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Christian funeral and ministry to the grieving

By George Adimike
23 September 2022   |   3:30 am
As an agency of grace and ministry for salvation affairs, the Church verifies her identity in her pastoral decisions and actions.

PHOTO: dying.lovetoknow

As an agency of grace and ministry for salvation affairs, the Church verifies her identity in her pastoral decisions and actions. Undoubtedly, the role of proclaiming with words and works the salvation of the world engages the ministry of the Church unceasingly. She is demanded through her ministry to be an invitation for people to embrace this salvation. As such, the Church is not only an agent of grace but is also its embodiment and an assurance of the salvation wrought by grace. Her existence leaves much to be desired when it fails to communicate, demonstrate and embody the grace of salvation.

Often, the challenge to live her true identity arises at the death of any of her children. The tendency is usually to be faithful to the law and the right order, though sometimes it conflicts with love. Of course, what is given in love is not lost in law. Since salvation is grace, an entirely gratuitous gift of God to all who embrace it, care should be taken so as not to present obstacles on the path of its appropriation. Any extra constraints run contrary to the desire of the Lord.

Granted that the subjective appropriation of this salvation requires a conscious engagement and surrender, which largely involves inconvenience and suffering, care should be taken that the free gift of God is not artificially presented with heavy demurrage, commissions and taxes. Whoever desires salvation stretches out his hand to actively receive it. In receiving it, he commits and sacrifices something, which is the path of discipleship, the daily carrying of the Cross. This path ordinarily serves all believers. However, some Christians, due to fault or no fault of theirs, fail to comply and follow this normal pat

On the other hand, there might be a possibility that though there seemed to be a breach of the law before God, they are far from all blames. It means that situations of the transgressions are to be observed case by case.
 
Assuming without concluding that they are all guilty of the failure to abide by their work of religion, the question remains as to which path the mother Church is supposed to follow. Is she to follow the path of the Father, whose love is prodigal or the path of the mean elder brother? There is no easy choice here. 
 
In each typical family, the treatment meted out to the prodigal member can anger or delight the mean ‘good’ daughter or son. Is the Church to treat the prodigal children as bad as they are or as good as the mother Church is? Is she to treat the prodigal son or daughter according to the whims of the mean ‘good’ siblings? This situation is the challenge the Church faces, especially in ministering to the grieving. She struggles with balance. The moment of grief of any of her children is one of the most critical times the Church is expected to demonstrate her maternal and divine nature.

The Church, not a social club or community association guided by ethics of reciprocity, is expected to live by the ethics of grace. It is a grace illuminated by the truth and lives by justice. However, the Church is not guided by human justice but a divine one, which is interwoven with mercy and perfected by it. Therefore, at the most critical moments of the pain and need of the faithful, the ministry of the Church requires that the ministers go beyond contributive and distributive justice typical of human associations to treat their children with love.  Such ministry to the grieving and needy can be the pedagogy of the gratuitousness of salvation and catecheses in love and responsibility.     
 
This ministry requires a pastoral attitude that frowns at seeing death as an avenue for revenue collection. The mother Church may not deny her deceased children the most precious treasure she stewards, the Holy Mass, because of a failure to pay dues. As no good mother would aggravate the pains of a bereaved family member, it would be antithetical to her nature for the mother Church to deny a Christian burial to a baptised member.
 
Like every father, reverend fathers are hurt by the loss of a member of the parish as expected. Yet, some prioritise ecclesiastical positive law, neglecting the divine positive law of love. This prioritisation of earthly responsibilities over the salvation of the weak portrays Christ’s Church negatively as insensitive and self-serving and denies her an opportunity to evangelize such families. It raises a question: How is it possible that one maltreats another who calls one father?
  
Without a doubt, some difficult, lax, or mean faithful may ignore the parish while some may not able to meet up with their financial responsibility because of their existential situations. Still, with its act of finality, death turns a new chapter in the life of all and invites the Church to be truest to her nature in dealing with the issue. 
 
The obligation to contribute to building up the kingdom of God on earth is a responsibility that faces every baptized. Yet the fact of being baptised offers the person the grace of a Christian burial, which other misdemeanours are not capable of robbing unless the person ceases to be a Christian.

Therefore, even if one does not want to apply the medicine of mercy, it is still improper to punish one with a punishment greater than the one prescribed by law. The argument that people will not be motivated to participate in the life of the community of faith only shows the magnitude of the task facing pastors of souls. People should serve God in freedom and not out of coercion. Pastors have to work hard to make people appreciate the value of working for God freely.

Essentially, the Church should live beyond the reciprocity ethics of Karma to embrace the graciousness of grace of Christ that treats people beyond their merit. Hence, she is to treat people like the compassionate Christ and not as imperfect as they are.
 
A convinced believer, therefore, does not need the Ten Commandments to be multiplied into 613 precepts to comply. The failure of a faithful to live by his responsibility should not prevent the Church from living her responsibility of burying her deceased child. She demonstrates by such an action that grace is not bartered, and salvation is neither mercantile nor strictly merited. In reality, it corrects the contemporary neopelagiarism that holds that people achieve righteousness by themselves. Burying the indebted deceased allows the Church to pay one by the coin of grace, showing one the last act of love, which has an evangelising effect on the family and others. Through such ministry, the Church proclaims the salvation of Christ to the mundane and benighted world with deeds.

Farther Adimike wrote via findfadachigozie@gmail.com

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