Funeral Homily-Unity in Christ

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If there is one common theme that runs through the Good News of Christianity, it is Unity. [E.g. The Unity of Mankind; the Unity of God; the Unity of the Soul and Body.]

  • The Psalmist declares (Ps 133:1) “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
  • Genesis, the very first book of our Bible, proclaims the truth that is reaffirmed throughout the Scriptures that we were created in the image and likeness of the Triune God – the God who Himself models the perfect unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into One Indivisible Godhead. As Mp. Kallistos Ware says; “Our God is not a lonely God.” and, as His children, we were similarly born into community.
  • Genesis then goes on to hint at just how radical this fusion of unique individuals into a supernatural community is when it declares that men and women are to cleave unto one another and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This is not simple imagery, nor a simple blessing of marital copulation, but an indicator of this fact: humans were created to share our lives in the most intimate and complete manner.
  • St. Paul makes this meaning clear in his letter to the Ephesians [chapter 5] when he interprets the deeper meaning of Genesis 2:24, saying that we must love not just our husbands and wives as if they were our very selves, but the entire community in this manner.

The theme of Unity is so fundamental to our human constitution that it reverberates and echoes not just through our Christian Tradition, but wherever men and women devote themselves to living well. Though it is perverted and often thwarted by our selfishness and fear, we all long for this kind of mutuality and community. It is what we were made for, and living within it is the only way to find lasting peace and joy.

Why do I speak of this unity at this time? After all, we read Ephesians at weddings, not at Funerals. How can I speak of Unity at this, of all times? I speak of Unity now because I. like St. Paul would not have you ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep. The pain of death is not just caused by the empty space the beloved leaves in our daily lives, but a sense that the natural order has been fundamental corrupted. The visible unity of love – found in your relationship with your departed loved one and experienced through your bonds friendship of family – has been sundered. This, no less than the equally offensive rendering of her soul from her body, strikes us to the very core of our hearts.

The lie of the world is that death is natural. There is nothing natural about it. It is an offense to God and to our humanity. Unity is natural.

Yes, death is offensive and painful. It tears apart things that were meant to grow together in perfection for all eternity. But I thank God for this pain. I thank God for it because it reminds us that we are still human, that we still recognize what we were made for enough to mourn when that purpose seems impossible to realize. I thank God for this pain because so often in our daily lives we accept this thwarting of the natural instinct for community; we have been beaten down by broken families and broken friendships to the point that we no longer notice – much less grieve them. But unrepaired divisions between the living is no less an affront to Unity than death. In fact, it is worse because it is an affront that has been intentionally and willfully committed. So, again, I thank God for this pain because it may awaken out hearts to repentance and the kind of humility that it takes to rebuild our families and communities according to righteousness.

Jesus wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, and we weep at the death of Stephanie. But Jesus did not simply mourn at this offense to His creation: the entire purpose of His Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection was to blot out this offense completely. Through Him every impediment to our Union with one and another and with Him has been removed. There is not sin so great or death so tragic that it cannot be reconciled through Him.

This is why our funeral lament is transformed into the “Alleluia” of joyful praise: Christ is risen from the dead, and through Him death has been vanquished. The possibility of joyful, perfect, and eternal unity is now offered to all of us through Him.

Your departed loved one knew this and embraced it. And now, through the grace and mercy of Christ, she now enjoys a fruit of this embrace – a fruit that hints at the banquet to come when all creation is finally restored completely free from every form of corruption and division.

In conclusion, love and unity – not loneliness and division – are fundamental. They cannot be thwarted by sin or death because Christ has destroyed both. If you accept this Truth and live it – just as your departed loved one did – then you will become one body – one blessed communion – with the perfection and joy that is with one another in Christ. Then our voices will surely proclaim with the Psalmist: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”