A Funeral with Adjectives

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So St. John begins the last Gospel. The other three concern themselves with details, facts, stories chronicling the life of Jesus Christ. John isn’t so much concerned with facts. For him, it’s faith and theology.

You know Catholics have often been ridiculed by other denominations for not knowing the ins and outs of the Bible. The others can cite chapter and verse. Catholics for the longest time centered their faith life around what St. John writes about. It’s a spiritual life built around a trusting confidence, a deep faith, and an abiding hope. If Catholics need to find a passage, we’d look it up.

Trusting, deep and abiding. I love adjectives because they give life to nouns. To merely say that the sun is out today doesn’t do much for color and brilliance. But to add that “the warming, bright sun helps me get through my day.” Now you’re telling someone something that has meaning.

For it is not only to simply say “confidence, faith, and hope.” We can all say that we’re confident that the Packers have a chance this season. That’s said weakly. Add a “trusting” confidence and you’ve expressed something that’s potent. It contains power. The Gospel of St. John ends with, “There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books.”

For each of us and especially thinking about Beverly on this day, which is now a holy day for her family and friends, “In the beginning was … you and me.” We began this mystery called life and continue living that mystery our entire lives. We rarely understand or comprehend it because if we did then it wouldn’t be a mystery. It would be a puzzle to be assembled. But to live the mystery of life, death and eternal life, is to be a person with a trusting confidence, celebrating a deep faith and sharing with all those we meet an abiding hope.

“Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.” The struggles and trials of life either weaken or strengthen that abiding hope. We pray that even when weakness sometimes occurs that we uncover a renewed strength through the grace of God. “Deep faith?” St. Paul clearly announces, “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race…” The “Good List,” as the Beatitudes are called to provide us with the playbook for all our actions in recreating and sustaining what God gives to us, “a trusting confidence.”

However, I’ve left out a very important faith-filled word. It’s not often used at funerals but it ought to be. More than a feeling, it’s a disposition. It’s what I hope folks take home after Mass driving away from the church’s parking lot. It’s what I hope they’re able to share with others because they’ve been nourished by the body and blood of God’s Son. It’s very contagious, so be careful. It’s a divine infection that no antibiotic or no anti-Christ can cure. Feelings are fleeting. A disposition in faith becomes a part of your character. It’s the fiber, bedrock, the foundation of your life. It’s a strength within you that’s indestructible because it didn’t originate in you – it’s God’s gift to each of us. (It also comes with a lifetime supply.)

Are you dying to know the word? I hope so because our Christian faith tells us that we must die to ourselves in order to live in Christ. Then, each of us becomes a “person of Christ.” The suspense is over. The God-given gift is called “joy.” St. John promises it when Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Beverly and all of us can only taste of joy on our earthly journey. Especially felt and experienced through family and friends. The metaphorical death while living is now fully satisfied with our physical death. It is the joy of uniting with God.

A funeral is also a time for our personal renewal, for us who continue living this mystery we call life. How can each of us build up our trusting confidence, deep faith, and abiding hope? Living and making those adjectives ours gives us the character for the earthly joy when anticipating our own eternal joy.

I deliberately left out the last sentence from St. Paul. It’s Leona talking to St. Peter at heaven’s gate. “I have competed well;” (I don’t care for “compete,” I would say, “I have lived well, with God’s help.”) Paul continues, “I have finished the race.” The last sentence and the most important of all? “I have kept the faith.”

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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