Scripture tells us that before the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea was “secretly a disciple of Jesus.” When he gave his own tomb for burial of the Lord’s body, his secret was out. So it is for us.
It’s impossible to keep secret our faith and hope in the Resurrection when we reverence the dead bodies of loved ones with Christian burial. Director of Associated Catholic Cemeteries Rich Peterson said in a recent message that the human body, in life and death, is sacred, “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
We need our sacred places — our temples — to give praise, to give thanks and to remember. So we treat the temple of life, the human body, with the dignity and respect fitting to the sacred.
November is a time set aside for remembering and honoring the dead — official saints as well as those holy men and women we have known and loved. You will find the names of local priests, deacons and religious who have died during the past year. Please take a moment this month to remember them in prayer.
That’s what Marcus Daly, aka the coffinmaker, does when he crafts vessels to carry loved ones to their final rest. His simple yet dignified caskets urge us, in an age of scattered ashes, to remember that “we are incarnational people.” As Peterson says, no matter how scattered our culture becomes, “The ultimate sign of God’s presence in human history for a person of faith is the humanity” — the body — “of Jesus Christ.”
That sign nourishes us in this life with hope for the next. This central mystery — that our salvation is dependent on the incarnate, crucified and resurrected body of Jesus the Christ — is taken up by columnist Mark Shea.
Perhaps St. Joseph of Arimathea is worthy of particular acknowledgement in this month of saints and souls. It is, after all, thanks to the corporal work of mercy by this “secret disciple” that the sacred temple of our savior’s body was placed lovingly where our salvation might be revealed.
Northwest Catholic - November 2016
Greg Magnoni was the founding editor and associate publisher of Northwest Catholic until 2018.