We last looked at Saint Paul’s “Gospel of Hope” eight years ago on this site. The reading below is one of the possible choices for a funeral. Likewise, the previous two posts on Romans 8, but the Pastoral Care Lectionary divides them into two shorter passages.
Here, the Church recommends virtually the same verses as can be used at the funeral Mass. For the commentary on “hope” from the Jesuit scholar Brendan Byrne, consult this brief essay.
Today, my choice is to discuss something of the lyricism in what I would see as one of the New Testament’s “hidden” psalms. There is a harmony in this text with the twenty-seventh Psalm. The poem is also an expression of hope. But the apostle engages in a typical Jewish bravado. This is the utterance of a confident soul. Questions are brushed aside. The believer moves forward; it is the only direction available:
What then shall we say to this?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ [Jesus] who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
That last question could be interpreted as metaphorical of modern medicine. Despite the most current technology, we wonder how we’ll survive to see ourselves healthy again. The insurance companies might persecute us. We might find ourselves unable to eat, embarrassed by the indignities of disrobing for procedures or clothed in a flimsy hospital gown. Every time we undergo surgery, we are at the mercy of medical professionals. Could we substitute “scalpel” for “sword”?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For a person dealing with serious illness, this may well be a balm in their trials. I have yet to experience a life-or-death situation, but I think I’d want to be reminded of this canticle of hope if I did. What about you?
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.