This past Easter Octave was particularly precious to me, and to many in my community, as they have told me. The dirtier and darker our culture becomes, the more necessary clean, well-lighted places become. Take Kevin, for example. He moved from Oakland to our neighborhood after he discovered a clean, well-lighted place at Star of the Sea parish. He is a 6’4” black Uber driver who just wants to be around people who love him and share his faith in a power greater than himself.
Kevin goes every Sunday afternoon with four or five others into the Tenderloin’s cocaine-soaked street encampments to bring food, hot drink, clothing, and understanding love to the poorest of the poor in San Francisco. He knows just how to diffuse tense situations among the street dwellers, many of whom suffer various manic-depressive disorders. Kevin is a gentle giant with a heart as big as his size-sixteen sneakers. One day an elderly lady, garrulous in the extreme and not quite fully in possession of her rational faculties, called the parish asking for a ride to Christmas Mass from her subsidized apartment in the Tenderloin. I turned to “Big Kev” for help, and several times a month he now picks up this little woman—who never stops talking – God bless her dear heart! – to gently escort her into Holy Mass. Only in heaven will she understand what this modern-day St. Christopher has done for her.
This Easter Octave was especially bright for all of us. “The lights shines in the darkness,” the priest would read at the end of every Mass, “and the darkness has not overcome it.” For eight days we have been luxuriating in the splendor of Easter morning with this verse: haec dies quam fecit Dominus; exultemus and laetemur in ea. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The “it” in that verse refers to “the Day,” but the Day is the Risen Christ. He is the Light, the Daystar, and He rises every morning. The Jewish people, even in their darkest periods, have been singing Psalm 22 for 3000 years: “His mercies are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness.” And so why are we sad?
For 1600 years the priest would begin Mass Psalm 42, including this verse: confitebor tibi in cithara, Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es, anima mea, and quare conturbas me? “I will praise you, God, my God, on the harp: why are your sad, my spirit, and why do you disturb me?” It’s a question I ask and answer every morning before I become fully awake. This time of day is the hardest for me, as the darkness still covers me and I muse on the troubles the coming day will bring. My soul is sad, and it disturbs me, and I have to make this act of will: I will believe that “His mercies are renewed each morning.” Like King David in his Psalm 42, I have to shake my finger at my own spirit, scolding it for disturbing me. Why are you sad, my spirit? Why do you keep bothering me?
We all have to scold our own spirits when they moan in sadness. We have to say to them: This is day the Lord has made, and it is Jesus himself. He floods the world with light, so why are you sad, you bad soul? You naughty spirit. Stop bothering me, and let me sing to the Lord my God with all my heart!
From Father Illo’s blog. Father Illo is pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco.