WHEN I DIE
When I die, there will be a funeral. Of course, this is quite common among believers, particularly among those affiliated with Christianity. Although, in this present generation some do pass from this world to the next with no celebration whatsoever. On this past Saturday, at the time of the funeral Mass for the late Antonin Scalia, I was celebrating a memorial service myself in our chapel. I did have the opportunity to watch the newscast on his funeral later. I took the time to watch and listen to the entire homily by his son, Father Paul Scalia, who is a member of the diocese of Arlington, Virginia. I was struck by a few items in the 15 minute homily that were noteworthy for me personally.
1. Although there were in attendance many people that we would call important and influential, there were no introductions or speeches, just the Sacrifice of the Mass as we see it on any given day with the homily delivered by his son.
2. “We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.”
I presumed he was referring to his dad, his writings or legal opinions. Wrong! He continued:
3. “We look to Jesus Christ yesterday, that is, to the past, in thanksgiving for the blessings God bestowed upon Dad. In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them. But here today, we recount what God did for Dad, how he blessed him.”
4. “So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant, because he was God’s first.
5. “Dad was a practicing Catholic, not only because he attended Mass and received the Sacraments regularly, but also because he was not perfected in the life of Christ. When he died, he still had not reached that plateau. This is why we ask God’s mercy on my dad, the sinner, so he can rest in peace.”
6. “Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment. So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God’s goodness and mercy to Dad if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives.”
One final thought: funerals are celebrated by the living for the deceased. Those in attendance, while still living, will one day be caucusing in another precinct.
God bless, Fr. John