‘The Last Four Things’ and Thanksgiving

We are once again moving through the month of November, when temperatures drop and the natural world around us undergoes a kind of dying and dormancy. The scripture readings at this time of year focus on the “last four things”: death, judgment, heaven and hell — as one liturgical year ends and a new one begins.

Of course, as Americans we will celebrate another Thanksgiving this month as well, remembering all the blessings God has bestowed on us individually and as a nation.

Some thoughts on death

Since both nature and the liturgy remind us that all things in this world are passing away, I offer these elements of our Catholic faith for your reflection.

We are mortal beings and as such we experience death in this fallen world. God did not intend us to die, but when sin entered the world death inevitably followed. We should all think about death and prepare for it, both our own death and the death of our loved ones. Of course, we who have come to know Jesus Christ are filled with the hope of everlasting life after death and that makes all the difference in the world! If we are in friendship with the Lord, we do not have to fear death, even though we will grieve and mourn as we experience it.

Given all the different ideas about death and what takes place after death floating around in our increasingly secular culture, I implore you to make plans for your death and funeral that are in keeping with our Catholic faith. One of the saddest things I see in obituaries these days is the announcement that there will be no funeral services at the person’s or the family’s request. How sad, and how unhelpful for the grieving process.

We have a very human need to grieve the death of a loved one, to remember their life and honor it and more importantly for a disciple of Christ, to remember Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Jesus Christ came in the flesh to save us from sin and death and win for us everlasting life. From the very beginning Christians gathered to grieve the death of a believer by remembering Christ’s death and resurrection and celebrating that, by God’s grace, we are united with him in death so that we can also share in his resurrection.

As you think about your own death, I urge you to make plans for a Mass of Christian Burial with your parish priest. You will be doing your family a favor and helping the church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in a very important way.

As part of those plans remember that we follow Christ in the pattern he set for us in his death, burial and resurrection. As his followers we honor and give a fitting burial to the bodies of our loved ones in death. Just as Christ’s body was carefully prepared for burial/entombment awaiting his bodily resurrection on Easter Sunday, so we bury/entomb the bodies and mortal remains of our loved ones awaiting resurrection at the end of time. Our bodies are not to be discarded. Instead, they are to be honored with

Christian burial. The church still prefers the burial of the body after death. If you have good reasons for choosing cremation, please remember that you need to make plans for the burial or entombment of the cremains. Scattering cremains or dividing them up is not respectful of the body in death and is against Catholic practice.

The way the church approaches death and marks the death of a person is meant to remember and proclaim our sharing in what Christ did for us in his death, burial and bodily resurrection and to help us grieve in a hope-filled way.

Thanksgiving

Even with the challenges of the past year we have much to be thankful for. I invite you to take some time to count your blessings. God’s blessings come in many different forms. Even if the past year has included crosses for us to carry, the Lord has been with us each step of the way, providing for us in his providential love. So, let’s take some time to count our blessings and give thanks for the many ways the Lord is with us.

God bless you and those you love,

+Bishop Peter