Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka
"Before I begin my reflection I want to express my gratitude to the Knights and Dames of Malta for especially forming a guard of honor this evening.
Many of you know, and perhaps you’ve read in some news account, that this year in June, the cardinal celebrated 60 years of being a priest. I’m sure I could look it up in the archives, but I don’t know exactly how long before that he became a sub deacon. Probably a year-and-a-half, more or less, I suppose. So, it is very much the case that, certainly, for over sixty years – perhaps 62 almost – day after day after day, except when he was knocked out from some sort of anesthesia in the hospital, he prayed the Magnificat at the end of every day, just as we will tonight.
That prayer certainly captures our sense of humility as Christians. But the end of it is about trust in God’s promises – that God kept his oath to Abraham and his children forever. Our Lady, in that prayer, is the voice of the whole Church. So the Church makes that prayer at the end of every day.
Cardinal Szoka made that prayer at the end of every day of his priestly life. He joined his voice to the voice of the Church throughout the world, and especially to the voice of the Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, in proclaiming his hope, his confidence that God keeps his promises. It was with that confidence that he faced his final illness. And in the very last moments of his life – aware certainly, as the sisters have told me, that he was passing to God – it was in that hope, that confidence in the promise of God, which he shared with Our Lady and the whole Church, that he commended his soul to the Lord.
And so among all the other things we could do here on Sunday, the first day of our vigil preparing for the cardinal’s funeral Mass, is it not appropriate, it seems to me, that we pray vespers? That we sing of the Church’s hope, which was the cardinal’s hope? That we sing as we did, about the mercy of the Lord in the psalm – that he guards our souls, and that we don’t have to worry about the record he keeps of our transgressions, because he forgives us?
Everywhere in the Christian world this Lord’s day – priests and sisters in the cloister, monks and nuns, parish communities, St. Peter’s Basilica, and small shrines at the far corners of the earth – people have sung of Our Lady’s hope, the Church’s hope, that Jesus Christ is Lord. He’s risen from the dead, and so we’re not foolish to hope. As Saint Paul said, death had lost its sting.
And tonight especially, we are united with Our Lady and all the saints in heaven, and the Church on earth, the saints on Earth, in proclaiming the Christians hope, this hope that we share in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And we are united – we continue to be united – with Cardinal Szoka in his hope and his prayerful hope.
So this liturgy is, in that sense, a kind of a tribute. Not a tribute where I stand up and go through a list of achievements. But it is a tribute to hope – the hope we all share, the hope in which he lived, and the hope in which he died. The hope in which we commend him into the loving care of the loving Mother of God, so that she can present him in the sight of the Most High.
Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace."