Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Catholics don't do eulogies?

Your first thought may be, of course we do.  Ok. Let me be more precise. If you read the instruction to the Rite of Funerals, it says there shouldn't be a eulogy. On first glance it seems another heartless rule by the Catholic Church.  But if we look at today's gospel we will see the reasoning.

In today's gospel Jesus has the confrontation with the Saducees over the resurrection and Jesus ends we a grammar lesson. He points to the fact that God proclaims himself:

 I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob

The point being that God says "is" not "was". If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead, he would have said, "I was the God of Abraham...."  Because as Jesus points out God is the God of the living and not the dead.

If you go to a funeral and listen to the eulogy it is all done in the past tense. "John was a good man. He loved his wife. He raised three beautiful children......" It is all done in the past tense. It is all said looking backward, as if the man's life is over. Eulogies make it sound as if there is no life beyond the earthly one. People says things like, "He will live on in our hearts forever." 

Christians say they believe in eternal life but if you listen to a eulogy it is as if we believe the person is dead and all we can do is try and keep the memory alive.  This is the position of the Sadducees, precisely the position Jesus opposed. 

God is the God of the living. 

My mother passed from this life in 1998, my father in 1999. They were not good people. They are good people.  They are better people today than they could have ever possibly been on earth. They are better people than you or I. More than a decade after their passing, I can be reasonably sure that they have completed what ever purification was needed, and have joined the company of saints. They watch over me in ways that they never could in this life. And I draw strength from their intercession on my behalf before the throne of God. Yes, they did some good things in this life, many good things, but what they do now is far beyond that. They are more alive now than you or I, because they now enjoy the life that you and I can only hope for. They do not live on in my memory. They live on in the eternal life of heaven. 

The Catholic Church discourages eulogies because in most cases they are a denial of the resurrection. They sound as if earthly life is all there is, or at least earthly life is the one that really matters.  

When I look the the pictures of my parents, my older brother, my grand parents, uncles and aunts. They are no to remind me of the past, but to remind me of the present, and the future. The pictures remind me of these people of faith, who have joined the company of the saints and who one day, I hope to join.