"Give Me the Works,
by James G. McCarthy
I recently attended the funeral Mass of a dear Catholic lady. It
was a sad occasion. In the last weeks of her life, I had tried
to share the good news of Jesus Christ with her. I told her of
God's free offer of eternal life and encouraged her to read the
Gospel of John, supplying her with a Bible. She said she
believed in Christ, but I had my doubts. When she was asked
about salvation, her reply was always a confused mixture of
Christ and self, faith and works, grace and merit. The Bible I
had given her was never opened. Nevertheless, when a person is
dying, one hopes for the best, knowing God to be gracious and
What little confidence I had that she might personally know
Christ evaporated at her funeral. Father Harry, her parish
priest, told the congregation of his last visit to see her. He
was struck by how she had boldly faced death. As he entered her
room, she looked him straight in the eye, saying, "I know I am
dying. I have only a short time to live." She then made her last
request, saying, "Give me the works, Father."
Father Harry knew exactly what she meant: confession, communion,
and the anointing of the sick. The trilogy of sacraments known
as the Last Rites. "The works," as she put it.
Sadly, in Father Harry's report of their conversation, there was
no mention of the Worker, the Lord Jesus who gave His life for
us on the cross. There was no reference to His finished work or
of God's free offer of salvation. No, the priest gave her what
she requested, "the works," and she died peacefully a few days
later, thinking she was right with God. As with so many
Catholics, the sacraments of the Church had lulled her into a
false confidence, and she quietly slipped into the next life and
the judgment that awaits.
Her funeral clearly presented Rome's false gospel, as does every
Catholic funeral Mass.
Even the Scripture readings used in
the rite can be misleading.
I remember my mother's funeral. My family asked if I would be
willing to read the Scriptures. It was a kind, well-intentioned
gesture, my family being fully aware of my rejection of the
Roman Catholic faith. I wanted to honour my mother and please my
family, but not willing to participate in a Catholic Mass, I had
Some were angered, but I held my ground. I could not take part
in a Catholic Mass even by reading the Scriptures. The
unbiblical worship of bread and wine and the alleged sacrifice
of Christ for the sins of the living and the dead that take
place at every Mass precluded my participation.
My mother's funeral confirmed that I had made the right
decision. There I learned that the "Scriptures" I had been asked
to read weren't Scriptures at all. They were the Catholic
Apocrypha, having been selected from the Book of Wisdom. The
passage heralded Rome's false gospel that good people go to
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the
torment of death shall not touch them. In the sight of the
unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken from
misery: And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but
they are in peace. And though in the sight of men they suffer
torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in a few
things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath
tried them, and found them worthy of himself. (Wisdom 3:1-5)
The inspired Scriptures speak to the contrary: No one is
personally worthy of God (Romans 3:10-12). It is only in Christ
that one can stand blameless before a holy God and be accepted
(Ephesians 1:3-8; Jude 24).
I thank God that despite the false gospel proclaimed at my
mother's Catholic funeral, she died with a true knowledge of
both her own sinfulness and God's perfect solution. In the weeks
preceding her death, she had put her faith in Christ who died
for her, taking her punishment (Mark 10:45). Shortly before my
mother died, she carefully wrote out a sinner's prayer. Her hope
was that her family would clearly know where the hope of
salvation lay. It read:
Lord Jesus! I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my
sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Savior
and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Take control of my
life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
That this is not the Roman Catholic gospel can be clearly seen
in the Church's funeral liturgy. There eternal salvation is
presented as a merited reward to be received by worthy people.
Consider, for example, the selection of prayers provided by the
Catholic Church to tailor the funeral rite to the particular
circumstances of the deceased. If the person (we will call him
John) had been a Catholic priest, the liturgy instructs the
minister conducting the funeral to pray:
Lord God, you chose our brother John to serve your people as a
priest and to share the joys and burdens of their lives. Look
with mercy on him and give him the reward of his labours, the
fullness of life promised to those who preach your holy Gospel.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer asks God to give the deceased priest what he
deserves, "the reward of his labours,
the fullness of life."
Should the deceased be even more deserving, a bishop, for
example, the liturgy instructs
the minister to pray:
Almighty and merciful God, eternal Shepherd of your people,
listen to our prayers and grant that your servant, John, our
bishop, to whom you entrusted the care of this Church, may enter
the joy of his eternal Master, there to receive the rich reward
of his labours. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is another give-him-what-he-deserves prayer, asking God to
allow the bishop to ". . . enter the joy of his eternal Master,
there to receive the rich reward of his labours."
kind of prayer is found in the funeral rite of a pope:
O God, from whom the just receive an unfailing reward, grant
that your servant John, our Pope, whom you made vicar of Peter
and shepherd of your Church, may rejoice forever in the vision
of your glory, for he was a faithful steward here on earth of
the mysteries of your forgiveness and grace. We ask this through
Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer asks God to grant the deceased pope the reward of
rejoicing forever "in the vision of your glory." The pope should
receive this privilege not because he trusted the blood of
Christ to save him, but because the deceased pope "was a
One might wonder what the writers of the liturgy would do if
called upon to compose a prayer for the funeral of a genuine,
poor lost sinner with no merits of his own. Ironically, the
funeral liturgy provides one such prayer. It is for a person who
has ended his life by his own hand.
Suicide is generally
considered to be a mortal sin. The prayer reads:
God, lover of souls, you hold dear what you have made and spare
all things, for they are yours. Look gently on your servant
John, and by the blood of the cross forgive his sins and