Report: Homily outlining prelude to Lent for San Francisco Roman Catholics by Archbishop George H. Niederauer
by Peter Menkin
In a neat Homily given as a prelude to Lent on the World Day of Prayer for the Sick at St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, a theme of “…we need each other…” was knit, offering a statement about Christ about, “Many Americans pride themselves on being rugged individualists, on being able to ‘go it alone.’”
Archbishop George H. Niederauer is commenting about the condition of humanity and specifically Americans and their relationships with one another, especially with the sick, in how we as human beings whether sick or well, “…need to be needed.”
Setting out on what this writer has called a neat Homily (as in compact and well said), the Lenten Season which began Ash Wednesday (February 17, 2010), is applied to the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Quoting the Gospel of the Bible, the Archbishop gives his listener Jesus Christ’s words that speak on relationships, a Roman Catholic and Christian concern: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
What have these words of Jesus’ to do with us, how does the Archbishop say these words are relevant in their counterculture way to the St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco event of February where a congregation of 300 showed up where the Archbishop was principal celebrant at Holy Communion? For this is how the Roman Catholic Church began Lent in prelude this year, this is how the newspaper Catholic San Francisco” presented on its front page the full text of the Homily that celebrated, “…as a special occasion for growth, with an attitude of listening, reflection, and effective commitment in the face of the great mystery of pain and illness…” this religious season of the year.
The explanation is based on a concern with the Gospel messages found in the Magnificat this year 2010 for the Lenten season, so the Church offers as emphasis for the season of Christian penitence.
Apparently, mindfulness and caring for others in relationship is nuanced as part of the Lenten journey, traditionally noted for abstinence solely. So how does all of this come to Lent and its prelude day celebration the World Day of Prayer to the sick? “Jesus Christ comes to us in the hungry, the stranger, the sick person, so that we can love and serve him in them.” Archbishop Niederauer goes on to tell his pastoral message:
…Christ comes to those in need through us; he loves them and serves them through us, if we let him do so…
In its compact way, spare in word but powerful in Christian message for Roman Catholics and likely as well Christians in general or even citizens of San Francisco’s Bay Area who may not be religious or Roman Catholic, the Homily preaches a clear if startling social message. Speaking rhetorically, Archbishop George H. Niederauer as Homilist, seems to reflect in his message a preaching like St. Paul’s: “I preach nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” His rhetorical question is posed to the fallen Roman Catholic, the believer, and mankind in general, for his is an appeal as well as admonition in this revolution of values proclamation set by Jesus Christ:
“Is this not merely a vague, spiritually romantic thought? No, to make it very real and down to earth, the Church sets before us, front and center, the life, suffering death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
More so, this Homily for the sick is meant as comfort and comforting.
For the sake of clarity, the Archbishop says in the Cathedral Mass, “…in honor of our Lady of Lourdes…hosted by the Order of Malta Western Association, USA, based in San Francisco,” a doctrinal statement understood easily, and tells those who will listen to him the reality of Christ in the life of Roman Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church:
Make no mistake: Christians are not in love with suffering—we do not glamorize, romanticize it or seek it out. However, neither do we run from it, nor do we interpret it as a sign of God’s anger or rejection. Because the Son of God became human with us in Jesus Christ, and embraced everything about being human, including suffering and death, and through his very suffering, death and resurrection merited forgiveness of sins and eternal life for us—because of his saving action, every human experience except sin has meaning and purpose and value in Christ.
Calling the Gospel reading of the day a “moral revolution.” He says, “Consider the social revolution in values as Mary prays: “God has thrown down the rulers from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” The Magnificat goes on with Mary saying: The hungry God has filled with good things, the rich he has sent empty away.”