Friday, March 18, 2016

Antonin Scalia: So Close, and Yet So Far

I thank Jesus for the political influence of Antonin Scalia.  Not that I agreed with all his rulings, but for the most part, he did his job well, a sort of lone prophet crying out against a political world gone mad.

A friend gave me a copy of the eulogy delivered by Justice Scalia's son Paul, who is a Roman Catholic priest.  For me it is heart-wrenching.

On the one hand, there are some incredibly beautiful thoughts, such as these near the beginning:
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.
It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.
Those words are among the best I have ever heard at a funeral.  I hope someone says that at mine!

Or these, a quote by Paul from something Antonin had written:
 "Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner."
Or these, toward the end:
Finally we look to Jesus forever, into eternity. Or better, we consider our own place in eternity and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. 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. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and towards the Lord.
But then sprinkled heavily throughout the eulogy there are also tragic evidences of the Roman Catholic Church's departures from Scripture.  In particular, the belief in purgatory, and praying for the dead and indulgences as a way of leaving purgatory more quickly.
Thank you also for allowing us to have this parish funeral Mass here in this basilica dedicated to Our Lady. What a great privilege and consolation that we were able to bring our father through the holy doors and for him gain the indulgence promised to those who enter in faith....
He was a practicing Catholic, "practicingin the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God's grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin....
We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.
This, in turn, is rooted in a view that Christ's atonement on the cross was insufficient, and required the additional aid of participation in the sacraments:
Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional.... He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation as Christ working within him for his salvation.
This is heartwrenching to me because all of this indicates that at the end of the day and the end of his life, Antonin believed he would go to purgatory, not heaven; that additional perfection and purification would be necessary in his life before he could enter Christ's presence.  Apparently he did not claim to have the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9).  He could have gotten it with no need for suffering in purgatory, no need for sacraments, no need for people to pray for his departed soul.   Like the tax collector who beat his chest and simply cried, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:9-14) Antonin Scalia could have gone home declared righteous by God. 

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