Today I conducted the funeral of the late Dominic McGettigan. In my introductory comments I explain that a Requiem Mass is primarily for the repose of the soul of the deceased person – the Latin word ‘Requiem’ means rest. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the greatest prayer of the Church, is offered to God for the person and the final purification in Purgatory that may apply to the Elect. It is common to see funerals directed to the celebration of the person’s life. Such events can be similar to humanist services. I say that celebrating the person’s life is the third reason for the funeral, the second reason being our reading of God’s Word and the strengthening of our faith in God’s love and the Resurrection.
The opening part of my homily went something like this:
At important people’s funeral, the occasion can be measured by how many priests are present. As one goes up the scale of importance, one counts the number of bishops, archbishops, cardinals – in that order. For somebody very important one may expect to get a telegram of condolence from the pope!
I noted that I was the only priest present on the sanctuary for Dominic’s Requiem. Yet I said that nowhere in the Bible does God tell us we have to be important people – this can even be a hindrance given Jesus’ run-ins with the important people of his time. The one thing that the Bible repeatedly says we should be is FAITHFUL. We are called to be faithful because God was faithful to us, most especially in sending Jesus to make atonement for our sins on the Cross.
Dominic was faithful in one very essential way in that he went to Mass every Sunday. I went on from there to speak about the significance of Mass as Jesus’ Last Will and Testament – Do this in memory of me – and the place where we can receive the Bread of Life, the food of immortality.
Being faith-full, keeping our promises, can also be seen as being full of faith. This is the main topic in today’s gospel of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman. An excerpt of the Bible Alive commentary stressing the fundamental importance of faith is as follows: