Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Heeding the message of a murdered bishop in Los Angeles

- Kathryn Lopez

In his last homily at Los Angeles’ cathedral before he was murdered on Feb. 18, Bishop David O’Connell talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus — and a pilgrimage we led to shrines in Portugal and Lourdes, France.

The Los Angeles auxiliary recalled weeping in Lourdes. His own mother had died two decades before, and for the first time since he’d last seen her, he said he felt the loving welcome of a mother.

He wept because he felt deeply. Specifical­ly, he had a heart for the vulnerable. News reports have talked about his work with gang members and prisoners. He was an instrument of peace, conversion and welcome. In that last sermon, rememberin­g the wedding feast of Cana, Bishop Dave, as he was known, said that he was pretty sure Jesus, because of “his great love for his mother, won’t refuse her anything. He honors his mother so much and he will always — he will always help when she asks him to help.” And so he said that when he was looking for help, he would always “talk to Our Blessed Mother first.”

Mary is so important, he said, because all she wants for us is what God wants. He expounded: “She said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ I think that’s what she tells us that also — do whatever Jesus tells you . ... That’s where new hope emerges, living in that relationsh­ip where you are putting yourself completely under the authority of Jesus.”

The authority of Jesus was a power O’Connell believed we don’t tap into enough, even though it’s so freely available.

It is difficult — if not seemingly impossible — for people in agonizing pain to realize that they are loved and can have a personal relationsh­ip with God, that there is hope beyond the misery they are experienci­ng and that has likely been inflicted on them.

There was an authentici­ty about Bishop Dave that made the message he brought believable. He radiated a joy in the midst of violence, poverty and brokenness that was convincing and inspiratio­nal.

Christiani­ty is often seen as prohibitiv­e and joylessly demanding. That’s not the Christiani­ty you encountere­d when you interacted with Bishop Dave. He showed you by the way he loved you that God changes lives for the better. That in relationsh­ip with God, you will be set free from everything dragging you down, if you are open to seeing that there is more to life with Him than without Him.

In that last homily, he said that in the Eucharist, “Jesus takes the suffering of the sin of the world unto Himself and gives back His mercy, and His new life, and His salvation.”

The invitation to that — to faith — has to be done with love and the selfless witness of people of God.

With Bishop Dave, his Irish brogue and effortless sense of humor didn’t hurt. He was senselessl­y murdered — by someone who has to be sick. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanatio­n the police have found credible. I suspect the murderer was exactly the kind of person the bishop’s heart would regularly break for. If there’s any way for his murder to make sense, it is for us to learn from Bishop Dave’s example.

Let God be real in your life. Show Him to others. And take refuge in His mother, who makes life more tender with her love for you and her Son.

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