New York City, N.Y., Dec 22, 2014 / 21:22 pm
Despite the violence, darkness and confusion of the world, we can find hope and peace in the promise of Christ, said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in response to the killing of two police officers.
“Never is the hope of the good news of God’s promise and fulfillment erased for a believer, and the more it is tested the stronger it gets,” said Cardinal Dolan in a Dec. 21 homily during Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The cardinal offered a message of hope to the people of New York one day after two NYPD officers – Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu – were shot and killed in an ambush-style attack while sitting in their patrol car.
The suspect has been identified by police as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who had made threats on Instagram and had earlier that day shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home, according to media reports.
Brinsley was found dead later in the day in a subway station from a self-inflicted gun wound, said New York Police Commissioner William Bratton.
The Dec. 20 killings occurred amid continued nationwide protests over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York. In both cases, grand juries chose not to charge police officers involved in the deaths.
In his homily, Cardinal Dolan reflected on the previous day’s events.
It can be difficult to focus on the good news of the Gospel, he said, “as we mourn the brutal and irrational execution of two young, promising and devoted police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu; as we tear-up thinking about their heartbroken families; as we are in solidarity with our police officers who experience a 'death in the family;' as we worry about a city tempted to tension and division.”
“'Good news ' might seem distant, difficult, even indiscrete, as we anticipate the joy of Christmas four days away, and feel more like we’re near Good Friday,” he acknowledged.
The cardinal noted that Dec. 21 marked the darkest day of the year, with the least sunlight of the year. Early cultures were fearful at seeing this, he remarked, until they saw each year that the sun would return and days would begin getting longer.
In this way, he observed, “fear was replaced with trust, as life and community went on, showing that nature and her God would always guarantee that light would conquer darkness.”
Similarly, in the midst of darkness and fear, the Son of God brings light into the world, restoring love and hope in eternal life.
Cardinal Dolan pointed to Mary’s experience of being asked to be the Mother of God, without being given a detailed blueprint.
“Fear; doubt; darkness; confusion; anxiety – all flood Mary’s heart, yet she trusts, and she conceives a son who is to be the light of the world!”
Although it may be difficult, the cardinal said, we must remember Christ’s presence in the midst of darkness.
He recalled his experience saying Mass the previous day: “I saw out of the corner of my eye, in a chapel off the side of the main altar, hidden from public view, two policemen, on their knees, hats on the floor, heads bowed, hands folded, before the Blessed Sacrament. I silently prayed that they heard those words deep down, 'Be not afraid! I am with you!'”
“I’ve learned in my six years here that, yes, New York, this huge, throbbing metropolis, can indeed be a place of hurt, darkness, fear, and fracture, that our celebrated grit and in-your-face realism can at times turn brash,” Cardinal Dolan said.
“But I’ve also learned that New York can also be that 'Little Town of Bethlehem,' from which comes, not darkness, division, and death, but light, unity, and life. That’s New York! That’s Bethlehem! That’s Christmas!”