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Catholic Voice
  August 8, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

We need to see ourselves as God does: Brothers and sisters

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

On July 29, I was invited by Bishop Bob Jackson, pastor of Oakland's Acts Full Gospel Church, to participate in a citywide prayer vigil. Representative clergy from many churches in Oakland attended. It was the first time I have been invited to speak at a Protestant church since I became Bishop of Oakland. Fathers Jay Matthews and Jayson Landeza were also present, representing our Catholic community.

With all the shootings going on across our country in the past weeks, and all the division and incriminations, the purpose of the vigil was to pray for our mayor, City Council, Board of Supervisors and representatives of the Oakland Police Department. We wanted to invoke God's blessings, grace, wisdom and guidance on our public officials.

The music and praying were very lively and emotional — and very genuine. It was beautiful to see each elected official come up, take the microphone, and ask God for what he or she needed. Then a pastor would come forward and lead prayers for — and over — that individual.

It was abundantly clear to everyone there, that by praying and invoking the Holy Name of Jesus, His Grace and Mercy would triumph and heal our community. It was very powerful.

When I was invited to speak, this is what I shared:

"On behalf of all the 84 parishes of the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, we feel the pain of the families of those African American men who were shot. We feel the pain of the families of the innocent police officers who were shot. We ask you to feel our pain for the French priest, Father Hamel, who had his throat slit by ISIS while celebrating Mass in his church.

Where do we take our pain? Where do we take our rage? We take it to Jesus, for Jesus absorbed all the pain and suffering and injustice in the world as he hung upon the cross. He took all that pain and transformed it into love, mercy and forgiveness when He said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

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We are all children of our Heavenly Father, created in the image and likeness of God, as it says in Genesis. We need to see each other as God sees us looking down from heaven: as brothers and sisters.

I thanked Bishop Jackson for inviting me, and including the Catholic Church in the prayer vigil. I also invited all the pastors present, the 1,000 people in the congregation, and I invite you who are reading this — to attend another prayer vigil — at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 6, at our cathedral.

We are bringing together representatives of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist traditions to give witness to "Mercy: the Heart of Peace." On July 29 we prayed for healing in our city. In September, we want to pray for healing in our world.

At Mass July 31, many Muslims across France attended Mass to express their condolences for the murder of Father Hamel. I was moved to see a young Muslim woman wearing her hijab attend Mass at our Oakland cathedral. I went over to her and thanked her.

Many people lament the rise of violence in our city, our nation and our world. We have a chance to do something constructive in response. Come and join us at the cathedral on Sept. 6. We can pray. And prayer changes things!

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