When tragedy strikes, people of every faith and no faith act with powerful love toward strangers
He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. -Isaiah 25:8
Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8
At the end of an ugly week, I find myself trying to remember the last week when there wasn’t a mass shooting or terror attack or other horrifying headline to rock the world for a few minutes before we all got back to our own lives. Here I am again, alternately heartbroken for those who suffer and frustrated at how quickly pain becomes a cause for further division. Weeks like this have me clinging to the Cross and the promise of a world where death has been destroyed and every tear wiped away.
Again and again Scripture tells us that we weren’t made for this world. “In the world you will have trouble,” Jesus said, “but take courage: I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) And so it’s no wonder that this world is a vale of tears, a crucible of sin and suffering.
But you were not made for this world. You were made for life eternal where the faithful departed rest in the embrace of God. You were made for the joy of heaven, the promise of comfort offered to all who mourn and weep. So we cling to that hope for ourselves and beg mercy for those whose lives were taken this week. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. I’m praying for the victims by name, offering my Mass each day for a different slaughtered child of God.
We choose to hope, as the world erupts with blame and accusations. We choose to pray as we weep over the viciousness of such a hate crime.
And yet mixed in among all the anger and sorrow I’m feeling is a tremendous amount of pride. Because every time this happens—and God help us that we live in a world where things like this happen again and again—the world steps up. We saw it this week. Muslims donated blood despite fasting for Ramadan. Revelers acted as living tourniquets for strangers, holding them close to slow the flow of blood. Chick fil-A opened on a Sunday to serve the first responders. People drove 18 hours to bring Golden Retrievers to comfort the survivors. JetBlue flew family members in for free.
Somewhere, deep down, is written on the human heart this plea of St. Peter: let your love for one another be intense. When tragedy strikes, people of every faith and no faith act with powerful love toward strangers. And while I won’t pretend that this outpouring of compassion and generosity covers over the evil of the crime, it is a consolation to know that here on this earth we are loved. Even with all the ugliness in the world, the Spirit of God still prompts people to unfathomable kindness.
Christians, we need to be at the forefront of this movement of love. Pray for that day when there are no more tears, yes, but work now to love intensely. Not just when tragedy strikes (as it will, and soon) but now. Love your families—Mother Teresa says it’s the best way to promote world peace. Love your neighbors. Not just your everyone-is-my-neighbor neighbors but the actual people on your street. Especially the ones who are different from you. Stop analyzing whether you agree with the way they live and just bake them some cookies. It’s not sacrificial love, exactly, but it’s a start.
In the early Church, Tertullian tells us that pagans were struck by the witness of Christian love. “See how they love one another!” they would remark. I wonder how many people look at us and say the same. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” Jesus tells the Apostles, “if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35) This intense love Peter talks about doesn’t just cover over a multitude of sins, it’s a litmus test of faith. Not how often you pray or how much you tithe or how many people you’ve slept with but how hard you love.
Oh, the rest of it matters, of course. But according to St. Peter, it doesn’t matter as much as loving people in real, tangible, self-sacrificing ways. Most of these are small—calling your mother, really listening when people speak to you, expressing condolences when someone is grieving, mowing the neighbor’s lawn. But a lifetime of little acts of love becomes shot through with the life of God and the people you touch will have a much easier time believing that he will wipe away every tear if they’ve felt his love through you.
In this broken world, let us be love.