Monday, February 27, 2012

No Weddings and Three Funerals

We had three funerals to attend three days in a row last week, all for the parents of friends or family who had died - two Catholic funerals and one Protestant.

The Protestant funeral was at an "African American" church in North St. Louis County. My wife and I were pretty much the only white people in attendance.

The service was astonishingly different from the Catholic Mass - and more improvised than anything.

The best way I can describe it is that even though we have Jesus physically present at the altar in our Masses, we approach Him in an indirect and round-about way. But these black worshippers, in a church where Jesus was not physically among them, went for Him directly and without a trace of reticence or self-consciousness.

The main sermon was by an eighty-year old woman, the pastor of the church, who was quite compelling and fascinating to listen to.

Oddly, though this was clearly a church in the "Bible Only" tradition, much of this lady's sermon had nothing to do with Scripture. For instance, she assured her listeners that at the Judgment Seat, Jesus will judge only Christians and will send all of them to heaven; also, she made sure we understood that there are several "crowns" that we could win in the afterlife, with the "crown of glory" going to all clergy. Of course, neither of these assertions has any Scriptural warrant whatsoever.

And yet this darling woman got the heart of it right.

I have never heard anyone speak about the two Great Commandments - Love God with all your Heart, Mind and Strength, and Love your Neighbor as Yourself - with more assurance and heartfelt sincerity.

And this was a wonderfully refreshing and good thing to see.

Let us remember that our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, though they are missing the fullness of the Sacraments and of Catholic teaching, nevertheless can sometimes get the heart of the matter more right than we do.

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