Time to be light

Looking in the online archive of The Anchor, one can see that many times in the last half year we have had to write about violent tragedies: against Christians (“The Martyrs of Jolo,” Jan. 23, 2019, after a massacre in the Philippines), against Jews (“Ending Anti-Semitism,” Oct. 31, 2018, after the massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue), and against Moslems (“After Christchurch,” Mar. 20, 2019, after the attacks on mosques in New Zealand).

Just since the last edition of this newspaper we have had to mourn the massacre of Catholics and other Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and the attack on a synagogue outside of San Diego on the last day of Passover. The devil is certainly enjoying this.

In this darkness, we are called to be light — to let the light of Christ shine through us. He came to conquer the darkness, to vanquish evil, to set us truly free. 

The devil, in turn, has so many “angles” to tempt us to do evil. One of his frequently used tools is that of changing religion from a means of following God into a means of fighting against God (when we think that we’re doing God’s will). 

Joe Fitzgerald, a Protestant columnist in the Boston Herald, published a very thoughtful piece on this on Easter Monday, entitled, “Easter bombings show history’s lessons haven’t been learnt.” In it, Fitzgerald lists how just in the last few decades various Christians, Moslems and Jews have thought they were doing God’s work when committing mass murder. “The Almighty is the most misquoted entity in the world, which is ironic when you consider the gist of His message — at least as we understand it in Christianity — is redemption, love and forgiveness.”

On Divine Mercy Sunday Christians in Sri Lanka could not go to Catholic Mass or Protestant services — the threat level was so high that the church and civil leaders thought that having public worship would lead to more death. So, people were instructed to pray at home and to watch Mass on television.

Some Catholics here in the U.S. would be delighted to get such a message — “wohoo! A day off from church!” people would shout, like Homer Simpson being told Rev. Lovejoy had cancelled services. And yet, our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka were sad. 

A newspaper from neighboring India, The Hindu, reported, “However, dozens gathered outside St. Anthony’s shrine, singing hymns and lighting candles, exactly a week after the horrific attacks. Rows of flags in black and white were put up along the street, as if to register grief, protest and solidarity at once.” 

These people would not let the murderers keep them from praying in public. 

Mohamed Buhari, a Moslem trader up the street from St. Anthony’s, told the newspaper, “We all know that all lives have to go one day. Death is not the issue. But no one has the right to take another human life in such a gruesome way. It is outrageous.”

Meanwhile, back in our country, a man, supposedly inspired by the attacks on the synagogue in Pittsburgh and the mosques in New Zealand, went to kill Jews on the last day of Passover in the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California last Saturday.

“We need to battle darkness with light,” Rabbi Yisraol Goldstein said in a press conference in front of the synagogue. 

On Monday, the parents of the gunman released a statement. They wrote, “How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us.”

The rabbi’s life was saved by Lori Kaye, a worshipper at the synagogue, who got in between the gunman and the rabbi, sacrificing her own life. She had come to the synagogue that day to pray for her recently deceased mother.

The rabbi said that Kaye was always ready to help people whenever they were in need. 

“No matter how bad the world is ... a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness. A lot of light will push away much more,” Rabbi Goldstein said, with his hands bandaged from his wounds.

How can we be that light? First and foremost, as Catholics, we need to concentrate on the message of Christ in this time in which we recall the 40 days of His Resurrection appearances. Repeatedly He said, “Peace be with you.” We need to pray about that and see how we can be people of peace.

Nourished by the Sacraments, we will have His strength of help us bring peace to our world, to truly see everyone as our brothers and sisters, instead of rivals (or worse).

We also need to reach out to our neighbors, fellow Christians, Jews, Moslems and other people. We are called to work together — and to do that, we need to be in contact with each other. 

An opportunity for that will be held on Wednesday, May 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, in New Bedford. Entitled “Multi-faith Conversations: How friendships among people of faith show the way forward in today’s divisive climate,” Father John Oliveira from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in New Bedford will be in dialogue with Rev. David Lima of the Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford, Rabbi Raphael Kanter of Tifereth Israel Congregation of New Bedford and Martin Bentz, the outreach coordinator of the Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts. If you can’t attend that, there are many other opportunities to get to know your neighbors and visit their houses of worship. 

Thanks be to God, many Catholics and other Christians joined the Jewish community at their cemetery on McMahon Street in Fall River on Tuesday, March 26, to pray there and mourn the desecration of that cemetery after Nazi symbols and other messages of hate were spray-painted there. 

May we be part of the light conquering the darkness.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts