Sunday, June 19, 2016

Orlando and the Gospel

It’s hard to imagine that our minds have not been drawn to the events in Orlando recently, where yet another act of violence and barbarism has invaded our own consciousness. One is reminded, as if by an unfortunate muscular reaction Sandusky, Virginia Tech, Belgium, Spain, Iraq, Afganistan, and Syria. Acts such as these, and many others, show a world torn by strife, division, and sin. Many of our esteemed brethren have spoken out against such violence, and we commend them. Violence against homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, or anyone is to be deplored as ungodly and abominable. It stands that we, as Christians, ought to look for God earnestly and listen to him attentively.

The Bishop of St. Petersburg, Robert Lynch, had said that, “sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.” He adds, “Those women and men who were mowed down … were all made in the image and likeness of God.” In some senses, it is true. When someone is gay, he or she is part of the “gay community” just as someone who is poor is part of “low society” and so on. We emphasize our differences, many times apart from charity, but rather out of exclusion.

Scripture has fittingly placed before us an appropriate message:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:26-29). [cf., 12th Sunday, OT, Year C]

For Christians there are no divisions so wide that Christ has not redeemed them. All have sinned and thus all need Christ to reconcile them. We who follow Him must never forget that our faith, and the healing we have received as a result, is God’s gift, ever and always. What we have been given, we are called to give. Christ is the light of the world, shining in the darkness (cf., Jn 1:5). We too have been called into this marvelous light to live as children of the light (cf., 1 Thes 5:5, Eph 5:8). What is this light? That light is the peace, love, and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 The Gospel, my brothers and sisters, demands much from us. We are called to admonish sin, but be patient with sinners. We are called to love our neighbor, but love our enemy as well. We are called endure persecution for the sake of righteousness, all the while giving glory to God. No one is exempt from this calling among us, and all of us are called to build each other up in love. There is a gay person in our midst who is more virtuous in regard to chastity than any of us, there is a wealthy person in our midst who outshines all in humility, and there is one who is sick among us who outshines us in true, Christian love.

Stature, orientation, health, or age does not impede us from living the gospel. Our own strengths and weaknesses simply mean that the Gospel demands different things from us daily, and together our love for God, and His love for us, makes us one. No one is impeded, no one is exempt. In short, “pick up your cross daily, and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

This mass, and this day, let us first pray as David does in the psalms, “Who can discern his errors? Clear me of hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Ps 19:12-13). Then, let us pray for those affected by violence, resolving in our own lives to be Christ’s peace in the world. Lastly, as we celebrate this Eucharist, we pray: “May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation … advance the peace and salvation of all the world (EP III, §113) …That in a world torn by strife, your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord” (EP V1, §7).