Earlier this past summer, I was riding shotgun in the lead vehicle of a funeral procession — a position I quite commonly find myself in. In general, the reactions we receive are pretty unsightly, but this particular reaction was especially thought-provoking. The funeral director had slowly pulled into what can be a busy intersection, with his lights flashing, and got the other drivers’ attentions who were crossing perpendicular to us. As we proceeded through the intersection with the rest of the funeral procession in tow, a lady with her window down had some few choice phrases that she evidently felt the need to hurl at us. She concluded with, “That is a good way to get a lot of people killed.”
Forgetting the irony of cautioning people in the funeral business about the sudden increase in business, I began to reflect on many of the various reactions that we get when riding in a funeral procession. People shout not nice things or slam on the gas to get ahead of us or turn quickly before we get to them — all to avoid a few seconds of inconvenience or to gain a couple of seconds on their way to get wherever they are going. Now, I am not saying that some may not seriously and urgently need to get where they are going, but I think that most suffer from the same thing as I do — an inability to see beyond my own needs and a feeling of entitlement to time.
On another such occasion, when some gentleman gesticulated wildly toward us, we mused that perhaps he was contemplating his own mortality, or perhaps he was recognizing that there would come a time when he was himself in a funeral procession, either in support of a loved one or as the featured passenger. Maybe he was realizing that he had better get right with God so that he could meet Him on friendly terms and he was upset that he couldn’t get to confession more quickly. On the other hand, maybe he was just upset that we were in his way.
We may never know, but the next time you are slowed down by a funeral procession, how about praying for the dead? Pray for the family who has lost their loved one. Pray for your own family. Pray about our own funeral procession. How do you hope someone responds to your loved one or to you?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus comes upon a funeral procession. He stops everything and shows pity for the mother walking next to her deceased son. He restores him to her by bringing him back from the dead. Now there is a story of God’s mercy that we are meant to imitate. Do we pray for our dead? Do we pray that one day we all be reunited at the wedding feast of the Lamb? Our spiritual works of mercy bring aid, comfort or relief to the spiritual sufferings of others. Our prayers help those who have died like waves that push a boat toward shore. However, like most of the spiritual works of mercy, our acts of mercy also bring aid, comfort, and relief to us. Don’t believe me? Try praying for the dead when you are stopped by a funeral procession and notice how the frustration at the loss of time evaporates, and how prayer brings both aid to the deceased and peace to you.
Father Justin J. Kizewski
Pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Chippewa Falls and St. Bridget Parish in Springfield