Funeral

CHRISTIAN FUNERAL

(Please use a portion of the following that is appropriate for the deceased person)

PURPOSE OF FUNERAL SERVICE

1. To worship and glorify God for creating the deceased person and for providing everything the person needed.

2. To thank Jesus for his works of redemption. Without his sacrifice as a ransom for our sins, we could have no entry to the eternal kingdom of God. He has promised that he was going to prepare a place for us in the Kingdom of his Father and he will return to take us to that place.

3. To acknowledge the good life of the deceased person and to pray to God to have mercy on the person based on the good works the person has done in life.

4. To console the family and relatives of the deceased person at their time of loss and grief.

DEATH IS SOMETHING TO HOPE FOR

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, death is a means to rise with Christ. So, Christian death has a positive meaning. St. Paul wrote: “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:23).

Though our soul will depart from the body at the time of death, “It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.” (CCC 1005). “For those who die in Christ's grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so that they can also share his Resurrection.” (CCC 1006).

Since our time in this life is limited, we need to make use of our time efficiently to fulfill our mission here and to make spiritual savings for our eternal life.

THREE STATES OF THE CHURCH

According to Catholic teaching there are three states of the church. Death is a passage from one state to another. The three states are the Church Militant, the Church Penitent, and the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant are the Christians in this world who are in spiritual warfare against sin. The Church Penitent are the Christians who have died and are in Purgatory suffering and expecting for full entry into heaven. The Church Triumphant are those who have already reached heaven. They are saints regardless of whether they are canonized or not by the church.

There can be spiritual communication and mutual help of Christians in these three states. We, who are in the church militant, can pray for the church penitent and vice versa. We can also offer sacrifices and charitable works in favor of the those in purgatory. We can honor those in the church triumphant and in turn, the saints can intercede for us in heaven. That is why we keep praying for the deceased regardless of whether they are in purgatory or in heaven, especially on their death anniversary which is considered as their birthday in heaven.

As humans we are weak and sinners. As St. Paul said: “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The deceased person might also need purification of soul to approach the most Holy Throne of God. So, let us keep our dear deceased person in our dialing prayers and offer Holy Mass and charitable works in honor of this person.

REFLECTIONS ON SCRIPTURE PASSAGES

1. OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis: 49:29-32 Burial is joining with the deceased family

 When Jacob was about to die, he gave a suitable blessing to each of his children and told them: “Since I am about to be gathered to my people, bury me with my ancestors in the cave that lies in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” (v. 29). “There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah.“ (v. 31).  

 The practice of the patriarchs burying close together was based on belief in the life after death when they will be reunited with God. Now, our deceased person is also going to be kept in a grave close to other deceased family members so that they all rest together until the second coming of Christ when they all will be raised for the final judgement of eternal reward.

Psalm 23. Death is to dwell with the Lord for ever

“The Lord is my shepherd. …  I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

The deceased person followed Jesus, the good shepherd. The person is now going to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wisdom 3:1-9 From Suffering to reward

“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.” (v. 1-3).

The sufferings of the righteous are not punishments but opportunities to prove his or her fidelity to God as it happened in the life of Job and many Christians who were persecuted for their fidelity to Jesus Christ. Now the trial period is over and the person is drawn to God for consolation and eternal reward.

Wisdom 4:7-15 Early Death

“But the righteous, though they die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years.” (v. 7-8). “There were some who pleased God and were loved by him, and while living among sinners were taken up. They were caught up so that evil might not change their understanding or guile deceive their souls. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, they fulfilled long years; for their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness.” (v. 10-14)

Life is not evaluated based on how long a person lived, but based on how productive the person was during his or her God-given life time. Let us also make sure that we live a fruitful life according to the teachings of Jesus. Our time to do good will be over within a short period unknown to us.

Daniel 12: 1-3 Resurrection of the Dead to a heavenly glory

“At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep

in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace.” (vs. 1-2)

Even during the Old Testament times, God had revealed of the resurrection of the dead and final judgement based on the good or bad deeds of a person. According to the prophesy of Daniel, during the end times of big tribulation, Archangel Michael shall protect the faithful whose names are written in the Book of Life. Those who have died or slept in Christ shall come back to life for an everlasting life.

“But those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (v. 3).

Daniel, in his vision, sees two special categories of people who would be glorified in heaven. The first category is those with insight. Daniel 11:33 clarifies who are those with insight: “Those with insight among the people shall instruct the many; though for a time the sword, flames, exile, and plunder will cause them to stumble.” They are good Christians who set good example to others through their words and deeds and even face persecution for the sake of their Christian witnessing. Such people will shine as bright as the sky.

Those in the second special category, who would be specially rewarded in heaven, are those who lead many to righteousness. They lead a righteous life like Abel (Hebrews 11:4), Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), Noah (Genesis 6:9), Abraham (James 2:21), Lot (Gen. 18:24, 2Peter 2:7-9), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Deut. 18:13), Priest Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-6), Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19), Simeon (Luke 2:25), John the Baptist (Mark 6:20), Apostle Paul (1Thess. 2:10), and many other Biblical characters and Christian saints. Since they led many to righteousness through their exemplary life, they will shine like the stars forever in heaven.

Let us wish and pray that our deceased person shall one day rise to see God face to face and to shine like the heavens and the stars in eternal glory. Let us also lead a life of righteousness and lead others to justice of the Lord so that our names shall also be in the Book of Life and that we shall not be risen to a life of everlasting disgrace, but a life of heavenly glory.

2 Maccabees 12:39-46 Sacrifice for the deceased

During the Maccabean war against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life, Judas and his companions collected the bodies of those killed in the war. While preparing to bury their bodies with their relatives in their ancestral tombs, they found under their tunic sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the Jews were forbidden to wear. Then people realized that the death happened because of their sin. Judas took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas. He sent that money to Jerusalem to provide for sin offering. “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, in as much as he had the resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” (v. 43-46).

Let us also offer Holy Mass, the perfect sacrifice Jesus offered to his Father for the remission of our sins, for the deceased person. Our prayers and offerings for charity are helpful for the deceased person and would be appreciated by the person.

2. GOSPELS

Matthew 25: 1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins.

“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (V. 13). We do not know when our Lord will call us back from this life. We cannot behave like the foolish five virgins. They had the lamp with them but were imprudent to take the necessary oil with them. God has given us the Christian life which is the lamp for our life. We are responsible to make it useful by carrying the oil of good works and life of grace. The deceased person is blessed with plenty of oil in his / her life. Let us also be awake with the oil of good deeds to receive our Savior who can call us at an unexpected time.

Matthew 25:14-30 The Parable of the Talents

A rich man who went for a long journey entrusted his servants five talents, two talents and one talent each according to their ability. The first two multiplied what they had received by the time the master returned. The third one hid his talent underground and produced nothing out of it. When asked for his account, he even made negative remarks on the master. The first two were admitted into the joy of the master; whereas, the third one was thrown into the darkness.

Jesus, after redeeming us through his self-sacrifice, went to heaven. He has entrusted us with different gifts and opportunities to build up our Christian virtues and to develop his church under the guidance of his Holy Spirit. He will return in glory to judge us based on the utilization of our talents and to take us to his eternal reward. Are we hiding our resources or misusing and criticizing the Lord or his representatives? Like the deceased person, let us make use of every opportunity to multiply our spiritual talents for God and his people.

Matthew 25:31-46 The Judgment of the Nations.

All people will face the final judgement by Jesus at his second coming. The criteria for the separation of those who would be rewarded or punished will be based on how we treated others in the name of Jesus. That is the result of our Christian life. Our material savings and other achievements would not count. Even if we had practiced religious customs and traditions, that should be reflected in our dealings with others.

When a person dies, the relatives and friends would be interested in sharing the good things the person did and kind words he or she said. So, let us be loving and caring for others in the name of Jesus. The question for the final test is already available in Matthew 25:31-46 and answer is to be presented now in action.

Luke 7: 11-17 Raising of the Widow’s Son.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus raised three people from dead: Lazarus (John 11:1-44), the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18–26, Luke 8:40–56), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Later, Jesus himself rose from the dead on the third day. All these are manifestations of Jesus’ power over death, that came into the life of humanity because of the original sin. 

We who believe in the redemption of Jesus, are hopeful that one day Jesus will raise us also from the dead. That resurrection is different from the resurrection of Lazarus, daughter of Jairus and son of the widow in Nain. Their regaining of life was temporary and so they died again. However, our resurrection will be for an eternal life of reward with Jesus if we keep the Word of God in our lives. So, let us keep up our faith in the Lord and hopeful for a life of joy with Jesus. That is why Christian death is considered as a dormition and not as an end of life forever. 

Luke 12: 35-40 Vigilant and Faithful Servants.

Jesus warns that his disciples should “be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” (vs. 35-36). The master can come at any time; and so is death in our life. “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” (v. 39).

Though Jesus used these two examples in the context of the second coming of Christ, it is also applicable to death. The importance is on the unexpected time of arrival, and the need of being vigilant and responsible in our Christian duty.

John 5: 24-29 Promise of eternal life

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (vs. 24-25). When we belive in God the Father based on the words of Jesus, we have already become eligible for eternal life. By the sacrament of Baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit, we have gained a spiritual resurrection. Thus we are freed from the original sin that paved way for our spiritual death. Now we are destined not for condemnation but for salvation that Jesus has gained by offering his life as ransom for our mortality. Sacrament of Baptism gained the deceased person the spiritual resurrection and the Holy Eucharist he (she) has been receiving has been nourishing his (her) soul for eternal life.

Jesus continued saying: “And he (Father) gave him (Jesus) power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voices and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.” (vs. 27-29). The first arrival of Jesus as a human was to redeem us and his second coming will be to judge us. Jesus who has risen from the dead will raise us from the tombs at his second coming. Though we have been spiritually risen from our original sins, God continues to give us freedom to do good. If we misuse it like the first parents at the promptings of the evil one, we will again fall into condemnation. Like the deceased person whom we honor today, let us involve in doing as much good as we can for God and his people based on the teachings of Jesus.

John 6: 37-40 Jesus assured resurrection and eternal life

Jesus is God’s gift to humanity for our salvation. Those who are called to be the disciples of Jesus are God’s gift to Jesus, the Son of God. So, Jesus said, “this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”  (vs. 39-40). Thus, Jesus has assured that, at his second coming, he will raise those who believe in him. Like the deceased person, let us keep up our faith in Jesus and practice it in our lives.

John 6:51-58 Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life

Jesus, besides dying himself to restore us from spiritual death, continues to give his body and blood during every Holy Mass as our spiritual nourishment. He contrasted it with manna that God gave for 40 years to feed Israelites during their life in the desert on their way from Egypt to the promised land. Though God gave manna from heaven, it was only for physical nourishment to keep them physically alive.

Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (v. 51). Thus, Jesus gives his flesh as “the living bread”, descended from heaven, and can give eternal life for the world. Jesus continued: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (vs. 53-54). Like baptism, reception of the Holy Eucharist is also a requirement to enter into eternal life. Jesus also assured that he will raise from the dead, those who had received his flesh and blood to a joyful eternal life. Just as manna helped the Israelites to remain alive so they could enter the promised land, the Holy Eucharist helps us to enter into the new promised land that is heaven.

John 11: 32-45 Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus and raising him from the tomb

Though Jesus had risen the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18–26, Luke 8:40–56) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), raising Lazarus from the tomb was a different experience for the public. Unlike the other two cases, Jesus wept with the family taking part in their grief. Besides he waited until the fourth day after death to raise Lazarus from the tomb. These show the human and divine sides of Jesus.

As a human, Jesus wanted to empathize with Martha and Mary who, along with Lazarus, had been close to Jesus. This response of Jesus shows that it is okay to weep at the death of a loved one even though we have the hope in the resurrection because Jesus knew that he was going to regain the life of Lazarus. However, first he wanted to share in the grief of the family.

Lazarus remaining in the tomb for more than three days and then restoring life was a prefiguration of the resurrection of Jesus. The difference is that Jesus rose from the dead with his own divine power. Though the resurrection of Lazarus at that time was for a temporary life that would lead to a second death, the resurrection that Jesus promised to us is for an eternal life with God. So, those who are faithful to God following the teachings of Jesus can face death like going to bed with the hope of awaking from the sleep. Jesus has promised that he will wake us up from our tomb on the last day to reward us in eternity.

John 14: 1-6 “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”

According to the Jewish wedding custom during the Biblical times, the groom and bride will have betrothal before their wedding that is a binding covenant. The groom will then depart the bride and go to his father’s house. There he will prepare an additional room as a dwelling for both of them to live together after marriage. Jesus who rescued his bride the church from the enemy of Satan through his self-sacrifice, went to his Father’s house in heaven to prepare dwellings for his disciples. He assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he will come again to take the faithful members of the church to heaven to dwell with him forever. We, Christians live being faithful to our master with the hope of his return in glory to take us to heaven. Let us lead our deceased person, who lived according to Christian faith to the tomb, the temporary dwelling place of his body until the last day when Jesus will come to call us all to enter into the eternal dwelling place in heaven.

3. ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

Acts 7:55-56 Vision of St. Stephen before his death

“But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”

Jesus is usually presented as sitting at the right hand of his Father. However Stephen, at the time of his martyrdom, saw Jesus standing to welcome him to heaven. For the one who live a life of Christian witnessing will have such an experience. Let up pray that Jesus welcome our dear deceased person likewise to heaven.

4. EPISTLES

 1 Corinthians 3:9-20 Gold, Silver and Precious stones Vs Wood, Hay and Straw

St. Paul compared our Christian life to a building. He and other evangelists were God’s co-workers who built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. “If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. (vs. 12-13). The wood, hay, and straw that are perishable in fire stand for worldly life or life based on false doctrines. At the final stage of destruction of the impurities of the world, these will be totally destroyed in fire. Gold, silver, and precious stones like marble that were used for beautiful mansions and temples during the Biblical times are compared to faith-based life of Christians. They will withstand fire and will shine more, free from any impurities. Gold and silver are purified and reshaped in fire. “If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.” (v. 14). Let us build our life also on the solid foundation of Jesus and live according to genuine Christian doctrines so that we receive our wage in heaven.

St. Paul continues: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” (vs. 18-19a). Are we living a life based on the “foolish” wisdom of this world or the true wisdom of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

2 Corinthians 4:14 – 5:1 God who raised Jesus will raise us also from the dead

The resurrection of Jesus is a sure guarantee that we have a life after death. The Father who raised Jesus will raise us also and place us in the divine presence in heaven. Paul wants us to give importance to our inner self rather than our perishable outer body. We have to look for the life in eternity. Our dwelling in this world is temporary and perishable like our human body. However, “we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” (v. 1). Even though our deceased person is bidding farewell to his house now, he is going to dwell in the heavenly abode that Jesus has prepared for him (her) based on his (her) faithfulness to the gospel.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Death is considered as a sleep

Death, for us Christians, is only a physical dormition awaiting for Jesus to wake us up on his second coming. Though separation through death causes grief for the family and friends of the deceased, we should be different from the non-believers who have no hope in the life after death. God the Father sent his Son to redeem us. He who raised Jesus from the dead will not let us perish but will rejuvenate our body and reunite it with our soul by sending his Son again to the world for separation of the good from the evil and to judge all based on their merits and demerits.

St. Paul presents the second coming of Christ and the subsequent events as follows: “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (vs. 16-17). Therefore, Paul advises that we console one another at the death of loved one with hope in the resurrection of Jesus and the eternal reward that we expect.

1 John 3 14-16 Lay down lives for others to inherit eternal life

Love, according to Jesus, is the sum and substance of the Law and Prophets. When we love others we pass from death to life. “Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (vs. 14b-15a). Such a person cannot inherit the eternal reward. (v. 15b). Jesus set us an example by laying down his life for us. St. John says: “we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (v. 16).

In practical Christian life, we see parents laying down their lives for their children, and missionaries laying down their lives for the people entrusted to their care. Imitating the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the salvation of mankind, let us also dedicate our lives for others out of our love for Jesus.

5. REVELATION

Revelation 14: 13-20

According to the Book of Revelation, John “heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, .’let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’” (v. 13).

We are blessed if we died in the Lord. We are called to rest from our earthly labors. Our works, good or bad, accompany us to the heavens. That is why Jesus judge us based on the good deeds we have done or the sins of omission and sins we have committed. Let us pray that the dearly deceased person be rewarded based on the good works he (she) had done in his (her) life.

Revelation 21: 1-7 A new heaven and a new earth

According to the Book of Revelation, John “saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (v. 1).

We, the Christians are looking forward for this new heaven and new earth that is perfect as it was before the fall of Adam and Eve. Let us entrust the deceased person to the care of God until we all join with all the deceased in the new heaven and new earth governed by Jesus 

John continues in the Book of Revelation: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”  (vs. 3-4).

Let us console one another with the hope of this time when there won’t be any more death, mourning and pain. Let us keep up our faith to dwell with God for ever.

FROM THE LIVES OF SAINTS

Story of St. Thomas building palace for King Gundaphorus

A third century Syriac writing known as the Acts of Thomas presents a story on the arrival of Thomas in India and his missionary work there. According to the legend, the apostles drew lots to divide the world for their missionary work. Thomas got India by lot and he was reluctant to go there. However, Jesus appeared to him in a vision and reassured him of his support. Meanwhile, Abbanes, a merchant and representative of the Indo-Parthian king Gundaphorus came to Jerusalem searching for a carpenter to build a palace for the king in India. Jesus appeared to Abbanes and “sold” Thomas as a carpenter. Thomas, realizing the wish of Jesus, went to India with Abbanes. The King Gundaphorus was the ruler of present Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sind from the year 20 to 46 A.D.

Gundaphorus entrusted plenty of money to Thomas to build a magnificent palace for him. Thomas preached the gospel of Jesus and helped the poor with the money he received from the king. Realizing that Thomas was “misusing” him money and not building the palace, the king summoned Thomas and questioned him. The reply of Thomas was that he was building the palace in heaven with the money and the king would get it after his death. The king, who was not convinced with the presentation of Thomas, imprisoned him.

While Thomas was in prison, the kings brother Gad died. Realizing that Thomas was a miracle worker, king brought Thomas from prison to pray at the body of his brother. Gad came back to life and explained that while dead, he saw a beautiful palace that Thomas built in heaven for the king. King Gundaphorus prostrated in front of Thomas and apologized for his mistake. This incident led to the conversion of the king and many people in the kingdom.

When we utilize our time, talents, and resources for the building up of the kingdom of God, including the building up of our Christian families and doing acts of mercy, we are building our permanent residence in heaven. Let up hope and pray that God has prepared a good mansion in haven for this deceased person utilizing the savings he gained in heaven through his earthly works of love and compassion.

St. Anthony and the Miser’s Heart (To be used for a charitable person)

Among the many stories of miracles associated with St. Anthony, a famous one is “The Miser’s Heart.” Once the funeral of a rich man was taking place in the city of Tuscany. Seeing the solemn funeral, Anthony said that the dead man did not deserve such an honor because he loved money and exploited the poor. Quoting Jesus words, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mathew 6:21), Anthony commented: “His heart is in his money-box.” The family and friends who were upset on these words of Anthony wanted to prove otherwise. They had a surgeon cut open the dead body. To their surprise, the heart was missing. Then the family found his heart in his treasure box.

Since our deceased person was very much involved in charitable or humanitarian works, his treasure is in heaven. So, we can say that his heart is not here but in heaven.

GRIEF OF A MOTHER

Blessed Virgin Mary lost her husband Joseph before the public ministry of Jesus. She lost her only son Jesus when he was 33. She had to witness the sorrowful journey of Jesus with cross to Calvary and his crucifixion and burial.

GRIEF OF A FATHER / A TIME TO WEEP AND TO LAUGH

David’s son from Bathsheba became seriously ill. David pleaded with God on behalf of the child by fasting and spending the night lying on the ground clothed in sackcloth. The child died on the seventh day. When the child died, “Rising from the ground, David washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes. Then he went to the house of the LORD and worshiped. He returned to his own house and asked for food; they set it before him, and he ate.” (2Samuel 12:20). When David’s servants asked for his change of behavior at the death of the child, David answered:  “While the child was living, I fasted and wept, thinking, ‘Who knows? The LORD may grant me the child’s life.’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2Samuel 12:22-23).

According to the Book of Ecclesiastes, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (3:4). When the deceased person was sick and needed assistance, the family and friends extended maximum help. Now is the time to relax and pray for the person. Like King David said, by our grief and suffering, the deceased person will not return to us; but we shall later join the deceased person.

MURDER / TRAGIC DEATH

Death of Abel: Abel was innocent and offered sacrifice pleasing to God. His own brother killed him when he was approximately 122 years old. During that pre-flood time, people had long life even more than 900 years. Adam died when he was 930 years old (Genesis 5:5) and Methuselah, the oldest man, lived 969 years (Genesis 5: 27). Abel’s murder was the first and tragic death experience of his parents Adam and Eve. However, they could console believing that Abel was pleasing and acceptable to God.

INFANT DEATH

Holy Innocents: When King Herod heard from Magi the birth of King of Jews, he wanted to get rid of Infant Jesus. He ordered the execution of all male children two years or less in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). Though it was a sad experience to the children and their parents, they are considered as martyrs for Christ. They died instead of Christ even before Jesus died for all humanity. Jesus asked his disciples to be like little children. They are pleasing to Jesus. Our deceased child is now like an angel in heaven.

EARLY DEATH

Christian life in this world is  militant. God calls some good people to heaven at an early age to be free from struggles of this life.

BIBLICAL CHARACTERS WHO DIED AT AN EARLY AGE

Abel, whose sacrifice was pleasing to God, had an early death at the age of 122 when people used to live more than 900 years. Even that death was a murder from his own brother Cain whom he did not hurt at all.

Enoch, another righteous man lived only 345 years (Genesis 5:23) and was taken up to heaven. During those pre-deluge period people had a lifespan of more than 900 years.

Jesus was crucified when he was only 33 years of age. His mother Mary was witness to his humiliating and dreadful crucifixion.

SAINTS WHO WERE MARTYERD OR DIED YOUNG

Many saints and martyrs died at an young age. Below are some of the saints or martyrs who died below 25 years of age:

St. Jacinta Marto (5 March 1910 – 20 February 1920) died at the age of 10 due to influenza just three years after seeing visions of an angel and Our Lady while tending sheep in Fatima, Portugal.

St. Francisco Marto (11 June 1908 – 4 April 1919) died at the age of 11 due to influenza. He was sibling of St. Jacinta. Both of them had vision of Our Lady of Fatima along with Late St. Lucy.

St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902) martyred at the age of 11. While she was alone, a teenage boy named Alessandro tried to rape her. When she refused, he stabbed her 14 times. At the hospital, she forgave him before dying. Alessandro soon repented.

Blessed Laura Vicuña (1891-1904) died at the age of 12 because of pulmonary tuberculosis. She was weakened by physical abuse by her mother’s boss.

St. Tarcisius (263 – 275) died in Rome at the age of 12. He is known as a "martyr of the Eucharist" because he was beaten by a gang of boys when he refused to hand over the Holy Eucharist that he was transporting.

St. Agnes of Rome (c. 291-c. 304) martyred at the age of 12 or 13. The specifics of her martyrdom are not known beyond myths and legends.

St. Philomena (c. 291-c. 304) martyred at the age of 13. Her body was found in 1802 in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. She told to a nun by visions that she was a Greek princess who was martyred for her faith. Multiple miracles have been attributed to Philomena’s intercession.

St. Dymphna (7th century) was martyred at the age of 14. She was the daughter of a petty king in Ireland. After her mother’s death, her father became mentally ill and wanted to marry her. She fled to Belgium. Her father found and beheaded her.

St. Kizito (1872 - June 3, 1886) was martyred at that age of 14. He was the youngest of the Martyrs of Uganda and was burned alive for his faith.

St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio (March 28, 1913 - February 10, 1928) was martyred at the age of 14 in Mexico.

St. Dominic Savio (1842-1857) died at the age of 14. He is the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church that was not a martyr. He was canonized because of his pious life. He had intense love of God and performed many miracles.

St. Stanislaus Kostka (1550-1568) died at the age of 17 because of an unknown illness. He suffered physical abuses from his elder brother.

St. Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672) was martyred at that age of 17. He was a missionary in Guam, ministering to the Chamorro people. He was pierced by a spear, cut down by a cutlass, and flung into the sea. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in 2012.

St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 287-c. 305) was martyred at the age of 18. She was of noble birth and was a notable scholar in the sciences and Christianity. Emperor Maximinus let her debate with his top men, but they could not defeat her. Some of them were converted to Christianity and they were instantly martyred. The furious emperor had Catherine beheaded.

Blessed Chiara Badano (1971-1990) died at the age of 18 because of a rare form of bone cancer, osteogenic sarcoma. She  wanted to offer her sufferings for Jesus Christ and so refused morphine. She maintained her joyful conduct, keeping other patients happy until her death.

St. Teresa of the Andes (1900-1920) died at that age of 19 from typhus. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun in Chile and lived her life with a complete love for God.

St. Agatha of Sicily (c. 231- c.251) at the age of 20 because of torture from a man who wanted to marry her. She was a Roman noblewoman who consecrated her virgin life for Christ.

St. Lucy (c. 283-304) was martyred at the age of 21 during reign of the Emperor Diocletian because she declined to renounce her Christian faith. Lucy is a widely revered virgin martyr of the Early Church.

St. Perpetua (c. 181-c. 203) was martyred at the age of 22. Though her father pleaded her to renounce her faith, she refused to do so. She was thrown into wild beasts and killed  by the sword.

St. John Berchmans (1599-1621) died at the age of 22 because of Roman fever. He had joined Jesuits and had a deep love for being an altar server.

St. Germaine Cousin (1579-1601) died at the age of 22. She was born with a deformed hand and a form of tuberculosis called scrofula. She had to live as a shepherdess sleeping each night in a stable. Her father wanted her to do so to protect other children,. The villagers and her own stepmother treated her with cruelty because of her deep love for God.

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838-1862) died at the age of 23 because of tuberculosis. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows 

St. Clelia Barbieri (1847-1870) died at the age of 23. She founded the Congregation of the Sisters Minims of Our Lady of Sorrows at the age of 21. She is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Catholic Church. Her congregation continues to serve the poor in Italy, India, and Tanzania.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) died at the age of 23. He was born in an aristocratic family and could inherit his father’s title as Marquis of Castiglione. However, he wanted to join Jesuits after reading about Jesuit missionaries in India. He renounced his noble inheritance and jointed Jesuits at the age of 17. He died as a result of caring for the victims of a serious epidemic while he was a student at the Roman College,

Blessed Isidore Bakanja (c. 1887-1909) died at the age between 19-24. While working for a colonist on a rubber plantation, the owner brutally beat him for his Christian faith. He suffered agonizing pain from his wounds for 6 months. Isidore forgave the man: “Certainly I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much.”

St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) died at the age of 24. She was a princess with a great love for the Lord and for the poor. She built a hospital after her husband’s death where she treated the sick herself.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) died at the age of 24. He was continuously helping the poor and contracted polio. He died on July 4, 1925.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha (c. 1656-1680) died at the age of 24. She was Native American who was converted to Catholicism at the age of 19. Her tribe rejected her. She still kept up her faith.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) died at the age of 24. Overcoming many obstacles, she became a Carmelite nun at the age of 15. She is famous for her “Little Way,” where one does everything out of great love.