Synagogue Massacre

Once again we have been rudely reminded that our world can be senseless. The carnage in a Pittsburg synagogue that left 11 dead and 6 wounded tells us that our world does not make sense. It is senseless not because God made it so, but because some humans choose to make it so. How could anyone be filled with so much hate for a particular group of people that they will murder them in cold blood during their worship? I am totally shocked that someone can walk into a house of prayer with a premeditated intention to massacre? In my mind, this is an act of pure evil. It should be condemned from the housetops. We, as Christians, must reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters who are mourning the loss of the members of their congregation.

Our hearts go out to the people of Pittsburg. Let us hold in our prayers the eleven who lost their lives and also their grieving families. Let us commend to the Lord all the injured that their recovery may be complete and swift. Let us raise up the City of Pittsburg to our compassionate God so that her wounds will be healed. Let us keep in prayerful remembrance the first responders who sacrifice themselves for others. Let us also pray for our country. At the same time, let us implore our all-knowing and all-powerful God to touch and change the hearts of those who hate. Let us pray for all people of faith so that their places of worship will be safe and secure so that worshippers can pray in peace and serenity.

This dastardly act, committed in a place of worship, makes us anxious and concerned. In the face of this unspeakable tragedy what should we do? What can we do? We cannot allow fear to paralyze us. We cannot hunker down in our basements and bid good bye to our normal lives. We should do all we can to make our world secure. However, after we have done what is reasonably possible, we need to put ourselves in the hands of God. We have to believe that He watches over us. We need to vanquish our fears by placing ourselves under the protection of our God Who never sleeps. As I said to people after 9/11, we must hold on to the words of Victor Hugo who said: “Go to sleep, God is awake!”

As someone who grew up in India with no contact whatsoever with the Jewish people, I don’t understand anti-Semitism. I have read books and articles that try to explain the origins of this horrible blotch on humanity. But I fail to comprehend it. How can I hate the Jewish people – especially if I am a Christian – knowing that Our Lord chose to be born in that race?  How can I hold in disdain the flesh and blood that the Son of God assumed as His own in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The origins of our Christian Faith are indebted to Judaism and her traditions. All the apostles and many early Christians were Jews. Well versed in Jewish theology, the apostle Paul developed many fundamental Christian theological concepts drawing from his rich background. I have been present at a Sabbath Service and I have witnessed a Bar Mitzvah. The first part of our Mass is similar to what they do at the Jewish worship. Their Scripture (the Old Testament) is our Scripture and we consider it sacred and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Popes and Church documents have insisted over and over again that we cannot condone anti-Semitism. This sin is a sin against our Christian Faith.

Recognizing our common roots, the Fathers of the Vatican Council called upon all Catholics to fight against anti-Semitism. In the document, Nostra Aetate, they declare (#4):

Indeed the Church reproves every form of persecution against whomsoever it may be directed. Remembering, then, her common heritage with the Jews and moved not by any political consideration, but solely by the religious motivation of Christian charity, she deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.

The fact that someone could be driven to killing by their hatred completely baffles me. God made us for love, not for hatred. Hate-filled people are miserable in this life and their future in the next is doubtful. Our Christian Faith tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who do bad things to us. We are called upon to return love in the place of hate, forgiveness in response to hurt, and compassion in return for insult. By this all will know that we are His disciples – by the way we love. Only those who know how to love will be admitted into His heavenly Kingdom.

Let us teach our children never to give in to hate towards anyone. Let us condemn in the strongest words the violence done against our Jewish brothers and sisters. Let us call for a more compassionate, kind and conciliatory tone in our national conversation. It is appalling that our civic discourse has become so coarse and divisive. Let us call to task anyone who contributes to this environment of hatred, this talk of “us against them.” Let us give heed to the words of St Pope John XXIII who said, “Let us hold on to things that unite us rather than those that divide us.”

Let us turn to our God of peace and leave our destiny in His hands! Let us ask the Divine Healer to heal our broken world!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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