Funeral Lectionary: Lamentations 3:17-26

One great expression of hope gets set up by a strong lament. Are you willing to engage the feeling of lament and grief so directly at the funeral? If so, here might be your reading:

My soul is deprived of peace,
  I have forgotten what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
  all that I hoped for from the Lord.
The thought of my homeless poverty is wormwood and gall;
Remembering it over and over
  leaves my soul downcast within me.
But I will call this to mind,
  as my reason to have hope:
The favors of the Lord are not exhausted,
  his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning,
  so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the Lord, says my soul;
  therefore will I hope in him.
Good is the Lord to one who waits for him,
  to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.

Lamentations is one of the more poetic offerings in the Bible. The catastrophe of conquest and exile has shaken Judah’s survivors after Babylon’s 587BC obliteration of Jerusalem. At the time of a loved one’s death, perhaps a surprising death that turns life for the mourners on its ear, perhaps this whole book will resonate.

There is a very honest and healthy grief in Lamentations. The author does not propose any easy answers. No “things will be okay.” No “this too shall pass.” Just raw grief and lament. The first sixteen verses of this chapter get pretty intense. When you read that God has led the “everyman” into darkness not light, has turned his hand against, besieged and encircled with poverty, etc., one gets the idea that a twisted version of Psalm 23 is the inspiration here. The image of God is not pretty, and the believer is not afraid to utter it.

Fortunately by verse 17, the mood turns, and one last summary leads into verse 21ff, in which God’s lasting and eternal quality of hesed (lovingkindness) is recalled. We are not given any external evidence for God’s love. It’s as natural as another day coming. We can choose to acknowledge it, (vv 21-26) or we can continue to wallow in pain (vv 1-20)–it doesn’t affect God’s quality either way.

I have a recollection of this passage being proclaimed at one funeral I attended. Maybe. It would take a great deal of courage to confront this Scripture so soon after a death. For myself, I’m not sure I could muster it. What about you?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Funeral Lectionary: Lamentations 3:17-26

  1. Liam says:

    This is one of the very best of the funeral lections.

  2. Mike K says:

    It’s one of those readings that cries out for violet or black vestments, making it very appropriate for Lent. (I would certainly not use it in the Easter or Christmas seasons.)

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  5. Valerie says:

    I read this at my mother’s funeral in 2008 and tomorrow, I will read it at my father’s. Yes, it is a difficult passage to read aloud, but the resounding message is Hope in the LORD! What can be better to share with our loved ones at this time. What strength it gives..

  6. Patrick says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was going over a few things for my grandfathers up coming funeral and this is what I had decided upon. I’m not a religious person but this struck me as powerful. It tells of the struggles of life and to look for hope no matter how much trouble life brings you. Since my grandfathers passing this hope is all we have, financially, emotionally, etc. I requested this reading hoping that my family will understand its meaning and hold on to the hope that we once had. Otherwise despair will turn our little bit of happiness in to nothing. So thank you very much with providing me with this. Its more then just a bible passage to us.

  7. Liam says:

    This was the first reading we chose for my mother’s funeral this past Monday.

  8. Karen says:

    My mom just passed from dementia. This reading was perfect. She has been lost and in the dark, but now she has been found, with God and at peace. I had no doubt that this scripture describes perfectly what she had gone thru the last few years.

  9. Mary Eileen says:

    My 31 year old daughter was beautiful daughter was brutally murdered. She died alone. We didnt kiss her good bye. Lamentations is the most appropriate reading in this case. No other verses can adequately express our sorrow. It justifies our grief.

  10. Pingback: Loss and Gratitude | Cirra's Clouds

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