Saturday, February 20, 2016

"We are gathered here because of one man..."

I was in the midst of an exhausting workout at the gym, dripping with sweat, slugging away on the treadmill when I noticed that the funeral for Antonin Scalia had just started on the television just in front of me. It was closed captioned so I had to read along as the words were typed out at the bottom of the screen. At first it was just ornately dressed priests walking up and down the aisles of the great basilica carrying a richly detailed crucifix of highly polished silver and gold, a black priest out front swaying the thurible back and forth sending gray plumes of incense everywhere. The typist pecked out two musical notes.

Several dignitaries read scripture passages. The other justices were there, the Vice-President, and many of the famous and infamous. Then, the judge's son, Paul Scalia, himself a priest climbed the steps to the pulpit. I wondered how he would eulogize such a brilliant but controversial man, especially with so many of his political opponents in attendance. I thought of the pressure he must have felt. Then he spoke these words:                                                                                                                          

"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 great compassion..... that man of course is Jesus of Nazareth.”

The rest of his words were about the role that faith played in the life of his father. It was tender, well written, warm and touching. But it seldom strayed into mere tribute. This would be a summation of a life of faith, and I can't recall hearing a clearer presentation of the gospel of Christ anywhere, at any time. It was an amazing demonstration of hope and peace. I benefitted just by reading the script at the bottom of the screen, while sweat poured off my nose. Such a strange place to attend church.