On Halloween I think it’s appropriate to talk about graves and cemeteries and how we bury dead people. When I was in Spain this fall I visited a church whose churchyard is pictured here. All the rectangular stones you see in the churchyard surrounding the building are grave markers.
The people in this parish in Northern Spain had a tradition of burying people as close to the church as possible. The tradition sprang from their belief that in the resurrection, when Jesus returns and the dead will rise, those buried closest to the church door would be the first to ascend and meet Jesus. Thus, it’s good to get buried as close to the door as possible.
However, not just anyone could get buried in the courtyard. Only the wealthy could afford such a burial place, as the church leaders charged for the privilege. The most expensive spots were right as the base of these red doors. No waiting when Jesus returned.
I’m not sure how those church leaders squared this practice with the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to “sell all you have and give to the poor,” I’m hoping that teaching spurred them to take the funds for that prime gravesite and serve the poor.
I guessing that when these rich folks heard that Jesus said it was harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle, they were thinking that one way to get through that needle was to get close to this church door. Sort of a portal through the eye. Makes you wonder where the widow who gave her two mites would have been buried if she belonged to this congregation?
The struggle with money and how we use it is not new. It has always been a problem, which was why Jesus addressed the topic on multiple occasions. It seems not to have changed much. We still try to buy our way, even in death, closer to the church door.