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Reflections on ‘a month of death and pain’

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In the first reading for Saturday, July 9, the prophet Isaiah describes his calling from God. The call of the prophet is linked to the call of the people of Israel to repent, or calamity will happen. In the Gospel for that day we have a continuation of the reading where Jesus sends his disciples as sheep among wolves. Jesus stresses that we must not fear that which can destroy the body, but that which can destroy the body and the soul in Gehenna.

We read these words in light of the crazy month we have had as a people in America — a month filled with pain and emotion. I reflect upon the readings and say, “What is God calling us to do?”

Well, I think some of what I am called to do was revealed to me Thursday night in a conversation I had on social media with a friend who graduated with me from Cardinal Spellman High School (in New York) in 1984.

My friend, Jose, posted #blacklivesmatter in response to the police shootings on Wednesday and Thursday. I replied to his post with my own, saying all lives matter and we need to be the change that makes it a fact that all lives matter, not just a dream from another era. If we are ever going to live the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King’s generation, we need to be the change. Let’s take a lesson from Jesus, Gandhi and Dr. King: nonviolence wins over violent attacks and oppression.

Jose replied: “Doc, You are a man of peace and I respect your thoughts. I wish that you were capable of appreciating what it means to be a man of color; a man who has to worry about his children because you might get pulled over by the police because of your color.” He continued, “All lives matter. I just wish they all mattered equally.”

I told him I agree all lives matter equally. And he was correct: I do not know what it is like to walk in his shoes as a black man, since I am a white man. However, we still need to be the change that will make all lives equally safe. I told him he was a good man and not to let the violence of the country change him; and may God keep him and his son safe.

Sad reality

What a sad reality that this man has fears for his children and his own life because of the color of his skin. I think our nation needs us to rise up and say enough! Racism and violence must end in this great country of ours. We as a Church need to express the reality that all lives matter equally, from conception in the womb to natural death.

I looked back on the last month and realized what a tough month of death and pain had passed before us. The pain of Orlando: I had assisted as a deacon at the memorial Mass for a 31-year-old who was killed in Orlando. We had the violence and killings of two young black men in two different cities days apart. Adding insult to injury, on Thursday night at a peace rally, those charged with protecting us became targets. News reports say the shooter was motivated by racial tension, among other reasons.

There is way too much violence and killings on the streets of America.

I am left pondering a nation whose very fabric seems to be tearing along racial lines. What do we do? In my heart I feel that we must respond to God’s call, the same call that Isaiah was given. Through this call, we are compelled as Catholics to preach a message of love and support for all lives, from conception to natural death and everywhere in between.

Overcoming the darkness

Dr. King paraphrased scripture and said: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I firmly believe that the words of St. Francis seem appropriate at this time:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Jesus exhorts us to fear that which can destroy the body and the soul in Gehenna. I pray that this crisis of hate and darkness will not be powerful enough to kill our souls as a Catholics, and our nation as a nation of freedom.

My prayer is that God will give us the strength to respond to our call, a call that compels us to proclaim Christ as we stand up to the evil that is seemingly all around us, with nonviolence and love.

All lives matter from conception to natural death. May God bless and strengthen all of us to not only proclaim this message, but to live it all the days of our lives.

Comments from readers

Deacon Jim - 07/12/2016 08:51 AM
Rafael, There are clear guidelines for end of life circumstances, and each and every case is different. The Catholic Church has wonderful resources on such issues. I direct you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Florida Catholic Conference as the first steps. I have compassion for that man however we do not know what his wishes or the wishes of his family were at that time. I hope you explore the resources I pointed out for you. We are unable to change the past, but we can make informed decisions for the future. I pray this info provides support so you can make a well informed Catholic decision. God Bless Deacon Jim
Dcn Vince Eberling - 07/12/2016 08:33 AM
Your words speak truth. I remember Dr King's word also because I lived in those times. Then as now many talk but few act. All that evil needs is for good men to do nothing. I pray that your words kindle the fire of the Holy Spirit to act and not just talk.
Rafael - 07/11/2016 08:48 PM
Natural death - Needs to be defined. My Grandfather was once in the hospital. In the bed next to him was a 90 year old immobile man in a fetal position being tube forced feed. He was in this state for 4 months. I don't call this natural either. End of life matter is very difficult, harrowing and private family decision. What does one do? Continue the suffering or let the person finally go home
Bill Whiting - 07/11/2016 04:35 PM
Amen and amen.

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