Rector of the cathedral: When hatred is in the spotlight

A man at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, NY, lights a candle May 16, 2022, for the victims of a May 14 mass shooting that authorities say was racially motivated. (SNC Photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

Like most of you, I continue to shake my head with the violence, sadness, discord and hatred that beset the world and our souls. My first reaction to a tragedy, like the 10 victims of white supremacy in a Buffalo supermarket, is to put a collage of their faces on our back table with the ever-present vigil candle, so that we remember them. in prayer. It’s a natural reaction that’s all too familiar.

It was the Monday morning after the Buffalo shooting, previewing the day, that I remembered to do this before the 12:05 p.m. mass. Then I asked what were the next things to do. That’s when I realized I was part of the problem. I don’t spend enough time in prayer, in quiet reflection on the given situation and all that it entails.

In Buffalo, we see innocent lives taken and hatred of racism on full display. Hopefully our first response is to pray for the 10 who lost their lives and the others injured. We pray that God immediately welcomes them with loving arms. We ask God to comfort their loved ones. As difficult as it may be, we pray for the abuser’s forgiveness as he is, no doubt, very troubled. Moreover, forgiveness releases a personal hatred towards him where our disgust for him has little power over us.

We pray for his parents and his family because their lives too are changed forever. Maybe we can honor the lives of the victims by learning about them, or if it paralyzes us too much, then maybe a rosary is offered to them, a determination to do more random acts of kindness, etc. .

We have to let him speak to us for the good.

We can ponder the truth that we know neither the day nor the hour, and therefore wonder if we are prepared. We can spend time wondering what is going on and asking God how this can change, how we can be instruments of progress and healing? This can cause us to assess our spiritual journey and what may need redirection. We need to look at the issues of guns, unresolved warning signs, hatred and violence, failure as a nation to address mental illness, etc.

Perhaps we could look at what prejudices remain in us. Why do they stay? What does this suggest? We can be influenced by the need to move from a defensive “I’m not racist” position to an “I have to be anti-racist” position, where we take a more active stance against racism (ageism, sexism, classism, religious intolerance , etc.), and be a prophetic voice in a world where we are too afraid to say or do anything.

The list of issues is endless: gender/sexual identity; January 6; Republican and Democrat disdain for the other side; Roe analysis v. Wade; loss of civility; Biden, Trump; division in human speech; Putin’s endless rage and inability to quell it just yet; discord in the Church; price increase; lack of formula milk, for God’s sake.

Discussing my idea that I am part of the problem with a trusted friend and the need to spend more time in reflection letting the heart and our God speak to me, he added the need for me to evaluate how I am contributing to all of this. I wondered how I was contributing to the situation in Ukraine. The troubles were just that; I didn’t sleep Monday night. Tuesday presented itself as a new day, with a new opportunity. The Gospel of that day spoke of Jesus’ offer of peace, so radically different from what the world can offer. It is the one that allows us to sit in the din of the madness of the world and find in that offering of peace, hope, unconditional love and a call to love and to serve.

Within seconds of these thoughts, I read Sister Joan Chittister’s reflections on the Rule of Saint Benedict with regard to the leader and the members of the community: “the common search for truth rests on a delicate balance…they need to speak their truth, share the perspective from which they see a situation, ask their questions and open their hearts, with honesty and trust. The prioress and abbot must listen carefully to what they have been unable to find in their own souls and only make a decision when they can come to terms with it, weighing both the concerns of the community and the heart they have to carry out the decision.

If we focus on the good, on “God’s will for the world” (a common Chittister theme), if we listen, open our hearts, speak and share the truth, are vulnerable to hearing from others what we do not know, see or appreciate, then peace can replace restlessness. It is worth trying!

Fr John Fisher, OSFS, is Rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden.

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