Today I cried. I can’t say I wept — just very wet eyes. Then I smiled, the closed-lip type, happy my heart was still able to shed a tear for someone I’ve never met. It’s easy to get calloused in the news world. After all, the news is about the world, a hodgepodge of hushed good and paraded evil. I used to lament the media for highlighting darkness and avoiding all light. Conspiracy! But now the tables are turned ever so slightly. What am I going to do? Will I parade evil? Will I hush goodness? Is there light to be shown? Yes, yes there is, and today I realized it’s the light, not the darkness, that makes us cry.
Maybe you too saw the story: Authorities in Anaheim, California, charged seven gang members and three female associates with raping a 23-year-old woman over a seven hour period. During the assault a mother allegedly looked on. The 38-year-old Connie Herrera watched and encouraged the crime of her 18-year-old son and six other suspects, authorities said. Police Chief John Welter called it, "one of the worst rapes I've seen in my 35 years experience." The gang members allegedly told the victim the assault was a warning to her boyfriend for gang interference. They also allegedly warned her she would be killed if she reported the crime. She blew the whistle, and for now, she’s safe.
I wagged my head in disgust and anger as the story came across the wires. The Orange County Assistant District Attorney, Susan Kang Schroeder, expressed a similar sentiment. “It makes you shake your head that mothers could be participating," she said. “It shows how a group mentality can breed disgusting behavior."
But disgust and anger alone don’t make us cry. When left unchecked, in fact, they harden the heart and make us less human, less capable of love. But don’t get me wrong. They do have their proper place. Disgust and anger make us recoil from evil, and that’s a good thing. My dad used to remind me that the Bible calls it “righteous anger,” an acknowledgment of the soul that something is sick and wrong. Sick and wrong, what does that mean? Sickness is the absence of health. Wrong is the absence of right (truth). In other words, evil is missing goodness.
It’s this missing goodness that makes us cry. We cry for what should be there, and is not. This 23-year-old girl deserved love, respect, and an environment of security and peace. What she received was everything but that. And the 18-year-old boy suspected of committing the crime, what does he deserve? A lot of things! I can only imagine the list running through your minds. But on this list, be sure to remember, he deserved a mother not a shameless conspirator. As for the “gang mom,” what does she deserve? Your list gets longer and so does mine. But among other things, let’s not forget she too deserved a mother and a father to teach her what being a mom is all about. Maybe she had those good examples, or perhaps her parents or grandparents had them. But somewhere along the way someone gave in. By giving in and choosing evil they made it easier for others to do the same. This chain effect, while no excuse for sin, is part of the mystery of evil.
On today’s blog I’m posting the picture of Connie the “gang mom,” now in police custody (see box above). Look in her eyes and try to reflect on missing goodness, not only in her and in this story, but in our own lives. Look hard because missing things are hard to perceive. We don’t see flowers we never sent. We don’t hear words of gratitude, repentance, or pardon we never uttered. We don’t remember a visit to the sick or the lonely we never made, or hugs and kisses we considered redundant.
Don’t worry about wet eyes. Sometimes we get them, but usually we don’t. No big deal. What counts is the daily decision to build a chain of goodness and fill the void of evil.
For my part, I’ll try not to forget that it is the absence of light which moves the soul to tears. I’ll continue to parade evil as evil, but I won’t hush goodness, the much bigger part of this beautiful hodgepodge of life on earth.
If you have stories of your own about light and darkness, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me by writing to email@example.com.
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. On Friday’s blog I will show you readers’ responses to our recent topics on Hollywood, the South Dakota ban on abortion, and the Missouri stem-cell battle. I’ll also make some important clarifications on these three issues.
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