You Do Not Belong to Death!
(General Funeral Homily)
Fr. Frank Pavone
Dear friends, we are united with you today in sorrow at the death of N. The
reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this
moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else...
our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be
confronted with the reality of our Faith. The reality... not a
"maybe" or "I hope so" or fantasy or wishful thinking, but a reality. Our Faith
opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after
death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has
happened to N. and how we are to keep going from here.
When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life,
we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation
and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these
things is because they are true. God has spoken His Word to us; we
hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to
it by saying, "Yes, I believe; it is true!" God has broken the silence about
death, and told us that He has conquered it! Death was not part of God's
original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Death is not from God;
death is from turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death's power.
He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death! God has spoken to
the world through Christ, and told us that He wants to give us victory over
death in and through Jesus Christ!
Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Many people,
on coming to a wake or funeral, do not know what to say! Death seems to have the
last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death
has been conquered!
Many people think that the story of human life is, "Birth, life, and death."
For a Christian, it's different. The story is not "Birth, life, and death," but
rather, "Life, death, and Resurrection!" Death does not have the
last word; life does! Death is not the last period after the last sentence of
the last chapter of the human story. There's another chapter to come! Death is
not the end
of the human story; it's the middle. The end of the story is
Resurrection and life that has no end! The farewell that we give to N. today is
a temporary farewell; the burial we give N. is a temporary burial. He/she will
live! He/she will rise!
The ceremony today contains many reminders of this, and it points us to the
fact that N. was baptized. We sprinkled the casket with holy water at the
beginning of the ceremony... This recalls the waters of baptism that were once
poured on N. The white funeral pall is a reminder of the white garment placed on
the newly-baptized... a sign of the new life of Christ given to the Christian.
This candle is the Easter candle; it is present at every baptism, and symbolizes
the Risen Christ. When N. was baptized, the life of the Risen Christ was poured
into his/her soul! He/she began to share, here on earth, the life of heaven! At
baptism, God rescued N. from the power of death; He literally snatched him/her
from the dominion of death and transferred him/her into the Kingdom of Christ --
a kingdom of eternal life. Christ said to N. on that day, "You do not belong to
death! You belong to me!"
Therefore, a Christian does not merely die. A Christian dies in Christ.
Those two words, "in Christ," make all the difference in the world! We belong to
Him by baptism, and we live in Him by a life of prayer, obedience to His
teachings, and faithfulness to the sacraments of the Church. If we live in
Christ and die in Christ, we will rise in Christ!
In the midst of all this, should we grieve? Yes, brothers and sisters, it is
OK to grieve; it is natural, because we love N. Even Christ wept when His friend
Lazarus died... and He wept even though He was about to bring Him back to life!
Yes, we as Christians grieve. But we grieve with hope. It is OK to
be sad today that we do not see N. anymore, but it would be wrong to think we
will never see him/her again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair.
Christ is alive! We pray today for N. that he/she may complete the journey to
heaven. Pray for him/her every day, and for yourselves. Look at him/her today
and say with faith, "N., you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and
so do we!" Amen.
- Fr. Frank Pavone
Other Funeral Homilies