Saturday, March 19, 2016
Hope will not disappoint us. . .
If you have any time, watch Antonin Scalia's funeral and pay close attention to the sermon by his son, Fr. Paul Scalia. Everyone knows that the Judge had some judging words about funerals and some rather pointed thoughts about what should happen. His son did a laudable job of making the sermon and the funeral about Jesus Christ and not about the prominent life and very public accomplishments of Nino Scalia. Neither did he reduce it all to mere sentimentality as a family gathered to remember and give thanks for the private life of this public man. For his family, especially for his father, Fr. Scalia made it about Jesus.
We have so often seen funerals stripped of the confident hope, the significant rituals, and the pointed words of Scripture on the death and resurrection of Him who holds for us a future death cannot overcome. Perhaps it is because we are no longer sure or certain of the hope that is within us. We as a nation and culture have raised doubting to the top of the list of virtues and have sacrificed one objective truth after another on the altar of personal preference and choice. It stands to reason that at life's end we would refuse even to resurrect one jot or iota of confidence. But that is exactly what the old rites of burial did. They acknowledged the reality of death, they honored the pain of those who gathered to bury, and the drew us all to the one voice whose comfort addresses a future and not merely past memories recalled.
This is the most profound and poignant gift of the resurrection. We do not deify death but defy it by invoking the Christ who came to suffer our death that we might be raised in His life. Where the idea of purgatory had once raised questions about the if and when of the resurrection and reduced the cemeteries and graves of the faithful to dormitories of the dead in limbo, the Gospel restored had brought hope and confidence to bear upon those who grieve (not as those without hope).
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection. . . these are not just words. These are the words of God's just, clothed with Christ's righteousness, buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him to new and everlasting life, who now invoke the promise of that hope and resurrection when mortal life has breathed its last. If we cannot offer this to those who gather with their grief and sorrow at the death of the faithful, what do we have to offer at all? What witness do we have for the world if we cannot speak with conviction, with hope, and with confidence in the Word and promise of Christs?