Today I attended the funeral of a young person killed in a road traffic accident. Seeing the grief-stricken mother led me to reflect on Our Lady during Good Friday. Afterwards at the graveside I found myself objecting to the vanity of the green carpet that conceals the mound of earth at the side of the grave. Add to that the vain green carpet that is pulled over the grave as soon as the coffin is lower down. Over in Britain they even line the inside of the grave with the silly green carpet and put wood-shavings at the bottom so that you cant see any earth at all! “Vanity of vanity” as we read in Ecclesiastes. When I was young, the coffin would be lowered into the grave. Immediately it would be filled in by the grave diggers and the hollow sound of the earth on top of the coffin marked with realism the end of this person’s journey in this world. When I made my last will at the time of the cancer diagnosis, I asked that all these vanities be dispensed with and the grave filled in immediately after the coffin was lowered down.
The reason why I am going on like this is that unless we face the enormity and certainty of our personal mortality, the Good News of Jesus does’t really register with us. I was asked to lead a decade of the Rosary at the graveside and I began by quoting Jesus’ words at the grave of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me even though he die, yet shall he live; and he who lives and believes in me will never die.” If we all dispensed with graveside vanities, then this message of Jesus may be more evident to those attending. It would also be more evident that we should live in conformity with the gospel and make Jesus LORD of our lives – thus inviting him to be our Saviour.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke about such vanities: “Secular culture tends towards the ‘materialistic trivialisation of death.’ Death is to be deprived of its character as a place where the metaphysical [other/next world] breaks through. Death is rendered banal so as to quell the unsettling questions that arise from it.” [Catholic Herald, Aug 16, 2013, p1]
This however is All Saints Day when we honour all those who have allied themselves to Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life. Here is another quote from Pope Benedict on the blessedness of those who look to Jesus as their Saviour: “When we die, we do not pass away, nor are we diminished. Rather we are at last our true selves. We are overcome by a love which like a fire refines us, transforms us and draws us into its perfect light.”