August 4, 2019


Just this past Sunday (Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time), the second reading from Colossians (3: 1-5, 9-11) speaks, in almost an eerie sort of way, to all of us who have observed in recent days the horror of relentless gun violence: 

Brothers and sisters: 

if you were raised with Christ,

seek what is above … 

Put to death, then, 

the parts of you that are earthly …

Stop lying to one another …

Here there is not Greek and Jew, 

circumcision and uncircumcision, 

barbarian, … slave, free;

but Christ is all and in all … 

We believe that this is the living Word of God.  But the “living” words, images, and messages that seems to be penetrating our hearts recently are: gun violence, racism, hate speech, white nationalism, domestic terrorism; all accompanied by pictures and video accounts of mass human carnage, human tears and fear, and deep anxiety and hopelessness.  

The horror that always follows such events leads to passionate conversations that demand action, that seek for true condemnation of the forces of hatred, racism, domestic violence and the necessary moves needed for legislation, and related calls for true change and conversion of heart.  

But hope seems to be very thin these days, as the common wisdom seems to be that nothing will change after the heat of the conversation tones down a bit.  Our history of words leading to action are most certainly, pathetic contradictions.  People, as the patterns suggest, will continue to give passionate speeches; candidates for high office are quick to condemn and offer promises as to how things will be if they are elected. And of course, the maddening calls for “thoughts and prayers” will continue to be given by many, calls that sicken many of us who are tired of such empty and polite words.  

Like Paul and other “letter writers” and preachers of his time, who wrote their letters and preached their homilies of encouragement and consolation to the people of Colossae, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, and other communities are imitated today by well-intended leaders and faith leaders, who write and offer spoken statements … but such statements are, while welcomed at the immediate time, not given much credence in terms of holding any confidence that a true transformation will come to pass.  

It may very well be the case, that once again, nothing of any substance will really come to take place.  Our elected leaders seem to be totally unable or in many cases, unwilling to confront the present situation.  So, those of us who claim to be “raised with Christ” – what do we do?

We keep at it.  

We do more than read and nod our heads in agreement with Paul.  We give these words some real teeth.  We seek “what is above” by keeping our voices and actions hot and fueled by not backing off our pressure upon our leaders, both political and religious to choose a different way.  We make dramatic steps to make sure that the ringers on their phones are not quiet, but ringing constantly with our own commitment.  We pound on their doors to demand that we be heard. We make it clear to our representatives and senators, that unless they do something concrete and sustaining, our votes will go somewhere else.  

We keep at it.

We get “political.”  Yes … we become champions of “God’s politics” and encourage and challenge people to run for office who are committed to harvesting policies that are grounded in peace and the call for radical shifts in the laws that are on the books.  We call out the empty and shallow stances that stand up for misguided beliefs about the second amendment.  We need to find the courage to “put to death” the parts of us that are “earthly,” that are in direct and clear opposition to the reign of God.  

We dedicate ourselves, right here, and right now – to “stop lying to one another.” The second amendment does not allow for the amassment for weaponry, and especially not weaponry that can bring about the extreme levels of a national war-zone, that ratifies and   actually seems to allow, a newly established and trumpeted reality of civil war.  

We keep at it. 

We shout from the top of our lungs, until we become hoarse, that there really is, in God’s eyes (and so it will be so with us), no “Greek and Jew;” that the present motivations that turn into violence are most certainly, racist to the core, and they need to squashed by putting into place laws that show zero-tolerance; that there is no place or tolerance of “barbarian” behaviors, by passively allowing people to accumulate arsenals of instruments that are designed for potential mass destruction of human life.  

We keep at it.  

As people who embrace Christ Jesus and are soaked in the breath of the Holy Spirit, we need to take on love in all things.  But such love needs to rise to louder levels.  Perhaps we need to move to a new chapter, that while love is certainly patient, kind, gentle and tender (1 Corinthians 12, 31-13, 8), the love of Christ is also a “loud” reality that needs to be chanted, sung, and shouted to those who want our responses to be meek, mild, and soft.  We are not being “invited” to love only, we are being commanded to do so.  This is the mandatum that Jesus was speaking about (John 13: 1-15), that we celebrate every Holy Thursday.  

We keep at it. 

We need to get louder.  “Thoughts and Prayers” is a bad thing?  Yes, if they are only empty words and platitudes that hypnotize us into doing nothing.  No wonder we are sick and tired of our leaders offering such an empty response in times of true horror.  But … the offering of “thoughts and prayers” can be a true agent for healing and comfort, if we choose to live the thoughts. Instead of offering prayers, how about we actually become the prayer itself (as St. Francis would teach), meaning, we get off our behinds and shout, sing, dance, and speak “love” at every opportunity, in every situation, and especially in the face of hatred, violence, racism, and any action that blasphemes God’s Word and desire for our world. 

We keep at it. 

Our “thoughts” need to become alive, obnoxious and relentless to those who wish us to remain quiet; our “prayers” need to move from our lips and closed eyes, and also become alive through the walking, protesting, and speaking truth to power, in order that we as a believing people surrender to God’s authority, over the false authorities and prophets that presently seem to hold the power.  We “take the power” back by reminding each other, by getting louder in emphasizing that God is God, and we are not. We refuse to have distinctions of “slave” and “free.”  We are all God’s children.  

We keep at it.  

We do so with  a new commitment, a new and concrete version of “thoughts and prayers”   that follow Paul’s concluding summary, which should be the conclusion and Omega point of our lives dedicated to following the gospel: “Christ is all and in all.”

DH  (8.4.19) 

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