Our thanks go out to the small army of volunteers who have been setting up three and four Masses at a time in various parts of the parish campus, in order to provide the Holy Sacraments to as many people as possible. The Mayor has restricted religious services in the City of San Francisco to 12 people, outside, and so at least 192 people are receiving the Holy Eucharist on Sundays between the 16 Masses our four priests are offering. It’s a bit nerve wracking to hold four Masses simultaneously, within earshot of each other, but also beautiful to hear the bells ringing in different parking lots marking the moment the word becomes flesh on our makeshift altars. My thanks to our priests as well, who are tripling the number of Masses they usually offer.
“While We Were Asleep”
Christ’s parable today describes the Kingdom of heaven in terms of a farm. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and can tells you how hard entire families work from sunup to sundown in rural America. In the parable, “when everyone was asleep, an enemy sows weeds in the wheat….” My parents lived through both the Great Depression and Second World War, but after these twin devastations they rebuilt a peaceful, ordered, and prosperous society. Today we still enjoy the prosperity they built up for us, but our peaceful order is threatened by poisonous weeds. Bitter divisions increasingly alienate friends and colleagues. We can’t agree on basic biological facts, let alone what “democracy” means. The suicide rate among our young people has tripled over the last 10 years. We are isolated, gripped with fear, and addicted to food, opioids, and pornography. Where did these weeds come from? In Christ’s parable, the farmer answers: “an enemy has done this.”
Bread and Circuses
We cannot see the enemy, or even the weeds, because we are asleep, or at least dozing at the wheel. The enemy has given us plenty of food and entertainment to keep us quiet. Our ability to think rationally, to perceive truth and falsehood, and to discern the good from the bad have been disabled by a constant diet of Netflix and Cheetos; or if you are in the upper 5%, a constant diet of expensive travel and high end therapists. We have an enemy, and he works at night. But he is known by his fruits. Look around this city right now. Almost all Catholics have not received the sacraments, or joined together in liturgical praise of the Creator, for five months. We have meekly accepted and obeyed the little signs all over town: stay home. Keep isolated. Don’t think and don’t question. “We” will make sure you have a steady diet of “bread and circuses.”
Together Under the Bright Sun
I must say, however, that if you have to isolate, San Francisco is a beautiful city to do it: great cycling and hiking. Yesterday I rode through some lovely parks bathed in warm afternoon sunlight. And what did I see? Hundreds of people gathered on the grass having picnics together. No one was wearing masks, and they were they were laughing and singing and playing games under the sun. They were not afraid. Thank God the city government is permitting this. Thank God the city government has permitted restaurants to reopen with outdoor seating. I had dinner on Friday night at an exquisite Greek restaurant with old friends. The tables were placed within two feet so that more people would be able to eat together. My friend’s mask dropped off his chair, and the stranger at the table beside us—no more than 12 inches away—leaned over to pick it up for him. Freedom from fear and human kindness are slowly returning. The government is allowing us to decide for ourselves if risking infection is worth having a meal together again, even near strangers. That’s because we all instinctively know that community, and meals together, are essential to human health. But religious community is also essential to human health. Wouldn’t it be nice if the government would allow public Masses to reopen in San Francisco? We promise to wear masks and keep six feet apart, even if they don’t do that at parks and restaurants.
God is Everywhere
If you ask a wise child “where is God,” he will tell you “everywhere.” In the Book of Wisdom, our first reading, we hear “There is no god besides you, who have the care of all.” We are all in the hands of the Good God, and we have nothing to fear. Are we aware of His presence, or of his existence? Or is our world limited to Netflix and Cheetos? In this world evil will always fight against good, but good will win. True love wins in the end, as Our Lady said at Fatima: in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. Thanks be to God!