CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHING
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (#2447 )
The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. ”
This month I am wrapping up the Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy. You may find all of them reviewed in past posts in the archives to the left of the home screen. Those of you who are subscribers, you receive automatically my new posts in your email. It may be in your spam folder so check there also. You do not receive the complete blog, only a notification that one is posted and asks you to click on Read more to access the full blog.
Every one of us has experienced the death of someone we love, whether it is a distant, elderly friend or the deep pain of losing a spouse or child. When possible, we certainly go in support at a wake or funeral of family members and friends. Funerals also may be opportunities for family reconciliation if needed. Another act of mercy!
Burying the dead is the only of the Corporal Works of mercy not named in the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matthew 25) It comes from the book of Tobit: “If I saw any of my nation dead, I buried him” (Tobit 1:17). Through Christian burial, we celebrate the life of an individual and his hopeful return to God.
When the Church is present to a dying person, they absolve them from their sins, anoint their bodies, sealing them in holy oil for Christ, and give them Jesus in the Eucharist (Viaticum) for their journey home. The Church sends them home with sweet assurance in the following prayer:
“Go forth Christian soul from this world in the name of God, the Almighty Father who created you. In the name of Jesus, the Son of the Living God who suffered for you. In the name of the Holy Spirit who was poured out upon you. Go forth faithful Christian.
May you live in peace this day. May your home be with God, with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, with Joseph and all the angels and saints. May you return to your Creator who formed you from the dust of the earth. May Holy Mary, the angels and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life. May you see your Redeemer face to face.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1020)
Funerals give us the opportunity to grieve and show others support during difficult times. Through our prayers and actions during these times we show our respect for life, which is always a gift from God, and comfort to those who mourn. Another thing to remember is it is in the weeks and months after the funeral when our support can mean the most. A daily phone call or email just to let the grieving person know we care.
Standing at the gravesite of a loved one, recalls the dignity of each person and our yearning for our home in heaven. We may reflect on our own mortality and readiness to meet our Creator and Savior?
People who die untimely deaths may present special problems for us and others, especially if suicide is suspected. First, we need to remember that in death as in life, we are all loved by God and God alone is our Judge. It is important to “peel the onion,” and see what is really beneath the untimely deaths society tends to view so negatively Some may suffer with mental health issues or desperate life circumstances which sometimes result in suicide. “Judge not lest you be judged!” (Matthew 7:1-3)
Those with addictive behaviors which may have resulted in inappropriate or bizarre behavior during their life may be the result of genetic predisposition or exposure to difficult life circumstances. We need to recognize life’s complexities and set aside our biases, see people for who they are, a child of God who wills everyone’s salvation.
The Corporal Work of Mercy to “bury the dead” calls us to take action and support all who are facing death. We are called to help ease their suffering regardless of the circumstances.
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