This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of the new Lincoln Square Synagogue. It is truly a splendid sanctuary for the Jewish community! While I was visiting, I addressed the guests who were present at the Synagogue. I thought you might want to read my remarks.
Lincoln Square Synagogue Address
February 23, 2013
Thank you so much for your generous invitation and warm welcome. What an honor and a joy to be with you here at the historic and renowned Lincoln Square Synagogue.
Long have I been aware of the prominence of this community, as, during my graduate studies at the Catholic University of America, our course in American Religious History featured attention to Modern Orthodox Judaism, its flagship synagogue here, and the foundational efforts of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
Now what a privilege it is to be a part of the celebration of welcome as we thank God for this splendid new sanctuary! As your psalms pray, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who toil!” So, praise God:
I’d say “Alleluia” but I can’t because for us Catholics it’s our penitential season of Lent, and we can’t say that “A-word” until Easter!
Can I get a little personal here? Today is the fourth anniversary of my appointment by Pope Benedict XVI as archbishop of New York.
Four happy years…and the Jewish community of New York is one of the big reasons why. From the start you have welcomed and embraced me. I love you; I respect you; I need you; I thank you.
Tomorrow, the second Sunday of Lent, we always have the Gospel account of what we call the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. There, the Jewish fisherman, the Jewish first pope, St. Peter, said to Jesus, “It is good for us to be here.”
Those words I make my own this morning.
I also appreciate the encouragement this visit gives me in my efforts to repair and restore another historic house of prayer and worship, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Don’t worry: I’m not going to ask for money—while recognizing what a tradition that is in both of our religions—although I do happen to have some pledge cards on me!
This beautiful occasion this morning might be a providential occasion to celebrate as well the common values we as Jews and Catholics deeply cherish. Can I mention just two?
One would be the high importance of the Sabbath: you begin with sundown on Friday and go through Saturday; we start with sundown on Saturday and go through Sunday.
We both do it with humble obedience to the Lord’s command, following His own example of rest after the labor of creation, don’t we?
I propose that our fidelity to the Sabbath is good for us, and good for the world.
It’s good for us as we individually, and as a religious community, need worship, prayer, and fellowship to keep our spirits focused and our faith fervent.
A wise mentor once told me, “Science teaches us that the earth is not the center of the universe. Faith teaches me that neither am I.”
God and others come first. The weekly reminder of the Sabbath.
I suppose that’s the message to be found in the startling decision of Pope Benedict XVI to leave the Chair of St. Peter. It’s not about an office, the pomp, the prominence, the prestige, the Holy Father hints, but about Jesus and His Church. It’s really all about God.
That’s what you and I profess every Sabbath! That’s good for us; that’s good for our culture.
Two, we both value love and service. Just ten days ago, on Ash Wednesday, as we began our forty days of fervent prayer, penance, and acts of charity in preparation for our high holy days, the fifty thousand folks who came through Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, heard the words of your prophet, Isaiah.
“This is the worship and 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.”
Jesus won’t let me brag about such work that we as Catholics do, since, on that same day, Ash Wednesday, He told us in the Gospel that our good works should be done in secret.
But, I sure can congratulate you for the radiant love, service, and works of charity and justice you do! We’re all impressed by your effective food and clothing drives, your Red Cross blood drives, your community outreach and weekly bags of bread to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. And we sure appreciated the partnership of the UJA with Catholic Charities in the Feeding Our Neighbors Campaign three weeks ago.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta observed, “There’s a word for faith without love, and that word is a sham.”
And Bl. John Paul II, who so loved you, remarked, “Men and women today learn much more from witness than from words.”
God bless you, Lincoln Square Synagogue, for the radiant witness of your love which make genuine the words of praise we express on the sabbath!