(Editor’s note: Father O’Brien, a retired priest of the Albany Diocese, delivered this talk at the Avila retirement community in Albany during a “Solidarity, Support and Renewal” Jewish-Catholic event Nov. 9 to remember the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.)

It was about 4:30 in the morning, dark and dreary. A prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp looked out through an opening in his cell as the dawn was approaching. Depressed and desperate, he then saw a light go on in a distant farmhouse.

The thought came to him, “A light shines in the darkness.” Why it happened, he did not know, but suddenly he had a new courage, some new hope: The light shines in the darkness.

Somehow, he survived that awful place and would become a world-famous psychoanalyst. His name was Viktor Frankl.

The light shines in the darkness.

Go back to the beginning — the very beginning, Genesis. “And God created them, male and female He created them.” You were there and so was I and so was the whole human race, the human family. Each of us has divine DNA.

Now, think of yourself and your story. Have you ever compared yourself — comparisons are odious — and said, “I am not as talented, as well off, as good-looking, as successful as other people?” Yet, you were not any less a person when you put yourself down in that way. You are the person God wants you to be. It’s a command from God, to love yourself!

Think of a bigger picture: Are you less a person when someone insults you with the name “Jew?” African-Americans, when you could not drink from the same water fountain or ride the same bus as white persons, or vote, were you any less a person? When signs said, “Irish need not apply,” and, “We don’t hire Italians,” were you less a person in the midst of such mistreatment, such insults? Did you or I lose our dignity, our God-given value, made in the image and likeness of God?

The same goes for people from Mexico and the followers of Muhammad and the people fleeing for their lives from Central America: You remain the same person in God’s creation, one whom God loves.

This is the person you are to love: you yourself, a very unique person. You are the person that you are to respect and to love.

Now read the word of God from Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself, says the Lord.” When we read, “God says,” it is followed by, “Do something.”

Hear that binding little two-letter word, “as.” Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Who is that person whom God calls our neighbor? In Scripture, God’s people are to care for the needy, the poor, the orphan, the widow, the stranger. Our neighbor is to be loved as one loves oneself, with all our wrinkles and warts.

How do we act in this day when we are called to make a better world — not to quit, not to run away, not to deny today’s world?

We are to be a light shining in the darkness. We are to choose life and not death.

It is time to see how we observe and judge and act.

The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, said: “We must call out the rhetoric of leaders. It is not just quenching this anger that is there. We have the responsibility to name bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism, and call out those who attempt to exploit the fears of people that eventually erupt into outbursts of violence.”

Pope Francis said in reference to the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh: “We are all wounded by this inhuman act of violence. May God help us to extinguish the hotbeds of hatred that are developing in our societies and help us in strengthening the sense of humanity ‘s respect for life, for moral and civic values.”

We can truly say we offer our prayers; we can add our thoughts are with the sorrowing. But we must know that is not enough. You and I alone and together must speak out to right the wrongs, to pursue justice, to give hope and courage to one another.

This can happen everywhere: in education, in business, in social gatherings, in recreation, in small talk. It is up to us to be part of this righteous movement.

In this world, in the human family, in our neighbor, in these times so divided, think of how you and I can be a light shining in the darkness.