This section carefully communicates what the Church teaches about the dead, and lays out the particular hopes for the liturgy. We’ll interrupt the narrative here and there to point out some important aspects:
6. The Church through its funeral rites commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.
Two important things we do for the dead: turn them over to God (and by correlation, we do not cling to them or to their earthly accomplishments) and we (note the word) plead on behalf of them.
The funeral Mass is central, because in it, we affirm unity across the divide of death:
At the funeral rites, especially at the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice, the Christian community affirms and expresses the union of the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the one great communion of saints. Though separated from the living, the dead are still at one with the community of believers on earth and benefit from their prayers and intercession.
While we acknowledge an obvious separation in the world we see, we count on Christ to continue to stretch across the chasm of death, and maintain our bonds. This is something deeper, more profound than keeping alive memories. Remembering the dead can be laudable and even therapeutic. But in the long stretches of time, who really remembers their great-great grandparents and the beloved dead they kept in memory. Dozens of generations since Christ and countless other before that. If we’re prepared to say that famous people are more “alive” in human memory, maybe we can say commemoration is mainly about human memory. But I wouldn’t say it.
OCF 6 points out one of the ritual high points of all the funeral rites:
At the rite of final commendation and farewell, the community acknowledges the reality of separation and commends the deceased to God. In this way it recognizes the spiritual bond that still exists between the living and the dead and proclaims its belief that all the faithful will be raised up and reunited in the new heavens and a new earth, where death will be no more.
At the end of a funeral Mass, it is natural to feel exhausted and begin tuning out. Modern culture continues to avoid death as much as it can. Do believers recognize the importance of a final leave-taking? Do we attend carefully to the words and rituals between the reception of the Eucharist and the shovel patting down the last bit of dirt over a grave?