Bishop Jaime Soto delivered the following homily during the vespers service on Sunday, March 31 in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament for Bishop Emeritus Francis A. Quinn, the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento.
“Mi alma espera en el Señor, espera en su palabra; mi alma aguarda al Señor, más que el centinela la aurora.” Estas palabras del salmo 129, nos habla de la justa esperanza cristiana, aguardar una ansiosa espera para la venida de Cristo.
Nos presentó también la imagen del centinela. Un obispo o sacerdote es una figura de un centinela pastoral, un pastor que siempre cuida al rebano y espera la venida de un nuevo amanecer. Un buen pastor siempre mantiene el rebaño bien protegido y al mismo tiempo se mantienen vigilante para guardarlo contra el enemigo. La llegada de la aurora trae gozo al pastor porque le permita encontrar nuevos pastos donde alimentar a las ovejas y buscar nuevas fuentes donde refrescarlas. Mientras pasa la noche, la presencia del centinela sirve como una señal de esperanza para el rebaño porque confían en su vigilancia.
Así fue el Mons. Francis Quinn, un buen centinela del pueblo de Dios. Guardaba siempre una gran esperanza en el amanecer de Cristo. Tanto así, que muchos veían en Mons. Quinn la luz de esta aurora salvadora.
El Mons. Quinn ya ha completado su turno de espera, su vigilia pastoral. Roguemos por su descanso eterno para que siempre goce de la luz que nunca tendrá el anochecer, la luz eterna de Jesucristo, nuestro Señor.
On one occasion visiting Bishop Quinn at Mercy McMahon, I went to the wrong room. It was right room but Bishop Quinn was no longer there. He had changed rooms. After getting redirected to his new digs, I walked into his room and inquired perplexed about this shuffle. He looked at me with a serious resolve that hid his playful manner, “I found out my old room was bigger than Pope Francis’ quarters at the Vatican so I asked for a smaller room.”
Any one used to Bishop Quinn’s clever quips about the Pontiff’s election will have heard him comment on how Jorge Mario Bergoglio had called him about taking his name when he was elected Pope, to which Bishop Quinn claimed to have responded, “What’s in it for me?”
Bishop Quinn has changed rooms one more time. I was blessed to be in the room when with one soft breath Bishop Quinn fell into the arms of the Good Shepherd who would carry him to the heavenly chamber not made of human hands, the real and eternal throne room of the New Jerusalem. Jesus, the eternal high priest, has carried this good priest and bishop through the thinly veiled curtain of death into the holy of holies.
Paul told the Corinthians in this evening’s reading, “We shall all be changed.” Of what will this change consist? Bishop Quinn would have enjoyed debating this question. Each of us who knew him might speculate on what his own ruminations might have been. For Bishop Quinn such speculation has ended. What we still know only through a murky looking glass, he now knows face to face.
Paul spoke of this eschatological change not with any sense of dread. His words were filled with anticipation, “in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet.” In other letters, Paul longed for this change in a personal way. He told the Philippians, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better.” (Phil 1:23) As Bishop Quinn approach the moment of his death, this desire of Paul had become his own. Yet, in many ways the desire for change was always a part of Bishop Quinn’s life as it should be for each disciple of the Lord.
This desire for change is not dictated by our own desires or wishes. There is only one true change that is worthy of our desires. It is the coming of the new creation, when heaven and earth will pass away. Jesus promised, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35) At the last trumpet a new heaven and new earth will crystalize into the image of Christ, who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13:8) This is the aching desire of all Christians, “to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (I Cor 2:2) This was the mission given to Bishop Quinn and remains the purpose for which we all must labor. This is the mission that constantly urges us and changes us until that instance, in a blink of an eye, at the last trumpet blast.
To what change does the Lord call each of us? In the gospel canticle during evening vespers, we chanted the words of Paul to the Philippians, “Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave.” (Phil 2.6:11) We might be tempted to see this as a change on the part of Jesus. No. He emptied himself not that he might change but that we might change. The more we follow in the Lord’s humble footsteps, the more we surrender our vain ambitions, the more eagerly our hearts our emptied then all the more will we savor the fullness of the Lord’s joy. This is the change which gave Paul’s word a thrill, to know that Jesus is the Lord of love about whom we cannot keep from singing.
We saw this joy in the twinkle of Bishop Quinn’s eyes. We heard its echo in his lighthearted chuckles. We felt it in the gentle touch of his hand.
Bishop Quinn has emptied himself for Christ. We now commend him to the mercy of Christ, so that he may be a new creation, “in an instant, in the wink of an eye, at the last trumpet.” May we keep our eyes as well as our heart’s desire on the person of Jesus so that he might continue to change our hope into His joy.