So often in our attempts to help and assert some sort of control over what cannot be controlled, we make stupid statements. Statements that seem helpful and comforting on the surface but actually erode the very basis and source of all comfort and peace - God. God is in control, and we are not, and will never be. We just need to admit it, and then subordinate ourselves to His love and mercy. That is what will ultimately offer confort and bring peace, but it isn't our peace, it is the Peace of Our Lord, and it is a peace that transcends all understanding. It's a peace that so many need so desperately but aren't finding. That is in a big way our fault, because instead of offering those suffering a loss what they really need, which is God and the basic Truths of our Faith, we offer statements and ideas that actually negate God and that Truth of our Faith, that is required for peace and comfort. So please, just stop. Here are some of the ones I see over and over again on social media especially. We can do way better than this, and we really need to start.
"Prayers for your family".- this is good, but we really need to take it one step further, we must pray for the deceased. Let's face it, most of us will not go straight to Heaven. Heaven has a pretty high standard most of us will fall short of, thank goodness for Purgatory. Thank goodness God, in His infinite Mercy, has given us this gift. Most of us view Purgatory as a most undesirable place and situation. The thing is, Purgatory is way better than our lives here on Earth. Sure there is intense suffering, but for most of the world, there is intense suffering here no Earth. In Purgatory, we are assured of Heaven, and we are there because we know we owe God reparation. We suffer willingly in Purgatory. We want to be cleansed and purged of our sins and vice. It's awesome. Those in Purgatory suffer because they know what the dire consequences of their sins, even the least egregious ones, and they welcome the chance of reparation. They do need our prayers - that is their way to holiness and redemption. You see, we are all in this together. No sin is private, all sins effect the entire Body of Christ. So, please, pray for the family of the deceased, but don't forget the deceased themselves!
Your loved one would be so pleased with the arrangements - What do you mean they would be pleased, they are pleased! Our deceased loves ones are alive! We do believe in the resurrection of the dead, do we not? Upon death, our deceased loved ones enter into eternity, and become more alive than they were here on Earth. They are present with us always. This is why it is imperative to make sure your deceased loved ones get a proper Funeral Mass. It is alarming how many of us are depriving this to our loved ones in our current culture. This is a grave responsibility. We must ensure our loved ones get access to the Final Sacraments and are granted a proper Funeral Mass, to deprive them of these great gifts, is to deprive them of Graces needed for their journey to Heaven. We will be held accountable. This is imperative!
"He has gained his angel wings". This is the ABSOLUTE worst statement of all! It seems so innocuous, but it isn't. This statement is both heretical and even blasphemous. It isn't just theologically wrong on so many levels, but it actually demotes your loved one to a lesser state of being. How ridiculous is doing that? We do not become angels when we die! Oh, and BTW, we should know that angels are totally spiritual beings, and don't really even have wings, right? As human beings, we are a totally different type of creation and species than an angel. We have bodies, angels do not. We get our bodies back, angels will never have bodies. We are God's masterpiece of creation. Sure, angels have superior power and intellect, but God did not come to redeem the angels. When the angels fell, that was it. The incarnation of God - Jesus Christ - is the single most extraordinary, magnificent thing to ever happen in the eternity and vastness of the universe, even transcending time and space! God did not become an angel to redeem them, but he did become human to redeem us. When we make the statement that someone will "receive their angel wings" we are undeniably denying the magnitude and importance of the incarnation to the universe and to eternity, and for it's purpose to save us, human beings! That is a huge problem. I know, it's a statement meant in good will and with good intentions, but the road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions, isn't it? The incarnation is paramount to all creation - and to all space, time and eternity. Don't undermine it with this stupid sentimental quip. Not to mention, it makes one look pretty ignorant of basic theological and religious Truths and teachings.
"Taken too soon."- This is almost as bad and the angel wing remark. When did it become for us to decide when someone is to be called home, and if that timing is too soon or not? God's timing is perfect! This is for God to determine only. Sure, there are horrible tragedies that take our loved ones far sooner than we would expect, but nothing on the earth, or in the entire universe for that matter, happens outside the will of God. It might be his permissive will, but it is His will, nonetheless Sure is is so difficult, and causes such unimaginable suffering. It becomes a cross. But crosses can lead us to redemption, if accepted, hoisted and carried. It certainly is not easy. God never promised this life would be. As a matter of fact, he promised just the opposite. Remember though, God did not bring death into this world, we did. We get what we deserve. Sometimes is seems unjust, but remember, we must trust that in the long run, and the end, God is Just and we will see His justice and mercy. He is in control. For us to question that, just leads us to despair and does no good at all. It certainly is not Truth, and leads us further away from that Truth, and from the One who is Truth.
"He/She is now in Heaven with the Lord" - This one goes hand in hand with some of these other stupid statements. We don't know our loved ones are with the Lord when they die. Chances are, they have hopefully made their way to Purgatory, where all has been revealed to them, and they know the magnitude and destructiveness of even their most venial sins. They now NEED us to pray for them. Funeral Masses are NOT celebrations of life, they are the opportunity to offer up the most powerful prayer in the universe for the repose of the deceased one's soul. We need to make sure our loved ones receive this most treasured gift. It matters more than anything in life. We don't have the authority or the ability to know the destiny of our loved ones, so we need to stop deeming ourselves gods and making these types or statements. What are not qualified to be canonizing our loved ones. Hopefully, with the Apostolic Pardon, our loved are able to be welcomed into Heaven without a stint in Purgatory, but if they are in Purgatory, they need our prayers. This is such an issue in our times, we are not praying for the dead the way we should be. We need to start flooding Heaven with our prayers for the dead, it is the only way out of Purgatory for them. They appreciate it more than we can know. How genius and awesome is this, that we, as the Church Militant can rescue these Holy Souls and in the process become closer to Christ through our prayers. God is so gracious and actually involves us in the salvation of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Is is unimaginable that God actually allows us to assist him in the salvation of souls. This is what evangelization is. These statements are the opposite of evangelization and actually cause loss of faith and hope, and delegitimize our faith. Please stop. Just say you are sorry, and offer your prayers for the deceased AND his family, and then actually say the prayers. Offer up a Divine Mercy Chaplet for them. Do something that will actually help them, not hinder them and their family toward Heaven. There are so many better ways to express our sorrow and to offer our love and support. Let's offer love and support with substance and depth, not shallow quips that erode the faith and cause more despair.
Please, for the love of our almighty God, stop making these statements!