Special Occasion Homilies
The Purpose of Funeral Service
Christian’s Death is Hopeful.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, death is a means to rise with Christ. Though the soul will depart from the body at the time of death, “It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.” (CCC 1005). “For those who die in Christ’s grace it is a participation in the death of the Lord, so they can also share his Resurrection.” (CCC 1006). So, Christian death has a positive meaning. St. Paul wrote: “I desire greatly to leave this life and to be with Christ, which will be far better.” (Philippians 1:23). Since we have only a limited lifespan, we need to make use of our time efficiently to fulfill our mission here and to enhance spiritual savings for our eternal life.
The Three States of the Church
According to the Catholic teachings, the church has three states, and death is a passage from one state to another. They are: the Church Militant, the Church Penitent, and the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant are the Christians in this world in a spiritual warfare against sin. The Church Penitent are the Christians who have died and are in purgatory, suffering and expecting their full entry into heaven. The Church Triumphant are those who have already reached heaven. They are saints regardless of canonization by the church.
There can be spiritual communication and mutual help of Christians in these three states. The Church Militant and the Church Penitent can pray for each other. We can also offer sacrifices and charitable works in favor of those in the purgatory. As members of the Church Militant, we can honor those in the Church Triumphant, and the saints can intercede for us in heaven. So, we keep praying for the deceased regardless of whether they are in the purgatory or in heaven, especially on their death anniversary, which is their birthday in heaven.
As humans we are weak and sinners. As St. Paul said: “all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The deceased person also needs purification of soul to approach the most Holy Throne of God. So, let us keep our dear deceased person in our daily prayers and offer Holy Mass and charitable works in honor of this person.
REFLECTIONS ON THE SCRIPTURE PASSAGES
Genesis: 49:29-32 Burial is joining with the deceased family.
When Jacob was about to die, he gave a suitable blessing to each of his children and told them: “I am soon to be gathered to my people; bury me near my fathers, in the cave in the field of Ephron, the Hittite.” (v. 29). “It was there that Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah and there too I buried Leah.” (v. 31).
The patriarchs wanted to bury close together based on their belief in the life after death. Now, our deceased person will also be in a grave close to the other deceased family members and parishioners so they all rest together until the second coming of Christ when the Risen Lord will raise them for the last judgement of eternal reward.
Psalm 23. Death is to dwell with the Lord forever.
“The Lord is my shepherd.… I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” The deceased person followed Jesus, the good shepherd. The person will now dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Wisdom 3:1-9 From Suffering to reward.
“But the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they appear to be dead; their departure is held as a disaster, and their going away from us total destruction; but they are in peace.” (v. 1-3).
The sufferings of the righteous are not punishments but opportunities to prove his or her fidelity to God as in the life of Job and many Christians who accepted persecution for their fidelity to Jesus Christ. Now the trial period is over, and God has drawn the person to be with Him for consolation and eternal reward.
Wisdom 4:7-15 Early Death
“The upright, even if he dies before his time, will be at rest. Honorable age does not depend on length of days, nor is the number of years a true measure of life.” (v. 7-8). “There was an upright man, pleasing to God and was loved by him, and while he was living among sinners, he was taken up. God removed him lest evil impair his understanding and treachery seduce his soul. For the fascination of evil obscures true values and restless desire undermines a simple heart. He became perfect in a brief time, and, thus, he fulfilled many years; because his soul was precious to the LORD, he was quickly removed from the wickedness around him. People saw but did not understand, and it did not strike them.” (v. 10-14)
We do not evaluate life based on how long a person lived, but on how productive the person was during the God-given lifetime. Let us also make sure we live a fruitful life according to the teachings of Jesus. Our time to do good will be over within a brief period unknown to us.
Daniel 12: 1-3 Resurrection of the Dead to a heavenly glory.
“At that time, Michael will rise, the Great Commander who defends your people. It shall be a time of anguish as never occurred before since the beginning of the nations until this day. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is written in the Book – will be saved. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life but others to eternal horror and shame.” (vs. 1-2)
Even during the Old Testament times, God revealed the resurrection of the dead and last judgement based on our covenantal relationship with God. According to the prophecy of Daniel, during the end times of the big tribulation, Archangel Michael shall protect the faithful whose names are written in the Book of Life. Those who have slept in Christ shall come back to life for an everlasting life.
“Those who acquired wisdom will shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament; those who taught people to be just will shine like the stars for all eternity.” (v. 3). Daniel, in his vision, saw two special categories of people who will enjoy glory in heaven. The first category is those with insight. Daniel 11:33 clarifies who are those with insight: “The most intelligent among the people will teach many, but they will fall by the sword or be burned or exiled or plundered of their goods for some time.” They are good Christians who set an excellent example to others through their words and deeds and even face persecution for the sake of their Christian witnessing. Such people will shine as bright as the sky.
Those in the second special category, whom God would specially reward in heaven, are those who lead many to righteousness. They lead a righteous life like Abel (Hebrews 11:4), Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), Noah (Genesis 6:9), Abraham (James 2:21), Lot (Gen. 18:24, 2Peter 2:7-9), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Deut. 18:13), Priest Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-6), Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19), Simeon (Luke 2:25), John the Baptist (Mark 6:20), Apostle Paul (1Thess. 2:10), and many other Biblical characters and Christian saints. Since they led many to righteousness through their exemplary life, they will shine like the stars forever in heaven.
Let us wish and pray that our deceased person shall one day rise to see God face to face and to shine like the heavens and the stars in eternal glory. Let us also lead a life of righteousness and lead others to the justice of the Lord so our names shall also be in the Book of Life and that we shall rise to a life of heavenly glory.
2 Maccabees 12:39-46 Sacrifice for the deceased.
During the Maccabean war against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on the Jewish life, Judas Maccabeus and his companions collected the bodies of those killed in the war. While preparing to bury their bodies with their relatives in their ancestral tombs, they found under their tunic sacred tokens of Jamnia’s idols that were forbidden for the Jews. Then people realized that the death happened because of their sin.
Judas took a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to 2,000 silver drachmas. He sent that money to Jerusalem to provide for the sin offering. “They did all this very well and rightly inspired by their belief in the resurrection of the dead. If they did not believe that their fallen companions would rise again, then it would have been a useless and foolish thing to pray for them. But, they firmly believed in a splendid reward for those who died as believers; therefore, their concern was holy and in keeping with faith. Thus, Judas had this sacrifice offered for the dead, so that the dead might be pardoned for their sin.” (v. 43-46).
Let us also offer Holy Mass, the perfect sacrifice Jesus offers, for the deceased person. Our prayers and offerings for charity are helpful for the deceased person, and the person would appreciate that.
Matthew 25: 1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins.
“Stay awake, for you do not know the day or the hour.” (V. 13). We do not know when our Lord will call us back from this life. We cannot behave like the five foolish virgins. They had the lamp with them but were imprudent to disregard the oil. God has given us the Christian life, which is the lamp for our life. We are responsible to make it useful by carrying the oil of good works and a life of grace. The deceased person has gained plenty of oil in his / her life. Let us also be awake with the oil of sacramental life and charitable deeds to receive our Savior who can call us at any time.
Matthew 25:14-30 The Parable of the Talents.
A rich man who went for a lengthy journey entrusted his servants with five talents, two talents and one talent according to their ability. By the time the master returned, the first two multiplied what they had received. The third one hid his talent underground and produced nothing out of it. When asked for his account, he even made negative remarks on the master. The master admitted the first two into his joy, whereas he threw the third one into darkness.
Jesus, after redeeming us through his self-sacrifice, went to heaven. He has entrusted us with different gifts and opportunities to build up our Christian virtues and to develop his church under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He will return in glory to judge us based on how we use our talents, and to take us to his eternal reward. Are we hiding our resources or misusing them? Are we criticizing the Lord or his representatives? Like the deceased person, let us make use of every opportunity to multiply our spiritual talents for God and his people.
Matthew 25:31-46 The Judgment of the Nations.
All people will face the last judgement at Jesus’s second coming. He will separate those who deserve reward and punishment depending on how they treated others in Jesus’ name. Our material savings and worldly achievements would not count. Our religious practices should reflect in our dealings with others.
When a person dies, the relatives and friends would be interested in expressing the outstanding things the person did and kind words he or she said. So, let us be caring for others in Jesus’ name. The questions for the last test are already available in Matthew 25:31-46, and we must answer them in action in this life.
Luke 7: 11-17 Raising of the Widow’s Son.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus raised three people from dead: Lazarus (John 11:1-44), the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43; Matthew 9:18–26; Luke 8:40–56), and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Later, Jesus himself rose from the dead on the third day. All these are manifestations of Jesus’ power over death.
We, who believe in Jesus’s redemption, hope that one day Jesus will raise us also from the dead. That resurrection differs from the resurrection of Lazarus, daughter of Jairus, and son of the widow in Nain. Their regaining of life was temporary, and so they died again. However, our resurrection will be for an eternal life of reward with Jesus if we keep the Word of God in our lives. So, let us keep up our faith in the Lord and hope for a life of joy with Jesus. The Christians consider death as a dormition and not as an end of life forever.
Luke 12: 35-40 Vigilant and Faithful Servants.
Jesus warns that his disciples should “Be ready, dressed for service, and keep your lamps lit, like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding. As soon as he comes and knocks, they will open to him.” (vs. 35-36). The master can come at any time; and so is death in our life. “If the master of the house had known at what time the thief would come, he would not have let him break into his house.” (v. 39).
Though Jesus used these two examples in the context of the second coming of Christ, it also applies to death. The importance is on the unexpected time of arrival, and the need of being vigilant and responsible in our Christian duty.
John 5: 24-29 Promise of eternal life.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; and there is no judgement for him because he has passed from death to life. Truly, the hour is coming and has indeed come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (vs. 24-25). When we believe in God, the Father based on the words of Jesus, we have already become eligible for eternal life. By the sacrament of baptism and reception of the Holy Spirit, we have gained a spiritual resurrection. Thus, Jesus freed us from the original sin or spiritual death. He has gained us salvation by offering his life as a ransom for our mortality. Baptism gained the deceased person the spiritual resurrection and the Holy Eucharist has been nourishing his (her) soul for eternal life.
Jesus continued saying: “And he has empowered him as well to carry out judgement, for he is the Son of Man. Do not be surprised at this; the hour is coming when all those lying in tombs will hear his voice and come out; those who have done good shall rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (vs. 27-29). The first arrival of Jesus as a human was to redeem us, and his second coming will be to judge us. Jesus who has risen from the dead will raise us from the tombs at his second coming.
Though Jesus has freed us from the original sin through baptism, God continues to give us freedom to do good. If we misuse it like the first parents at the promptings of the evil one, we will again fall into condemnation. Like the deceased person whom we honor today, let us involve in doing as much good as we can for God and his people based on the teachings of Jesus.
John 6: 37-40 Jesus assured resurrection and eternal life.
Jesus is God’s gift to humanity for our salvation. He continues to protect us and assures our resurrection and life everlasting. Jesus said, “The will of him who sent me is that I lose not one of what he has given me, but instead that I raise them up on the last day. This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (vs. 39-40). Thus, Jesus has assured that, at his second coming, he will raise those who believe in him. Like the deceased person, let us keep up our faith in Jesus and practice it in our lives.
John 6:51-58 Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.
Jesus, besides dying himself to restore us from spiritual death, continues to give his body and blood during every Holy Mass as our spiritual nourishment. He contrasted it with manna that God gave for 40 years to feed the Israelites during their life in the desert. Though God gave manna from heaven, it was only for physical nourishment to keep them alive.
Jesus said: “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I shall give is my own flesh and I will give it for the life of the world.” (v. 51). Thus, Jesus gives his flesh as “the living bread,” descended from heaven, and can give eternal life for the world. Jesus continued: “I am telling you the truth, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (vs. 53-54). Like baptism, reception of the Holy Eucharist is also a requirement for eternal life. Jesus also assured that he will raise from the dead, those who had received his flesh and blood, to a joyful eternal life. Just as manna helped the Israelites to remain alive so they could enter the promised land, the Holy Eucharist helps us to enter the new promised land, heaven.
John 11: 32-45 Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus and raising him from the tomb.
Though Jesus had risen the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18–26, Luke 8:40–56) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), raising Lazarus from the tomb was a different experience for the public. Unlike the other two cases, Jesus wept with the family, taking part in their grief. Besides, he waited until the fourth day after death to raise Lazarus from the tomb. These show the human and divine sides of Jesus.
As a human, Jesus wanted to empathize with Martha and Mary who, along with Lazarus, had been close to Jesus. This response of Jesus shows that it is acceptable to weep at the death of a loved one even though we have the hope in the resurrection because Jesus knew that he would regain the life of Lazarus. However, first he wanted to share in the family’s grief.
Lazarus remaining in the tomb for over three days and then restoring his life was a prefiguration of Jesus’ resurrection. The difference is that Jesus rose from the dead with his own divine power. Though the resurrection of Lazarus was for a temporary life that would lead to a second death, the resurrection that Jesus promised to us is for an eternal life with God. So, those who are faithful to God following the teachings of Jesus can face death like going to bed hoping to wake up from the sleep. Jesus has promised that he will wake us up from our tomb on the last day to reward us in eternity.
John 14: 1-6 “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”
According to the Jewish wedding custom during the Biblical times, the groom and the bride will have betrothal before their wedding that is a binding covenant. The groom will then leave the bride and go to his father’s house. He will prepare an additional room there as a dwelling for both to live together after marriage.
Jesus, who rescued his bride, the church from Satan through his self-sacrifice, went to his Father’s house in heaven to prepare dwellings for his disciples. He assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he will come again to take the faithful members of the church to heaven to dwell with him forever. We the Christians remain faithful to our master with the hope of his glorious return to take us to heaven. Let us lead our deceased person, who lived according to Christian faith, to the tomb, the temporary dwelling place of his body, until the last day when Jesus will come to call us all to enter the eternal home in heaven.
Acts 7:55-56 Vision of St. Stephen before his death.
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, ‘Look!’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”
Though Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father, Stephen, at the time of his martyrdom, saw Jesus standing to welcome him to heaven. For the one who lives a life of Christian witnessing will have such an experience. Let us pray that Jesus welcomes our dear deceased person likewise to heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:9-20 Gold, Silver and Precious stones Vs Wood, Hay and Straw.
St. Paul compared our Christian life to a building. He and the other apostles were God’s coworkers who built on Jesus Christ’s foundation. “Then if someone builds with gold upon this foundation, another with silver and precious stones, or with wood, bamboo or straw, the work of each one will be shown for what it is. The day of judgement will reveal it, because the fire will make everything known. The fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” (vs. 12-13). The wood, hay, and straw that are perishable in fire stand for worldly life or life based on false doctrines. At the last stage of destruction of the impurities of the world, Jesus will destroy them in fire. St. Paul compares gold, silver, and precious stones like marble adorned beautiful mansions and the Temple during the Biblical times to the faith-based life of Christians. They will withstand fire and will shine more, free from any impurities. Gold and silver are purified and reshaped in fire. “If the work one has done withstands the fire, he will be rewarded;” (v. 14). Let us build our life also on the solid foundation of Jesus and live according to the genuine Christian doctrines, so we receive our wage in heaven.
St. Paul continues: “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes.” (vs. 18-19a). Are we living a life based on the “foolish” wisdom of this world or the true wisdom of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
2 Corinthians 4:14 – 5:1 God who raised Jesus will raise us also from the dead.
Jesus’ resurrection is a sure guarantee that we have a life after death. The Father who raised Jesus will raise us also and place us in the divine presence in heaven. Paul wants us to give importance to our inner self rather than our perishable outer body. We must look for the life in eternity. Our dwelling in this world is temporary and perishable, like our human body. “We know that when our earthly dwelling, our body here on earth, is destroyed, we may count on a building from God, a heavenly dwelling not built by human hands that lasts forever.” (5:1). Even though our deceased person is bidding farewell to his house now, he will dwell in the heavenly abode that Jesus has prepared for him (her) based on his (her) faithfulness to the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Death as a sleep
Death, for us Christians, is only a dormition waiting for Jesus to wake us up on his second coming. Though separation through death causes grief for the family and friends of the deceased, we should differ from the non-believers who have no hope in the life after death. God the Father sent his Son to redeem us. He who raised Jesus from the dead will not let us perish but will revive our body and reunite it with our soul by sending his Son again to the world for separation of the good from the evil and to judge all based on their merits and demerits.
St. Paul presents the second coming of Christ and the subsequent events: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet call of God. And those who have died in Christ will rise first; then we who are still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we shall be with the Lord forever.” (vs. 16-17). Therefore, Paul advises that we console one another at the death of the loved one with the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal reward that we expect.
1 John 3 14-16 Lay down lives for others to inherit eternal life.
Love, according to Jesus, is the sum and substance of the Law and Prophets. When we love others, we pass from death to life. “Whoever does not love remains in death. He who hates his brother is a murderer.” (vs. 14b-15a). Such a person cannot inherit the eternal reward (v. 15b). Jesus set us an example by laying down his life for us. St. John says: “We, too, ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (v. 16).
In practical Christian life, we see parents laying down their lives for their children, and missionaries laying down their lives for the people entrusted to their care. Imitating the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for mankind’s salvation, let us also dedicate our lives for others out of our love for Jesus.
Revelation 14: 13-20
According to the Book of Revelation, John “heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Happy from now are the dead who die in the Lord.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘let them rest from their labors, since their good works go with them.’” (v. 13).
If we die in the Lord, God will bless us. Through death, He calls us to rest from our labors. Our works, good or bad, accompany us to the heavens. So, Jesus judge us based on the charitable deeds we have done or the sins of omission and the sins we have committed. Let us pray that the Lord reward the deceased person considering the good works he (she) had done in his (her) life.
Revelation 21: 1-7 A new heaven and a new earth.
According to the Book of Revelation, John “saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” (v. 1).
We, the Christians, are looking forward to this new heaven and new earth that is perfect as it was before the fall of Adam and Eve. Let us entrust the deceased person to the care of God until we all join with all the deceased in the new heaven and new earth that Jesus will govern.
John continues in the Book of Revelation: “I heard a loud voice coming from the throne, saying: ‘Look, God’s home is among human beings. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death, and no more mourning or crying or pain, for those old things have all passed away.” (vs. 3-4). Let us console one another with the hope of that time when there will be no more death, mourning, and pain. Let us keep up our faith to dwell with God for ever.
FROM THE LIVES OF SAINTS
Story of St. Thomas building a palace for King Gundaphorus.
A third century Syriac writing, known as the Acts of Thomas, presents a story on the missionary work of Thomas in India. According to the legend, the apostles drew lots to divide the world for their missionary work. Thomas got India by the lot and he was reluctant to go there. However, Jesus appeared to him in a vision and reassured him of his support. Meanwhile, Abbanes, a merchant and representative of the Indo-Parthian king Gundaphorus, came to Jerusalem searching for a carpenter to build a palace for his king in India. Jesus appeared to Abbanes and “sold” Thomas as a carpenter. Thomas, realizing the wish of Jesus, went to India with Abbanes. The King Gundaphorus was the ruler of present Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sind from the year 20 to 46 A.D.
Gundaphorus entrusted a good amount of money to Thomas to build a magnificent palace for him. Thomas preached the gospel and helped the poor with the money he received from the king. Realizing that Thomas was “misusing” his money and not building the palace, the king summoned Thomas and questioned him. Thomas replied that he was building the palace in heaven with the money and the king can occupy it after his death. The king who assumed Thomas was cheating on him, imprisoned Thomas.
While Thomas was in prison, the king’s brother Gad died. Realizing that Thomas was a miracle worker, king brought Thomas from prison to pray at the body of his brother. At the prayer of Thomas, Gad came back to life. He explained to the king that while lifeless; he saw a beautiful palace that Thomas built in heaven for the king. King Gundaphorus prostrated in front of Thomas and apologized for his mistake. This incident led to the king’s conversion and many people in his kingdom.
When we use our time, talents, and resources for the building up of the Kingdom of God, including the building up of our Christian families and doing acts of mercy, we are building our permanent residence in heaven. Let up hope and pray that God has prepared a splendid mansion in heaven for this deceased person, using the savings he gained in heaven through his earthly works of love and compassion.
St. Anthony and the Miser’s Heart (For a charitable person).
Among the many stories of miracles associated with St. Anthony, a famous one is “The Miser’s Heart.” Once the funeral of a rich man was taking place in the city of Tuscany. Seeing the solemn funeral, Anthony said that the dead man did not deserve such an honor because he loved money and exploited the poor. Quoting Jesus’ words, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21), Anthony commented: “His heart is in his money-box.” Anthony’s words upset the family and friends of the deceased. They wanted to prove otherwise. They hired a surgeon who cut open the dead body. To their surprise, the heart was missing. Then the family found his heart in his treasure box.
Since our deceased person was very much involved in charitable works, his treasure is in heaven. So, we can say that his heart is not here but with God.
GRIEF OF A MOTHER
Blessed Virgin Mary lost her husband Joseph before the public ministry of Jesus. She lost her only son Jesus when he was 33. She also saw the humiliating and tragic journey of her son carrying the cross to Calvary and his crucifixion and burial.
GRIEF OF A FATHER
David’s son from Bathsheba became ill. David pleaded with God on behalf of the child by fasting and spending the night lying on the ground clothed in sackcloth. The child died on the seventh day. Then, “David rose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He entered the house of the LORD and worshipped. After that, he went to his own house, asked for food and ate it.” (2Samuel 12:20). When David’s servants asked for his change of behavior at the death of the child, David answered: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, thinking: ‘Who knows? Perhaps the LORD will be kind to me and let my child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back to life? I can go to him but he cannot return to me.” (2Samuel 12:22-23).
According to the Book of Ecclesiastes there is, “a time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.” (3:4). When the deceased person was sick and needed help, the family and friends extended maximum help. Now is the time to relax and pray for the person. Like King David said, by our grief and suffering, the deceased person will not return to us; but we shall later join the deceased person.
MURDER / TRAGIC DEATH
Death of Abel: Abel was innocent and offered sacrifice pleasing to God. His own brother killed him when he was 122 years old. During that pre-flood time, people had a long life, even over 900 years. Adam died when he was 930 years old (Genesis 5:5) and Methuselah, the oldest man, lived 969 years (Genesis 5: 27). Abel’s murder was the first and tragic death experience of his parents, Adam and Eve. However, they could console believing that Abel was pleasing and acceptable to God.
Holy Innocents: When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of a King of Jews, he wanted to kill Infant Jesus. He ordered execution of all male children two years or less near Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). Though it was a sad experience to the children and their parents, they are martyrs for Christ. They died instead of Christ, even before Jesus died for all humanity. Jesus asked his disciples to be like little children. They are pleasing to Jesus. Our deceased child is now like an angel in heaven.
Christian life in this world is militant. God calls some good people to heaven at an early age to be free from struggles of this life.
Biblical Characters who Died at an Early Age.
Abel, whose sacrifice was pleasing to God, had an early death at 122 when people used to live over 900 years. Even that death was a murder from his own brother Cain whom he did not hurt at all.
During the pre-deluge period, people had a lifespan of over 900 years. However, God took Enoch, a righteous man, to heaven at 365 (Genesis 5:23).
The Jews crucified Jesus when he was only 33. His mother Mary was witness to his humiliating and dreadful crucifixion.
Saints who were Martyred or Died Young.
Many saints and martyrs died at an early age. Below are some saints or martyrs who died below 25 years of age:
St. Jacinta Marto (March 5, 1910 – February 20, 1920) died at 10 due to influenza just three years after seeing visions of an angel and Our Lady while tending sheep in Fatima, Portugal.
St. Francisco Marto (June 11, 1908 – April 4, 1919) died at 11 due to influenza. He was a sibling of St. Jacinta. Both had a vision of Our Lady of Fatima along with Late St. Lucy.
St. Maria Goretti (1890 – 1902) martyred at 11. While she was alone, a teenage boy named Alessandro tried to rape her. When she refused, he stabbed her 14 times. At the hospital, she forgave him before dying. Alessandro repented soon.
Blessed Laura Vicuña (1891 – 1904) died at 12 because of pulmonary tuberculosis. Physical abuse by her mother’s boss had weakened her.
St. Tarcisius (263 – 275) died in Rome at 12. When he was transporting the Holy Eucharist, gang boys asked for it. When he refused it, they attacked him. He is known as a “martyr of the Eucharist.”
St. Dymphna (Seventh century) was martyred at 14. She was the daughter of a petty king in Ireland. After her mother’s death, her father became mentally ill and wanted to marry her. She fled to Belgium. Her father found and beheaded her.
St. Kizito (1872 – June 3, 1886) was martyred at 14. He was the youngest of the martyrs of Uganda and was burned alive for his faith.
St. Dominic Savio (1842 – 1857) died at 14. Church canonized him because of his pious life. He had an intense love of God and performed many miracles.
St. Stanislaus Kostka (1550 – 1568) died at 17 because of an unknown illness. He suffered physical abuses from his elder brother.
St. Pedro Calungsod (1654 – 1672) was martyred at 17. He was a missionary in Guam, ministering to the Chamorro people. He was pierced by a spear, cut down by a cutlass, and flung into the sea. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in 2012.
St. Catherine of Alexandria (c. 287 – c. 305) was martyred at 18. She was of noble birth and was a notable scholar in the sciences and Christianity. Emperor Maximinus let her debate with his top men, but they could not defeat her. That led the conversion of some to Christianity. The emperor martyred the new converts. The furious emperor beheaded Catherine.
Blessed Chiara Badano (1971 – 1990) died at 18 because of a rare form of bone cancer, osteogenic sarcoma. She wanted to offer her sufferings for Jesus Christ and so refused morphine. She maintained her joyful conduct, keeping other patients happy until her death.
St. Teresa of the Andes (1900 – 1920) died at that age of 19 from typhus. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun in Chile and lived her life with a complete love for God.
St. Agatha of Sicily (c. 231 – c.251) died at 20 because of torture from a man who wanted to marry her. She was a Roman noblewoman who consecrated her virgin life for Christ.
St. Lucy (c. 283 – 304) was martyred at 21 during reign of the Emperor Diocletian because she declined to renounce her Christian faith. Lucy is a widely revered virgin martyr of the Early Church.
St. Perpetua (c. 181 – c. 203) was martyred at 22. Though her father pleaded with her to renounce her faith, she refused to do so. She was thrown into wild beasts and killed by the sword.
St. John Berchmans (1599 – 1621) died at 22 because of the Roman fever. He had joined Jesuits and had a deep love for being an altar server.
St. Germaine Cousin (1579 – 1601) died at 22. She was born with a deformed hand and tuberculosis called scrofula. She had to live as a shepherdess, sleeping each night in a stable. Her father wanted her to do so, to protect his other children. The villagers and her own stepmother treated her with cruelty because of her deep love for God.
St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows (1838 – 1862) died at 23 because of tuberculosis. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.
St. Clelia Barbieri (1847 – 1870) died at 23. She founded the Congregation of the Sisters Minims of Our Lady of Sorrows at 21. She is the youngest founder of a religious community in the history of the Catholic Church. Her congregation continues to serve the poor in Italy, India, and Tanzania.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568 – 1591) died at 23. He was born in an aristocratic family and could inherit his father’s title as Marquis of Castiglione. However, he wanted to join Jesuits after reading about Jesuit missionaries in India. He renounced his noble inheritance and joined Jesuits at 17. He died because of caring for the victims of a serious epidemic while he was a student at the Roman College,
Blessed Isidore Bakanja (c. 1887 – 1909) died at the age between 19-24. While working for a colonist on a rubber plantation, the owner brutally beat him for his Christian faith. He suffered agonizing pain from his wounds for 6 months. Isidore forgave the man: “Certainly I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207 – 1231) died at 24. She was a princess with a great love for the Lord and for the poor. She built a hospital after her husband’s death where she treated the sick herself.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901 – 1925) died at 24. He continuously helped the poor and contracted polio. He died on July 4, 1925.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha (c. 1656 – 1680) died at 24. She was Native American and a new convert to Catholicism at 19. Her tribe rejected her. She kept up her faith.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897) died at 24. Overcoming many obstacles, she became a Carmelite nun at 15. She is famous for her “Little Way,” where one does everything out of great love.