We left the sun of the valley, drove west through the Caldecott Tunnel, and emerged into foggy Oakland. The change in temperatures during the summer still surprises me – and I grew up in this area – for there is often a 20-30 degree drop from the Walnut Creek area to San Francisco. Oakland is on the way, and sometimes the fog that enshrouds San Francisco is halted in its journey east by the East Bay Hills and hovers over nearby Oakland.
In the valley we are protected from those cooling temps, for good or ill, for sometimes they rise to triple digits and we wish for the San Francisco summer fog. But the cry, “It’s winter in August,” is a familiar one from Berkeley, Oakland and other towns around the Bay. A warning to San Francisco tourists! Leave the shorts at home and pack a sweater or jacket.
Saint Peter’s Oakland was quiet today, the service sedate, thoughtful, serious, as we approach the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The mood prompted reflection, and I listened closely to the preacher’s words, wondering what God wanted to say through him to me.
He preached on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, a story told by Jesus, illustrating, I believe, the dangers of pride. The Pharisee prays with great dignity and arrogance, for he has kept the law, he is better than others. The Publican prays simply, have mercy on me a sinner. Our Lord makes it clear which one goes to Heaven and which one does not.
It is one of those black-and-white stories that we don’t always want to hear. We want to enjoy the shortsighted vision of moving through fog, cushioned by cultural mantras decrying falsehood and truth, lauding relativity and gray areas. We do not want to stand in the sun for it might burn us, even blind us.
But we should recall that fog is cold. The sun is warm. The fog is blinding and isolating. The sun is clarity and community. The fog is death. The sun is life.
I searched out my heart, looking for sins. And I prayed, have mercy on me a sinner. I want to be in the sun and see myself as I truly am. I want to go to Heaven and see the face of God.
And with a scrubbed heart, and hopefully a renewed spirit of humility, I approached the altar. I received the Body and Blood of Christ, thankful and joyous.
http://www.saintpetersoakland.com/; 6113 Lawton; Sunday Mass, 10 a.m.