing. He says, “. . .my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. . .Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” The Jews are scandalized. The Greeks think he's insane. But we know that the sacrifice we offer this morning, for Ms E. and all our dead, brings us to the foot of the cross and to the entrance of the empty tomb, brings us to his death and to his resurrection. As we offer ourselves on the altar, each of us becomes “an eternal offering” made acceptable to God by Christ. How many times did Ms E. die on the altar in her 101 yrs? How many times did she rise again to flourish for the good of her family and friends? She did not live for herself, nor did she die for herself. For ninety plus years she lived and died for others, and now we give her over to the One to whom she belonged all along. Her life among her brothers and sisters in Christ was extraordinary. And her death a quick passing to see our Lord face-to-face. Along with our brightest hopes and deepest love, she remains with Christ, waiting for the day of resurrection, waiting for a new heaven and new earth. 

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  1. May I say I found this to be beautiful? You took me somewhere I really didn't want to go, ie my mother's funeral which I did not attend, 4 1/2 years ago (I'll explain that another day). But, well...I can't say much else besides thanks for posting this.

    1. You are most welcomed! Oddly, I like preaching funerals. . .folks actually pay close attention.

  2. Anonymous8:09 PM

    Twas not a Kempis but Francis of Assisi who wrote "Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale, da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare" at the conclusion of the Canticle of the Sun.

    1. You are correct! I misread a footnote in my haste. Thanks for the correction.

  3. Anonymous8:07 PM

    No one escape death..

    No one can escape the cemetry..

    Give all our material possessions/wealth/money away to world.

    Millions /billions can benefit.

    No one can escape the cemetary...

    Give all our wealth away for Free free free..

    Millions/billions can benefit....