November 2, 2016 Outdoor Mass at the Parish Columbarium
Wisdom 3, 1-6, 9 + Psalm 27 + Revelation 21, 1-5, 6-7 + Luke 7, 11-17
Feed the Hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Bury the dead. Shelter the traveler. Comfort the sick. Free the imprisoned. These are the Corporal Words of Mercy that describe God’s people. Six of these works come from the parable of the last judgement in Matthew 25. Where there is a description of how God’s mercy will be given to those who have been merciful. “When did I see you”, goes each of the verses. However, this work of mercy stands alone which is perhaps why it is given a day of its own in our yearly celebration of feasts and grace. There is no such thing as “All Sick Day” or “All Hungry Day”, or “All Travelers Day”, but there is “All Souls Day”.
The times in which we live are wildly inconsistent when it comes to the human body. On the one hand we are fitness-conscious and a great deal of money and energy is spent on being in shape and looking good, healthy, and young. But then, at death, for too many the body becomes an inconvenience and at worst an embarrassment to be disposed of quickly and discretely. We seem to be confused about what this is, this body in which we live with joy and with faith discovering who we are as God’s children. To this confusion, the Church speaks with divine wisdom and hope.
This work of mercy is not simply about the customs we have for burial of human bodies and the respect we have for human remains. It is about a respect for life, all life. It is about how we respond to those who are grieving with compassion and understanding as well as how we embrace our own grief and yet cling the hope for life everlasting which we profess in our Creed. This day we acknowledge that grief is part of living and sharing in the life of Christ whose grief over Jerusalem and whose grief at the grave of his friend Lazarus tell us something about a God who knows grief: a God who grieves over sinful and unfaithful children of his own making and who grieves the death of his own son. This is a day that draws us close to that God.
Grief is only possible for those who love, and it bears witness to that love gratefully. The memories we have for those who have gone before us reveal the power of love that defeats the power of death. The final act of kindness extended to Jesus Christ was a decent burial that provides for us a model of respect and kindness for one another.
The Gospel we proclaim today stirs hope in us not just for those we have buried, lovingly remembered, and grieved, but hope for ourselves who will follow those who have gone before us. For them and for ourselves we proclaim today a risen Christ who has said and will say again: “I bid you, rise.”