The funeral Mass for Justice Antonin Scalia has been praised by many as an example for glorifying Christ and rejoicing in the life and hope that are given to all people. The solemn High Funeral Mass celebrated by his son Fr. Paul Scalia was the anti-thesis of the “eulogistic mass” that usually focuses on someone’s achievements. Justice Scalia’s life and works have received much deserved attention, but the focus of the funeral was on Christ and the eternal life promised to us that explains what life is about.
In today reading, we heard about Stephen’s simple funeral in which devout men buried him and made a loud lament over him. The funeral of Stephen then inspired the early Christians to go out to preach the word of God. Although Saul was trying to destroy the Church by dragging out men and women, the persecution did not stop the early Christians from proclaiming the Gospel.
In my early Jesuit formation, I took a class on the History of Christianity. In the first few week of class, we discussed the history of early church. In one class, another student presented her paper on the Martyrdom of early Christians. She argued that early Christians were irresponsible people as they did not care about their own life and family through their martyrdom. The early Christians who came to bury Stephan were not seeking martyrdom and they must have cared for their family members, farms, shops, and livelihood. Nevertheless, their lives were transformed after they heard the Word of God and witnessed the death and funeral of Stephen. Then, when Saul was persecuting them, they remained defiant. As the scriptures says, “there was great joy in that city.” Could you imagine having the courage to rejoice in the faith while in the face of hostility?