Mercy Mondays

Bury the Dead

By Todd Williamson | Monday, October 31, 2016

“Because God has chosen to call our sister from this life to himself, we commit her body to the earth, for we are dust and to dust we shall return. But the Lord Jesus Christ will change our mortal bodies to be like his in glory, for he is risen, the firstborn from the dead. So let us commend our sister to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace her in peace and raise up her body on the last day.” (Prayer of Committal of the body, Order of Christian Funerals)

The Tradition of the Church holds that one who has been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and who dies, awaits the final resurrection of the dead at the end of time. In ancient times, the Church held to an image of burial of the body in the ground as a “planting of the body” much like a seed is planted, where the body would await the final “harvesting of souls” when Christ returns in glory, at the end of time.

A brand new instruction on burial and cremation, just issued this week from the Vatican, highlights this aspect of our Catholic faith: “The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.”
(Ad resurgendum cum Christo, regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation, 2016)

Because of what we believe about death and what we believe will happen to our bodies or cremated remains on the great and final day of Resurrection, to bury the dead is a Corporal Work of Mercy.

The recent practice of the Catholic Cemeteries of Chicago, who have taken this Corporal Work of Mercy seriously, is such a powerful reminder of this aspect of our Catholic Faith. Catholic Cemeteries has buried the bodies of hundreds of indigent/homeless people because…well, because no one else would do it.

To bury the dead is an act by which we continue to care for our deceased brothers and sisters after their physical death. It is, in actuality, not just an act of mercy but it is also an act of Hope! We bury our dead and we await with hope the day of Christ, the day our physical remains will be raised and we will be remade in the same glory of the Risen Christ.

Todd Williamson is the Director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Mercy Challenge

Attend the funeral rites for a deceased brother or sister at your parish – even if you do not know that person! Go to the cemetery and participate in the Committal. Pray for that person and all the deceased, and know that in doing this, you have done an act of mercy, of hope, of faith.

Todd Williamson is the Director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Chicago.