Friday, July 30, 2010


To Cain, God said, "should our countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
8Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
9Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
10He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.
11"Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. (Genesis 4; 1 - 11)

Here I am again, spurred on by the necessity to comment on death, dying and living.
In the small Southern California city of Moreno Valley, a gory, inhuman story of abduction and killing of a seventeen year old girl as she made her way across a field to get to a rendezvous with her sister and mutual friends took place. Her badly decomposed body was found in the field, five days after her disappearance. This part of the story is the sad part. What follows is the triumph of virtue and clean living over death.

The earthly remains of Norma Angelica Lopez were brought to the Catholic parish church, St. Christopher, where she and her parents celebrated their discipleship with Jesus Christ. The doors to the adjunct meeting hall were to open at 4:00 PM. The crowd that you see here assembled started to build at about noon of July 28, the day before the funeral. This is a community gathering around a family that has just lost a seventeen year old daughter of great physical and internal beauty. Gatherings like this are usually the result of the assassination of some dignitary, not the murder of a child. But over the two days of public exposure of Norma's family gathered around her casket, an estimated 5,000 people, suddenly became brethren in sorrow and bereavement, surrounded the family and each other with Christian love and hope. Yes, Norma's blood seeping into the earth of Moreno Valley was crying out to God and to His people for Faith, Hope ands Justice. We responded. We came. We consoled one another. We prayed together. We had been disabled and recovered and we thought that we had conquered death. We had been saddened and abused and gone forward and we were joyful that God had helped us to "conquer". Our personal trials and tribulations shrunk and paled in comparison to what we were experiencing here. Here God was revealing Himself to us in a way that is reserved for very, very few people on this earth. Moreno Valley, of all places in the world was hosting the greatest spiritual event that most people will ever receive from God. Our Divine and Heavenly Father together with His Angels and the Saints around Him reached down and let us hear the cry of Norma's blood from the consecrated earth of Moreno Valley. We heard. We came. The cry of this simple, clean living young woman inviting us to know that this cry is an invitation to unity of heart, to celebrate our lives in the Spirit of God so that evil and its practitioners will know that they have no power over us. 5,000 people of all ages, colors and creeds answered the call of God over the cruel spilling of the innocent blood of a seventeen year old child.

When we Catholics celebrate martyrdom, we feature the color red. The color of blood; the color of fire; the color of zeal; the color of energy; the color of life itself.  It would have been an appropriate symbol here.  But when we really want to celebrate and be happy, we use White...the color of light; the color of the Resurrection.  White was the dominant color of Norma's goodbye.  The color of the angels; the color of virtue; the color of innocence; the color of purity.  Even as she was leaving the church yard, her final
limo was white.  She is alone in this picture because there was no room to form a cortège in front of the church.  She parked by the side of the road and waited patiently for the following to form.  We all know that she is not alone.  We are stupefied by what she endured on her way to God.  The mystery behind her last moments in this life clouds our minds.  The mystery of her presence before God is our consolation.  When we think of where she is now, hope forms in our hearts and the cry of her blood to God becomes a hymn of reverence that carries us closer to Him.  It makes us comfortable that we believe that her blood and His irrigated the land of His creation to produce the fruits of salvation for those of us who have to stay behind for a while more.  Through her sacrifice joined with His; through the hearing of the hymn of her blood rising to Him we discovered new reverence for each other in the courtyard of her last moment of presence among us.

I have to say two more things.  First, the words of the sweet Spanish language hymn that was sung as she was guided into the church and carried up to the altar of Eucharistic sacrifice, in my awkward translation.
1 .- My life is In Your hands
Lord.  Into your hands, Lord
I put my existence.

We must die, to find life.
Into your hands, Lord
I entrust my being

2 .- If the grain of wheat does not die,
it will always remain alone;
but if it dies, in abundance will
it bear eternal fruit that will not die.

Lastly, when the mariachi was playing the last goodbye as the casket was committed to the hearse, I heard the cry of Norma's blood and the harp of her guardian angel, and I cried.  At that moment, I came to know a lovely person whom I had never met as a human being.  But now we know one another, and I shouldn't have, but I did, cry at her funeral.