At Mass this past weekend, the first reading stood out for me. At funerals, I think most people don’t absorb the entire passage being read. Even if it’s read well. Most often a key phrase might stick in the mind.
The author of Wisdom reminds us of two important values: first, that God’s best, original plan is for life, and second, that human beings are made in the likeness of God. Including “imperishability.”
God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed (human beings) to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made (them).
Scripture scholars remind us of the larger context of the opening few dozen verses of the Book of Wisdom. The writer is concerned with spiritual death. The death seen in people who harass the innocent and make themselves into devils for their own pride. These verses above surround that famous narrative of persecutors setting themselves against the devotee of God, putting the virtuous to the test.
Perhaps the experience of dying puts us to the test, too. But this reminder is vital, that death lies outside God’s intention. Christ restored the promise of eternal joy to us through the Paschal Mystery.
Mourners often feel a sense of injustice at the death of a loved one. That might not be inappropriate. A reminder of God’s creative power and the original intent of life everlasting as a reflection of divine glory. What better time to express this than at a funeral?