I first wish to offer my condolences and my prayers to the families affected by the recent violence in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. May God bless us with peace and help us to respond with compassion to those in need.
In light of these events, we need more than ever to hear Jesus’ words of consolation in this week’s Gospel passage:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” Our Lord Jesus is with us in our trials; He continues to care for us even as we suffer. Even death cannot destroy us, for in the end He calls us to Himself. The tragedies of this life draw the great contrast between earthly suffering and the peace we look forward to in heaven.
We cannot guarantee anything in this life; if we are honest, we can never be totally sure even of our basic safety. We can be tempted to live in constant fear of the next great attack that will fall upon our persons, our homes, our families, or our nation. We can be tempted to close in on ourselves, trust no one, and shut out the world entirely. This is our fear-based reaction.
Next comes outrage. We want the perpetrators to be punished. We want drastic systemic change to ensure that such violence will never happen again. We strive to do something to heal our great wounds. I do not intend to belittle such efforts; traumatic events can be the spark that ignites our will to make great change for the good. I do wish, however, to caution us against rash judgments or the use of tragedy for political gain. Outrage can blind us, too. Even worse, it can lead us to spread violence further, making new enemies and further breaking down our fragile society.
Neither fear nor outrage are fit to be our shepherds. We are Christ’s “little flock;” we already have the best possible Shepherd.
We can take our lead from what Jesus says next: “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach, nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Christ’s answer to the great evils of this world is to do great good. His way is not to answer violence with violence, but to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (cf. Matthew 5:43-48)
We work not to perfect this world, but to perfect ourselves in Christ’s image—laying down our lives for others to show great love in the face of great evil. Jesus encourages us to love with abandon in this life in imitation of His total gift of Himself for us on the Cross. They can take everything earthly from us, as they took even Jesus’ life from Him, but they can never destroy our faith nor deny us our heavenly destination.
We reject fear, for we are held in the gentle hands of Almighty God; we reject outrage, for it blinds us to the humanity of our enemies and our need to constantly respond in love. We accept instead Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. We look to Him for healing and strength. We turn to Him for forgiveness and for the strength to forgive and love again.
Peace in Christ,
Father Matthew Kuhn
p.s. If you are in need of healing in body, mind, or spirit, please join us Tuesday evening at Our Lady of the Lake, in Battle Lake, for a special Mass and prayers for healing. Further details are outlined in the Bulletin.