Tuesday, 23 February 2016


'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.
Scripture says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today. In effect, we look in three directions. To yesterday, in thanksgiving. To today, in petition. And into eternity, with hope.
We look to Jesus Christ yesterday, that is, to the past, in thanksgiving for the blessings God bestowed upon Dad. In the past week, many have recounted what Dad did for them. But here today, we recount what God did for Dad, how he blessed him.
We give thanks first of all for the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lord died and rose not only for all of us, but also for each of us. And at this time we look to that yesterday of his death and resurrection, and we give thanks that he died and rose for Dad.
Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional.
We give thanks that Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step, and even hold him accountable.
God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith: The conviction that Christ's presence and power continue in the world today through His body, the Church. He loved the clarity and coherence of the church's teachings. He treasured the church's ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation as Christ working within him for his salvation.
Although one time, one Saturday afternoon, he did scold me for having heard confessions that afternoon, that same day. And I hope that it's some source of consolation, if there are any lawyers present, that the Roman collar was not a shield against his criticism.
The issue that evening was not that I had been hearing confessions, but that he had found himself in my confessional line, and he quickly departed it. As he put it later, "Like heck if I'm confessing to you!"
The feeling was mutual.
God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned form the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one's country, between one's faith and one's public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country's good servant because he was God's first.
We Scalias, however, give thanks for a particular blessing God bestowed. God blessed Dad with a love for his family. We have been thrilled to read and hear the many words of praise and admiration for him, for his intellect, his writings, his speeches, his influence and so on.
But more important to us — and to him — is that he was Dad. He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life. Sure he forgot our names at times, or mixed them up, but there are nine of us.
He loved us, and sought to show that love. And sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured. And he gave us one another, to have each other for support. That's the greatest wealth parents can bestow, and right now we are particularly grateful for it.
So we look to the past, to Jesus Christ yesterday. We call to mind all of these blessings, and we give our Lord the honor and glory for them, for they are His work. We look to Jesus today, in petition, to the present moment, here and now, as we mourn the one we love and admire, the one whose absence pains us. Today we pray for him. We pray for the repose of his soul. We thank God for his goodness to Dad as is right and just. But we also know that although dad believed, he did so imperfectly, like the rest of us. He tried to love God and neighbor, but like the rest of us did so imperfectly.
He was a practicing Catholic, "practicing" in 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.
But don't take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals and why he didn't like eulogies.
He wrote: "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."
Now he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here then, as he would want, to pray for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner. To this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. 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.
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.
The English Dominican, Father Bede Jarrett, put it beautifully when he prayed, "O strong son of God, while you prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that we may be with you and with those we love for all eternity."
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever,.
My dear friends, this is also the structure of the Mass, the greatest prayer we can offer for Dad, because it's not our prayer, but the Lord's. The Mass looks to Jesus yesterday. It reaches into the past — reaches to the Last Supper, to the crucifixion, to the resurrection — and it makes those mysteries and their power present here on this altar.
Jesus himself becomes present here today under the form of bread and wine so that we can unite all our prayers of thanksgiving, sorrow and petition with Christ himself as an offering to the father. And all of this with a view to eternity, stretching towards heaven, where we hope one day to enjoy that perfect union with God himself and to see Dad again and, with him, rejoice in the communion of saints.'
Rev. Paul Scalia available: here.

Monday, 22 February 2016


'There are so many statements in God's word that would shock us if we actually thought deeply concerning what they communicate. Deep meditation upon a verse - paying attention to its context, of course - at times yields a great deal more thought in our lives than reading several chapters of God;s word in one sitting.'
Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.120. 


'The incarnation was, for the Son of God, a humiliation beyond compare. The Son who thirsted was the man  who made water; the Son who was too tired to carry his cross was the same who upholds the entire world; the Son whose side was pierced was the same who gave breath and life to the one who did it.' 
Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.119. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016


'Not expressing anger in the presence of injustice is not a sign of godliness, but rather of moral weakness.' 
Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.71. 


'Because it is sin rather than human nature that is opposed to grace, the study of Christ's emotions trains us to understand what it means to be properly human. In the process, we, as Spirit-filled Christians see how our emotions, which are God's gifts to us, should be expressed in the various circumstances we encounter...
...He knew when to laugh, and he knew when to weep. He knew when to stay silent and when to speak. As we consider his emotional life, we are at the same time learning how to be properly emotional Christians. After all, one of the problems in the church today is not that we are too emotionally driven, but that we are not sufficiently such after the pattern of Christ.' 
Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.69. 


'Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.' 
Augustine of Hippo in Mark Jones, Knowing Christs, p.64. 

Friday, 12 February 2016


'Not for the first time, he found himself full of misgiving at the topic of their conversation. Sex was not of his world; it could not be; he should be able to say, to any inquirer: "Do not ask me that - I am a priest."
Yet, absurdly, it was because he was a priest that people plagued and swamped him with such questions so intimate that if he taken a doctorate in sexual technique, magna cum laude, he would still have found his qualifications tested to the limit.
There was something ridiculous, even indecent, about a celibate giving advice to married couples, even seeking to regulate their cycle of sexual intercourse; or instructing engaged lovers in the permissible limits of a caress.'
Nicholas Monsarrat, The Kappillan of Malta, p.243.

Monday, 8 February 2016


'The liquidation of sin "once for all" in the datable, localizable event of Golgotha...presupposes the teaching of Genesis. Twice the same structure, instituted by God, has come into play: the organic solidarity which united the members of one humanity under its Head, and gives him power to be its representative. On both occasions it had to be a real act, otherwise the second Adam would not have been able to put right the work of the first. The obedience of the unique Man on that Good Friday has set free a great multitude because the evil which held us all enslaved had its origin in history, and we all contracted it through the offence of the first man, on that first evil day. For historical sin there is a historical redemption.'  
Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, p.170 


'The sinners of Genesis 3, like so many after them, imagined themselves greater in the arrogance of their gesture. Were they not making a superhuman challenge against heaven? Rebellion seeks to masquerade as heroism. But it is a laughable disguise, for at the very moment that the sinner is intoxicated with the sense of his own power, he is being manipulated by another mind. In actual fact, sin is defeat. At the same time, it is from another perspective an inversion of the true order of things. The fact that the other party takes on the form of an animal (the text underlines the fact that the snake belonged to that category, Gn.3:1) is not an insignificant detail. Reptiles were part of the animal kingdom over which the man and woman were to have dominion.' 
Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, p.142. 


'Evil is not in the good that God has created, but in the rejection of the order that God has instituted for the enjoyment of the world. Temptation plays with the facets of things that are good, and highlights the attractions of the beauties in creation. Sin then perverts the excitement which these objects quite rightly cause within us. Thus, to revert to John's words, "the lust of the flesh" perverts and corrupts the excitement which drives us towards what is good and beneficial. The "lust of the eyes" likewise corrupts the drive towards what is beautiful and true. The "pride of life" perverts the rightful effort to be, and to be valued. Thus, in the temptation of Jesus, the devil offered him things which by right belonged to the Son of God; but he invited Jesus to invert the order established by the Father. Thus, in Genesis 3, the fruit of the tree planted by God was intended to be beautiful and good - the opportunity for sin was an innocent creature - but the human race perverted the order of the Creator.' 
Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, p.40. 


'Man's maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother's breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.'
Augustine of Hippo in Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.34. 


'Heaven and Earth met and kissed one another...'
Thomas Goodwin in Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.25. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016


'Put all the beauty of ten thousand worlds of paradise, like the Garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colours, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes and fountains of ten thousands earths.' 
Samuel Rutherford in Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, p.3. 

Friday, 5 February 2016


'...Andy looks and sees the town and the fields around it, Port William and its countryside as he never saw or dreamed them, the signs everywhere upon them of the care of a longer love than any who have lived there have ever imagined. The houses are clean and white, and great trees stand among them and spread over them. The fields lie around the town, divided by rows of such trees as stand in the town and in the woods, each field more beautiful than the rest. Over town and fields the one great song sings, and is answered everywhere, every leaf and flower and grass blade sings. And in the fields and the town, walking, standing, or sitting under the trees, resting and talking together in the peace of a sabbath profound and right, are people of such beauty that he weeps to see them. He sees that these are the membership of one another and of the place and of the song or light in which they live and move. 
He sees that they are dead, and they are alive. He sees he lives in eternity as he lives in time, and nothing is lost. Among the people of that town, he sees men and women he remembers, and men and women remembered in memories he remembers, and they do not look as he ever saw or imagined them. The young are no longer young, nor the old old. They appear as children corrected and clarified; they have the luminous vividness of new grass after fire. And yet they mature as ripe fruit. And yet they are flowers.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.102. 


'...one cannot know enough to trust. To trust is simply to give oneself; the giving is for future, for which there is no evidence. And once given, the self cannot be taken back, whatever the evidence.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.91. 


'It was not an argument about the right and wrong of farming. It was an argument about the way things were going to be in the foreseeable future. And he was losing that argument. He was now on the side that was losing it, and he was furious. He felt his anger singling him out. And he was exultant. He stood to discover that he was shaking.
For the foreseeable future, then, no argument would be effective against the blocks of economic power. Farmers were going to fail, taking the advice of Netherbough and his kind. And Netherbough and his kind were going to thrive, giving bad advice. And that was merely what was going to happen until the logical consequence of that course of success become intolerable. And then something else would happen. And who knew what? 
But that an argument was losing did not mean that it should not be made. It had already be made and it would be made again, not because he would make it, but because it always existed, it always had, and he belonged to it. He would stand up on it here, in Tommy Netherbough's office, in Tommy Netherbough's face. That it was losing did not mean it was beaten.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.71. 


'It was as though grace and peace were bestowed on them out of the sanctity of marriage itself, which simply furnished them to one another, free and sufficient as rain to leaf. It was as if they were not making marriage but being made by it, and, while it held them, time and their lives flowed over them, like swift water over stones, rubbing them together, grinding off their edges, making them fit together, fit to be together, in the only way that fragments can be rejoined. And though Andy did not understand this, and though he suffered from it, he trusted it and rejoiced in it.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.29. 


'The place of his guilt and shame was like the unknown ocean of the early maps, full of monsters.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.26. 


'He continues only by the help of time alone. He went on, not because he would not have stopped, but because nothing else would stop.' 
Wendell Berry, Remembering, p.25. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


'Our cultural orthodoxy makes bodies into idols, and it worships bodies - not all of them, but a privileged group of them.' 
Beth Felker Jones, Faithfulness, p.94.