O Say Can You See?

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I feel so upset and helpless when I see the stories of violence and unrest on tColSommer_Ahe news. Whether it’s far away in Syria or closer to home in Charlotte, NC, I wish I could do something to sit the warring sides down together and bring about understanding, reconciliation and peace. My usual response is to reach for the remote and change the channel to something less disturbing.

I cling to life’s moments that are free from conflict and distress so I reveled in a recent Mets game at Citi Field when the choruses from MacArthur High School and Division Avenue High School sang the National Anthem before the game. No politics over whether to stand, sit or kneel—just young people eager and proud to lift their voices together for a stadium filled with appreciative fans.

I was so proud of our Levittown kids. First, they sang so beautifully. Second, they were so good with each other. I was impressed with the camaraderie and kindness they showed each other—especially in light of the fact that they were from different schools. The only thing that went wrong that night was that the Mets lost.

I often hear people speak despondently about how bad our world is these days. Yet moments of goodness and hope abound, as I witnessed that night at the stadium. As I reflect on life in Levittown, I notice frequent care witColSommer_100516Ahin families and between families. People are so generous in their outreach to the homeless in our village. We help hundreds of people each month at our food pantry, yet the shelves do not go empty because so many keep giving. I have great hope for the future.

However, I know all is not well. At St. Bernard’s alone we’ve buried 17 people from drug overdoses in the past three years—all but four of these were parents. Domestic violence creates hidden scars and other married couples are drifting apart in their mid-life years and are resigning themselves to the idea that the drift is irreversible. Racial prejudice that hides just under the surface surprises me and upsets me when I encounter it.

What helps me face the challenges of the painful parts of life is this prayer we sometimes say at church. “O Lord, though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation. Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect.”

While I wish I could change the “dissention and discord” as easily as I can change the channel, I know that change can come about, though slowly and with a lot of work. And during the time of hard work, it is good to have those “anthem moments” with the young people of our future.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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