Although a funeral is not a Sacrament, the reality of death and dying is a rite of passage into a new and more abundant life. Lent gives us the opportunity to die to ourselves in order to live for God.
That’s the reason the Jesus went into the desert—to get humanity back on the correct course. Through the sin of disobedience we had lost the privilege to walk side by side with God. Through the obedience of Jesus our relationship has been restored. Notice that the temptations in the desert are symbolic—they encompass much more than what is written. Evil uses every trick, lie, distraction to make us fall. When we are able to focus our attention on the One who sets us free, then we experience redemption. Just like Jesus, we will be called to surrender totally when we die—to trust the Father completely. The desert is a dying experience. “If you are the Son of God…”, was the doubt that the devil used in the desert. He used the same words when Jesus was on the cross when He was about to die. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Satan always attacks us when we are down. Death and dying can be moments when we doubt God’s love for us, when we doubt our value. The Sacrament of the Sick is like God’s microphone that speaks of His healing, forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life. After a person dies the Sacrament of the Sick is no longer necessary. Fact is that a dead body is not supposed to be anointed, unless the person has been dead for a short time. Prayers for the dead are more appropriate. Then arrangements for a funeral home need to be made. Some folks make all their arrangements way ahead of time, even pay their coffin, the grave sight and pick out the Readings for Holy Mass. If we assume responsibility for our funeral, the less worries our family will have.
We should not procrastinate the plans for the inevitable. Wakes are important. Some years ago wakes were held at home. Since there was no embalming, the person was buried the next day. Wakes are now held in funeral homes or can be held at the Parish Church, schedule permitting. The wake gives the family a time to pray, recall memories, give personal testimony. A wake is the time for eulogies. Relatives come from far away and if there’s money—people find out that they had relatives they had never knew they had. Keep in mind—everything in the coffin will be put into the earth.
There are prices to compare. Regardless of the 1000 year guarantee on a cement box—who’s going to check? Who’s going to know about us in 1000 years? Markers and gravestones serve for future generations to remember. Weather a body is buried in a coffin or cremated, the body must be treated with respect. Cremation has become popular and is less expensive. However, the ashes of a person cannot be scattered—cannot be divided—cannot be kept at home. The ashes are the body of the dead person. We would never think of keeping a coffin in our bedroom or cutting up a body and throwing the arm in one direction and a leg somewhere else! The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and should be treated with reverence. Just because we have ashes in a small box does not give us the right to do what we please with them. The ideal is to celebrate Holy Mass with the body in a rented coffin before cremation. However, Holy Mass can be celebrated with the ashes followed by the burial. Ashes must be buried in a grave or put into a mausoleum. “I’m having a difficult time letting go—so I’ll just keep the ashes for a year and then think about the funeral.” Not allowed. Besides—you will have a more difficult time letting go with a body in your house. We just celebrated Ash Wednesday. We heard the words, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” Ashes remind us that our bodies will one day turn to dust, but our soul is forever.
The tomb is empty. Our place in heaven is reserved—has been purchased with the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death is nothing to fear.