Several years ago a Junto friend had offered to me, just after the passing of a loved one of mine, the consolatory advice that “life doesn’t end, it just changes.” I’ve thought about this phrase many times since, including passing it along on a couple of similar occasions to colleagues. It summarizes our belief in eternal life, be it in heaven or hell, and the fact that our existence isn’t futile or random, but rather an incarnate response to the life gratuitously given by our Creator out of love alone.
Yesterday I was able to tune into CSPAN about halfway through the funeral Mass of Justice Antonin Scalia. A couple of minutes into it, I heard the celebrant say those same words during the Eucharist Prayer preface:
…In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.
Now, the passing of a devout Catholic national leader is notable in and of itself, especially of one whose accomplishments in civic life speak to his intellect and to his faith. Like the Holy Father’s visit to the United States, the raw presentation of Scalia’s Mass without commentary serves as an example to anyone who watches (faithful and skeptic alike) of the inspired majesty of the Catholic rites. A couple of minutes after the preface, the screen then flashed that the celebrant was none other than Paul Scalia, the late Justice’s son. Suddenly, the moment for me became sublime: the whole of this family’s Catholicity evident from the father who’d passed on the faith to this son (one of nine children), and the son who’d given his life over to his bride the Church. I’m sure the Scalias are, like all of us, wretchedly imperfect; yet despite whatever pain he might have at his attachment to his earthly father nonetheless did Father Paul Scalia soldier through his duty as a priest in preparing the way for heaven.
Thanks be to God for the Church and her priesthood, who remind us of the promises of the Church Triumphant. Indeed, life is not ended.
Rest in eternal peace, Justice Scalia.