Today, the proper liturgical prayers I have chosen are from a votive Mass “In Times of War & Civil Disturbance”
[2 Kings 11: 1-4, 9-18, 20; Matthew 6: 19-23]
Fr. Francis Benedict, O.S.B.
Last weekend, 49 people were massacred in Orlando, Florida and more people were wounded. Our nation and the whole world were shocked, outraged and seriously conflicted about this event. This is not just one more incident of gun violence but also a hate crime perpetrated in the name of God, religion and moral conviction about the sexual orientation & the lifestyle of the people who were there that night, unsuspecting.
We as God’s children have the obligation to pray deeply for all victims & even for all perpetrators, realizing that every crime or sin against the human family is not just outside ourselves but also inside of us. “If the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the treasure and of the heart; of detachment from fleeting things, possessions that don’t last, and attachment to those realities that endure to everlasting life. It is absolutely necessary that each one of us assess our personal interior life, our values, our realistic attachment to God & to God’s ways—it behooves us to be rigorously honest about the roots of anger within us: fear, hatred and harsh judgment which are the beginnings of violence and the destruction of human life in this historical moment or in any other time.
As we heard the our first reading from the second Book of Kings, did you feel uneasy as it opens with Athaliah’s violence and evil intent to kill off the whole royal family? Prince Joash is hidden from her evil intent and years later declared king to Athaliah’s subsequent demise…also by violence and the sword. One wonders if the human family has learned anything from history or has progressed beyond such murderous intentions and deeds that promote political power, however temporary.
Yesterday I read that a Christian pastor in Sacramento was reported to have praised the killings in Orlando in his Sunday sermon because of his condemnation of homosexuality and his interpretation of those scriptures which disapprove of that orientation. The pastor seemed glad that ‘now’ there are that many less pedophiles in our country. What an incredible statement, based on a self-righteous condemnation & judgment, projecting onto God wrath & pleasure in seeing the victims of that violent night punished: duly punished for their orientation and lifestyle. The narrow human heart seems to be able to justify any cruelty based on the fear of and hatred for a portion of the human race which contradicts or conflicts with its world view and it’s sense of God’s righteousness.
‘Violence begets violence’ according to the teaching of Jesus.
Some of the words in today’s Communion hymn apply to us, not just to Omar Mateen or to the members of ISIS or to any other perpetrator of criminal violence: what we used to coin as ‘Man’s Inhumanity to Man’
-God is addressed as the Friend of helpless sinners
-Nature’s blindness hardens within us the power of sin
-Temptation presses upon us, even the desire of retaliation
-an eye for an eye
-There are days when Satan’s power seems to dominate this world
-the families of Orlando’s victims are in grief and pain
-in the night of the shooting, timely help seemed in vain
-all of us rely on the deliverance of God’s mercy
-to change our hearts from thoughts of hatred to those of
-peace and forgiveness.
We are all sinners. We all have hurt one another. There is no fully innocent person in this world. The roots of violence are within each of us and must be perceived, understood and removed by grace and hard spiritual work.
There is no way forward for the human family without a deep commitment to peace: peacemaking and peacekeeping. And this has to begin in our interior life and in our life with others.
In the words of Abba Moses, one of the desert fathers:
“Do not have hostile feelings towards anyone and do not let dislike dominate your heart; do not hate him who hates his neighbor. This is what peace is: encourage yourself with this thought, ‘Affliction lasts but a short time, while peace is forever, by the grace of God the Word.’”
I pray that the world, and all of us as individuals will find the path of mercy, which is preceded by broken hearts, deep conversion of spirit and changing our minds about who the enemy is. The real enemy may be lurking within.