Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Maximelien Mack, RIP 12 August AD 2007

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone.
But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Funeral Mass English and some Latin
Funeral Mass Propers - Latin

Obituary and Pictures

    The morning after we received the diagnosis of Max’ illness, the Church celebrated the feast of Saint Lawrence, and we heard those words in the Gospel reading at Mass.  They were spoken by our Lord just before the Last Supper.  They can be applied to our Lord Himself, for by His death He brought forth the multitude of the redeemed.  It can be applied to martyrs like Saint Lawrence, for, as Tertullian tells us: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”[2]  But it can also be applied to Max and to all who choose to live the life of Christ.

    We often speak of the “next life.”  But “next” is not quite accurate, for eternal life begins long before death.  The analogy of the sprouting grain of wheat is quite appropriate.

    We know that “God created man in His image ... male and female He created them ... a little bit less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.” [3]  Alone among the material things of creation, God gave man an immortal soul—capable, like the angels, of both intellect and will—able to know and love even God Himself.  And, although it is of the very nature of material things to break down and wear out, God gave Adam and Eve special gifts that would have preserved them from all sickness and death and discomfort—special gifts which enabled them to speak with God Himself, even as we speak to one another.

    Sadly, we know that Adam and Eve did something to disrupt their favored relationship with God.  The Scriptures have them eating a forbidden fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” at the insistence of a serpent who personifies the devil.  The specific fruit and the serpent may well be symbolic, but we certainly know that sinned by directly disobeying God’s command.  They did what was forbidden, instead of being content with all of the other delights in paradise.  Their disobedience cost them those special gifts.  They would “eat their bread in the sweat of their brow.”  They would “bring forth their children in distress.”  The “ground would be cursed, bringing forth thorns and thistles.”  They would suffer these things “until they were returned to the earth out of which they had been made, for dust you are and to dust you shall return.” [4]

    Worst of all, they had estranged themselves from God, siding with the rebellious angels in their disobedience—quite possibly earning for their immortal souls a place along side of the demons when they returned to dust.

    They had lost these great riches not only for themselves but for all of their future children.  They were like a rich man who gambles away all of his fortune and has nothing left for himself, and nothing to pass on to his children’s children—they cannot inherit, for their is no inheritance.  We usually refer to the loss of these gifts from God as “original sin.”  For us children of Adam and Eve it is not an actual sin, but more like a privation of goods we should have inherited.  Not, of course, that we have any right to complain, for we have all sinned ourselves.

    But, even before dealing with Adam and Eve, God promised a Redeemer;  the seed of a woman would crush the head of the serpent.  God would send someone to the human race who would do what no other man could do.  For finite man had no way of His own to correct the insult he had offered to infinite God.  Jesus Christ, true God and true man, would serve as an intermediary, paying off the infinite debt of mankind’s disobedience with His perfect obedience.

    Mankind would be and was redeemed.  But, of course there is more to the story.  By our Lord’s plan, each redeemed individual man and woman would be invited to regain the eternal life with God that had been forfeited through original sin.  If we go back to the analogy of the seed that had to be planted in the ground and die, in order to bring forth abundant fruit, we can think of our Lord’s plan as a sort of “conditioning process” in which the living seeds are conditioned to bring forth the abundant fruit of eternal life.  We can look into Max’ life and see the long string of gifts by which God gave him that eternal life.

    We can see how good God was to Max and to others like him who choose the eternal life which begins in the here and now.

    God gave Max the gift of sanctifying grace in Baptism.  God literally dwelt in his soul;  his body became a temple of the Holy Ghost.  “Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.”[5]

    When Max fell from grace, as men and women sometimes do, Christ received his confession and raised him up again to life.  “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them.”[6]

    God increased His graces and strengthened Max’ faith with the reception of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation.

    The seed of eternal life was regularly nourished with “food indeed” and “drink indeed,” the real and true flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, without which “you shall not have life in you.”  We hear the clear promise of our Lord, “I will raise him up on the last day.”[7]

    He gave Max the gift of children, who gladdened his life, and who were with him at its mortal end.  And other good friends and family who have been there to support him during the past few days and weeks.

    When Max was ill He sent His priest to anoint him, as St. James tells us, with oil, so that “if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven.”[8]

    He blessed him with the Apostolic Blessing, allowing Peter to “loose on earth and in heaven,” the earthly punishment due to his sins.[9]

    God has truly conquered sin and death!  The seed was ready to be planted.  The eternal life which began at Baptism was ready to “bring forth abundant fruit.”

    Of course, we miss our loved ones when we know that we can no longer see them, speak to them, or just enjoy the pleasure of their company.  All of us here today will miss Max.  Depending upon how close we were to him in life, a larger or smaller piece of our own lives will be missing, and will never be completely replaced.  It would be wrong and foolish not to grieve over loosing him—particularly those in the immediate family—you should go and cry for a while; it is good for you.

    Remember, though, that death is not the end of the human person—it is the opportunity for that seed to sprout and man to begin living as God originally intended for him to live.  Man is made up of two parts;  the body which is not permanent, which grows old and suffers and dies;  and the soul which is permanent, that lives forever like the angels.  As we hear in the preface of the funeral Mass:

    We, afflicted by the certainty of dying, may be consoled by the promise of a future immortality.  For unto Thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away;  and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven.  The hope of a blessed resurrection has shone upon us.

    We know that on the last day, Almighty God will raise us from the dead and restore our souls to a glorified body;  one no longer subject to sickness and death.  It matters not that we died young or old;  that in this life we may have lost a limb.  It matters not that our bones are in a fancy box, or our ashes scattered to the four winds.  In any case, God will raise us up, whole once again.

    And if we have kept His commandments, we shall share some of God's glory in heaven, and our resurrected bodies shall enjoy the newfound pleasures of heaven.

    But woe to the one who dies in his sins!  A soul intended to be with God, as all souls are, but eternally denied His gaze.  A glorified body, intended for the delights of heaven, left to feel the pains of Hell.

    There are three things that I always ask people to ponder at a funeral:

    First, as we hear in the Old Testament:  “It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.”[10]  While sins and the punishment due to sin may be forgiven during this life, our Lord speaks of sins forgiven “in the world to come.”[11]

    So, we pray for the dead that God will swiftly cleanse them of those small sins and imperfections that might keep them temporarily from enjoying the glory of heaven.  That, by His Mercy, He might quickly forgive the punishment that is due to their sins in Justice.

    But, we also pray for the dead, that we might receive something for ourselves;  that by reflecting on the realities of life and death, of heaven and hell, we might be more motivated to keep His Commandments and receive His Sacraments in order to ensure our own eternal salvation.  These are things not just to talk about, for they are realities;  we might even say the only realities, for nothing else matters if we lose our souls.

    Finally, we pray for the dead, so that they will pray for us.  The souls in Purgatory need our prayers, for which they are eternally grateful.  Remember that they are God's saints, soon to share the glory of heaven with Him;  powerful intercessors on our behalf.  Let us not forget those who have gone before us, lest they forget to pray for us.


[1]   John xii: 24.

[2]   Apologeticum L: 13.

[3]   Genesis i: 27;  Psalm viii: 6.

[4]   Cf. Genesis ii-iii.

[5]   Mark xvi: 16.

[6]   John xx: 23.

[7]   John vi: 54-57.

[8]   James v: 14-15.

[9]   Matthew 16: 13-20.

[10]   2 Machabees xii: 42-46.

[11]   Matthew xii: 32.


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