Gospel: John 11:1-45
When it became clear that my mother was not going to survive her cancer, along with the devastation of this news and the heartache I felt, I also realized that I had never been to a funeral.
I was 25 years old and, thankfully, I had not lost anyone extremely close to me up to that point in my life. I did not want my mother’s funeral to be my first, so I started to attend funeral Masses for people from my parish, even if I did not know them well.
At first, these ceremonies seemed to be familiar and strange at the same time. The Mass was the same, but there were new parts I did not totally understand, and there was the whole thing about the deceased’s body being present — definitely a new experience for me.
After a few funerals I got a better sense of all the rituals that had been new to me and I felt as prepared as I could be for the looming funeral of my mother.
That day came and went like a blur, but because I had become somewhat comfortable with the Mass of Christian Burial I was at least able to get through it fully aware of what was going on.
As the years have progressed, I have been to many funerals and I now find them to be comforting and, in a particular way, a fulfillment of all that I believe.
At the beginning of the funeral, the casket is draped with a white pall and the covered casket is sprinkled with holy water. Each of these ceremonial actions serves as bookends to our spiritual life on earth. We begin in a white garment sprinkled with water at our baptism and this is repeated as we head heavenward.
This week’s readings speak of the promise of resurrection. Ezekiel says, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them,” prefiguring what actually happens to Lazarus, which is brought to fulfillment in Jesus and, hopefully, awaits us all.