Fr. Greg's Pastoral Letter - February 25, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

I love when we hang our banners, the ones that adorn the portico of the church and announce to passersby who we are and/or what we are doing inside, and the ones that neatly frame the nave of the church and give expression to the liturgical season and/or to some aspect of our faith. I love them because, in addition to their practical functions, they also communicate to those passersby and to those visiting our church that this historical building is not a museum to a bygone Church. No, to me our banners also proclaim that a vibrant faith community is blessed to call this architectural jewel its spiritual home; they indicate that that community’s faith – your faith – puts heart into the magnificent walls and breathes spirit into its inspiring art; and they imply that your holy desires carry that heart and spirit back out the church doors into God’s world, bringing Gospel values to the varied places you live your lives and pushing wider the reach of the reign of God. Yep, I love our banners.

You’ve noticed that we reinstalled our Year of Mercy banners for Lent – the seven Corporal Works of Mercy and the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. I love these particularly because they echo Matthew 25, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. It’s one of my favorite bits of scripture because it puts in very stark terms what we must do if Jesus is going to consider us one of his disciples. For some reason, however, I noticed for the first time just last week how that parable was foreshadowed by God through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading of the Mass for the Friday after Ash Wednesday: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

That’s not to say that fasting from sweets or alcohol, from gossiping or Facebook, from video/computer games or self-doubt are not important; they can be. All fasting can be important, but it needs to accomplish a couple of things, it seems to me. First, it must make more room for God in our hearts and our consciousness, clearing away some clutter and noise, so that we notice and hear God a bit more. Second – and I think this is what God is saying through Isaiah – is that it must lead us to a deeper awareness of and charity toward those in need.

In addition to the giving-up type of fasting most of us do, our Advocacy Committee on Human Trafficking is offering us an opportunity to engage in the doing-justice type of fasting this Lent. At their initiative, St. Ignatius Parish is co-sponsoring an interfaith effort to raise awareness and work collaboratively towards ending human trafficking. We have joined with the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, Northern California Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, and the Jewish Coalition to End Human Trafficking for a two-week outreach campaign during Lent/Easter and Passover.

On Saturday, March 24, beginning at 10:00 a.m. at St. Ignatius Church, we will join other people of faith and go in small groups to inform hotels and motels in the city of the public posting requirements of California State Senate Bill 1193 and provide them with posters to display on their premises. These posters contain information to help individuals who have been trafficked or who know of victims who are being trafficked with obtaining assistance and connecting with victim services and resources. There is an event kick-off and volunteer training (required) on Sunday, March 4, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. in Xavier Auditorium in Fromm Hall here at USF. You can register for the training online by going to: https://sb1193volunteertraining.eventbright.com. All are welcome, including families, high school students, and USF/college students (Parent consent forms for minors will be available at the March 4 training.)

Another term for “human trafficking” is “modern-day slavery”.

Isaiah’s words continue to be relevant 2600 years later: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed …”

Please join us on March 4 and March 24 to deepen your Lenten fast – and the poster you hand out might set someone free. Literally. (As this goes to print, however, there may be nationwide events against gun violence on the 24th. I’ll have discussions with the Parish Advocacy Committee and other parish group leaders on how best to balance these important events to avoid conflicts. Stay tuned.)

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are trafficked and for an end to this slavery, and, as always,

Oremus pro invicem.