I’ve been working on a writing project and came across this article I wrote and published years ago. Below I have included a summarized version. It is about Father Bernard Lichtenberg who died at the hands of the Gestapo 72 years ago this month. I do not wish to add to all the heated rhetoric about ISIS, immigration, Syria, and the like (Those who know me well know that I abhor politics, so if you are looking to argue or fight, I’m not your guy). I repost this today as food for thought, knowing wee don’t need more words on these matters as much as we need deep, thoughtful, meditation leading to loving, redemptive action.
It’s strikes me as tragically ironic that all we have to do is substitute the name/group for today’s controversy (Syrian refugee) for some other group from yesterday (Mexican, Black, Jap, Irish, Jew, Italian, Redskin/savage) to see that what is said today is recycled.
Anyway, for what it is worth:
Bernard Lichtenberg was a Catholic priest serving in Berlin during WW2. Boldly, he spoke against the Nazi persecutions of the Jews, and for this he was arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation Lichtenberg said: “I reject with my innermost the deportation of the Jews, because it is directed against the most important commandment of Christianity, ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself’. But since I cannot prevent this measure, I have made up my mind to accompany the deported Jews into exile. I ask the Gestapo to give me this opportunity.”
Considered “irredeemable,” his appeal was granted. He was condemned and consigned to the concentration camp at Dachau. Aged, frail, and in a weakened state, Bernard Lichtenberg died while in transit November, 1943. Father Lichtenberg, almost single-handedly opposing the Nazis, was not acting in a sensible manner. He was not being practical. He was being loving. Such love can appear like madness, leading the follower of Jesus into all manner of impracticality in the “real world.” But practicality doesn’t seem to be Jesus’ main concern.
We are instructed to love, following Jesus’ own example, not because it is practical, reasonable, logical, or safe. An not for a minute should we think that unselfishly loving our neighbors will save the world from all hate and violence. Nor will it make our membership rolls at the church grow, achieve justice for all society, or make us popular. We love our neighbors as ourselves not because it always “works,” but because it bears witness; it is a clear reflection of the love of God for all. These “opportunities,” as Lichtenberg called them, to join the weak, abused, and mistreated aren’t realistic; because love doesn’t always “succeed,” but it always shines as a light in the darkness.