Ninth Sunday After Pentecost: A Funeral Sermon For My Friend
The Church and Death
There is a natural longing in the human heart for peace, friendship, love and happiness – for a life that is purposeful and worthwhile. And there is an even deeper longing, sometimes quiet or hidden. This longing is to discover the ultimate meaning of life, to know the love of God, and to share in a destiny beyond the horizon of death.
As St Augustine, one of the great teachers of the Church, wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
The Christian understanding of death is inseparable from the Christian understanding of life. It’s worth summarizing some of these key Christian beliefs.
The Reality Of Death
At the beginning of I Corinthians 15:22, Saint Paul says, “For as in Adam all die...”
In God’s plan, human beings were created for holiness and eternal life with him. But through the original sin of our first parents, our nature has been wounded, and we experience suffering and death. This was not part of God’s original plan, but it is part of the reality of our lives now.
On the one hand, in purely natural terms, death is a frightening mystery. We are stripped of all our attachments to this world; our body lies corrupt; and our immortal soul goes to meet the Lord. We will see the whole truth of our lives, and we will face God’s judgment.
The Hope Of Eternal Life
On the other hand, Christians who have faith in God can approach death with peace and trust.
As I have already quoted, I Corinthians 15:22 says at the beginning of the verse, “For as in Adam all die...”, but then he ends with these words, “so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
There is a longing to be ‘at home’ with the Lord.
They have the hope of eternal life and the knowledge that Christ has already conquered death by dying on the cross. And rising from the dead and opening the gates of heaven for those who take him as their Lord and Saviour.
The Gift Of Salvation
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No-one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
When we die, those who believe in Christ, those who freely choose to accept the mercy and salvation he offers, will enter heaven. However, some of these (“the Faithful Departed”) will first need to pass through the purification of purgatory, helped by the prayers of the Church.
People in purgatory are already with God, yet they need our prayers to help them to be purified of all the effects of sin and ready to see God face-to-face.
Those who reject Christ, who freely choose to turn away from the mercy and salvation he offers, will be condemned by their own actions and choices. They have irrevocably turned away from the possibility of life with God. This is the tragedy of hell.
But this does not mean that those who have not known Christ in this life are simply excluded from the salvation he brings. The Bible says that God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).
So how can those of us who do not know Christ or his Church, have the hope of attaining salvation?
1. Realize you are a Sinner:
We inherited Adam’s sinful nature and are sinful from the moment of conception. (Romans 5:12)
"Wherefore as by one man ( Adam) sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." A good Test to show that we are sinners is the Ten Commandments. If you broke even one of these commandments your guilty of all. (James 2:10) "And whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all."
2. Believe on Jesus as the one who bore your sin, died in your place, was buried, and whom God resurrected:
(John 1:12) "But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.”
Repentance is to have such a sorrow for something, that it makes you want to change your mind and your actions toward that thing.
"Be penitent, (repent) therefore, and be converted (turn back or change your mind), that your sins may be blotted out."
4. You must desire and seek to be baptized.
"Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
If you surrender to Gods grace through following him in these four areas, He will begin a work in you that will transform your life, make you a new creation, and give you a home in heaven. You do not have to wake up one day in hell. There is Mercy and Hope for those who will turn their life totally over to the Merciful Saviour.
Exodus 34:6-7 tells us that,“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin …”
Saint Peter tells us:
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)
Sharing In The Resurrection
At the end of time, when Christ comes again, our bodies will share in the Resurrection. God will reveal the hidden purposes of his creation, and reconcile all things in Christ.
Those justified by Christ will live in the presence of God for all eternity. The hope of heaven gives us joy even in the sufferings of this life, and gives us reason to keep close to Christ through lives of faith and love.
How Christians Approach Death
At the end of life, in sickness or old age, we prepare for death through prayer, acts of love, the Sacraments of Penance (Confession) and the Anointing of the Sick, together with Holy Communion.
In this way, we are assured of God’s mercy and supported by the prayers of the Church. The hope of every Christian is to die in a state of grace, reconciled with God and at peace with others.
The Joy Of The Saints In Heaven
The final goal of our lives is to see God face to face in heaven, to be wrapped up in his joy and love and happiness forever in the company of all the angels and saints.
The angels and saints in heaven are involved in God’s work. We ask them to pray for us and help us, because death is not a barrier but a bridge for those who love one another in Christ. And we pray for the holy souls in purgatory.
It is such a consolation to know that we are spiritually united, even now, with those who have died, and that we have the hope of seeing them again in heaven when we die ourselves.