Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Bishop Kevin J. Farrell’s homily during the July 9 Mass for Hope and Healing at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
As we come to church this evening, our hearts are burdened. We feel the pain. We ask God for healing and we ask him for peace and understanding in our world and in our community. We think of those people who have lost their lives. We think that they are human beings; persons who sat in church: perhaps like we are on this evening; who walked around this city and our communities; who did good for each one of us.
Our hearts are burdened. They’re sad when we think of the families and we think of the wives and we think of the children and we think of those who were close to them and who depended on them. And we say, “What is it that God wants us to do? Why does God allow this?” I cannot answer the question. But I think when we look to the Scriptures where Jesus already has spoken to us, we will truly find the answer. We need to pray. We need to pray for an end to so much division, so much hatred, so much violence in our nation and in our communities. We need to pray for peace and understanding. We need to listen to the words of that great ancient Jewish prayer that is Psalm 69 that we read after the first reading today. When we stretch out our arms and look up to God and say, “Lord, I pray to you — I pray to you in this moment of pain. In your great mercy understand and help me; give me answers.”
We are afflicted and we are in pain. Turn to us and help us, Lord. We need to pray more. We need to go back to the basics of understanding who we are, who God is and what God intended with our creation. We need to pray for an end to that violence and end to division in our communities. And as we pray and as we demand answers from God, we must be prepared to listen to the answer that God has given us and will continue always to give to each one of us. He has already answered that question before. We listened tonight to the Gospel of St. Luke — to the story of the Samaritan and we have heard it so many times. We say as we listen to the first line of it, ‘Oh I have heard this before.’ And yet, it never penetrates our hearts for us to understand that this is the answer to our problems. This, 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ spoke on earth, is the answer to our problem today.
A scholar of the law comes up to Jesus and says, “You know, what do I have to do to live in peace forever? What do I have to do to possess eternal life?” And Jesus answered and says, ‘“Well, you have to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, and you have to love your neighbor as yourself.” Period. He didn’t say any more. And then, this teacher of the law, this scholar of the law says to him. “Well, who is my neighbor?”And it is then that Jesus speaks that story and says, “My neighbor, a man was going down from Jericho to Jerusalem and he fell among robbers.” The priest goes by and keeps going. A Levite goes by and keeps going. The Samaritan, one who would never communicate, who was never permitted to talk to the Jewish people, he goes by, but he’s different. His heart is full of compassion and love and understanding. He is a person, although he has never read the Scriptures, understood what God wants — to love your neighbor as yourself. And he’s the one, not all those who had studied the law, not all those who had studied the Scripture, not all those who are holy and kind and understanding and went to church every Sunday. But the one who understood the most basic fundamental principle of God — of the teaching of God — that we must love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Yes, brothers and sisters, that’s what we need to do. That is the answer to the question. The question that is haunting us since last Thursday night. Why? The answer is there. Basically because we haven’t listened to God, the one who creates us. And we need to ask ourselves the question. What would we have done if we were walking down that road and found that person? Or rather we need to ask ourselves, what do we do each day when we encounter someone who is in pain or in trouble. Or we encounter a person who doesn’t look like us, a person who is not from the neighborhood where we live. A person who speaks a different language, or who comes from a different country. A person who is a different color. A person who thinks differently, philosophically, politically than I do. What do I do? Do I avoid them? Or do I engage them in conversation? Do I accept them as I would accept any other member of my own family? What do we do? What do we do each day? That is the question we need to pose to ourselves on this night as we seek God’s consolation and God’s answer to this question. These are the real questions that face us in life today. It is not how we are going to politically resolve this matter. It is not what new rules and regulations and law that we are going to bring up to resolve these matters. It comes back to each one of us as individuals. What do we do when we encounter another person who is different? Who looks like us, but doesn’t think like us. Who speaks a different language or a different tone. Whatever. What do we do? That is the question that we have to answer each day. That is the question and that is what Jesus has already told us to do.
I would hope that as you would look around this church on this night, before you leave church, you would look at the many stained glass windows that are here. They are old, they’re grey and one day, please God we will clean them all up, and they will look beautiful once again. They have been here for almost 100 years. So as you look at them, think, that these beautiful pieces of art are made of small pieces of glass — of different colors, of different sizes, different shapes. But yet, they create a harmony and a great beauty that is a work of art. But when they are not in harmony, it’s chaos. Well, that is what our community has to be. It has to be a stained glass where we all come together to create a world and a community that lives in peace and in harmony. That, my dear brothers and sisters, is what God is telling us on this night, in this tragedy.
Let us pray on this weekend in a very special way for our police officers, for their families, and for all people who have suffered violence in this world. Let us pray for them. Let us pray that each one of us will listen to the word of God. The answer that God has given to us from the beginning and we can no longer cry out, “Lord, what are you doing? What do you want us to do?” He has already given us the answer to that question. Read once again the parable that we listened to tonight from the Gospel of St. Luke. There you will find the answer. We have to answer the question tonight.