The common Psalm for the last weeks in Ordinary Time is a good choice for funerals, though hardly ever used. It is paired with the apocalyptic readings of the end times in November. It appears in Advent, too. It is one of the “Songs of Ascents,” pilgrimage music for the journey to Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is, of course, the goal of many Christians. Can we see these verses in that light? Let’s have a look:
I rejoiced when I heard them say: let us go to the house of the Lord.
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced when I heard them say:
“Let us go to God’s house.”
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.
For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgment
of the house of David.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!”
For love of my brethren and friends
I say: “Peace upon you!”
For the love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.
This is the complete psalm–nothing omitted. It expresses the joy of reaching the end of a pilgrimage. It acknowledges the link between the praise of God and the reception of the Law, which, for us Christians, would be the proclamation of Jesus and his saving acts. The final verses are prayers of petition on behalf of the locale of pilgrimage’s end.
We may have no need of praying for heaven, but perhaps mourners can appreciate a life lived under God’s law and a death which has been anticipated with joy on the part of the departed loved one, a confident hope that very soon, the heavenly Jerusalem will be home.
This may be an advanced sentiment for most communities. Monasteries, most likely, one would find this as a funeral psalm. The death of a person whose dying process was a joyful pilgrimage, perhaps. But that still leaves the people accompanying, some of whom might not have been so joyful.
What do you think? Good psalm? Or stick with the 23rd?