Unexpected Instruments of Hate: Guns, People, and Even the Bible.

This past Sunday was the anniversary of my becoming a Deacon. I was ordained on October 29that St. Mary Magdalene Parish and it was there my formation continued until I left to become a full-time Trauma Chaplain. It was also there that I continued my emphasis on ensuring that I always stayed a deacon. As I often say, a good priest is always a deacon first! We must be willing to serve and to serve well, even dying to self, daily, if we are ever to maintain our priestly vows; this all begins with the diaconate.

Every time I hit one of these jubilee dates, even though few if anyone remembers them but me, I am reminded to sit in silence and reflect. I ask God to help me self-evaluate my effectiveness as a pastor, as a priest, as a man. Am I worthy to remain at my current post? Am I to go elsewhere? Am I too tired and need God’s inspiration? Have I fallen and need a respite? I evaluate where I am on these special days in order to ensure I am not ‘outlasting’ my call in any one place, even here at Saint Miriam, a place – and a people – I love beyond measure.

In light of the past weeks’ tragedies and horrific crimes in our nation, especially against the Jews murdered by a mad man as they worshiped God in their place of worship, on their holy sabbath, inspired to hate even deeper by the rhetoric of our ‘anti-everything’ climate, I paused to remember the words of the Talmud (the book of Jewish law), and prayed over these words, a paraphrase of the Prophet Micah:

“Do not be daunted, by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

These words reminded me of my obligation to sometime be even hated by others, as I commit the hard tasks required of the Gospel. I thought of how I have only spoken out against the current political climate on three occasion in the past, as pastor: Once, over the attempt to repeal health care benefits to the nation’s most vulnerable. Next, when immigrants were turned away for no other reason than their nationality. And, Finally, over the ending of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the separating of alien and immigrant children from their parents and the use of what amounts to prison camps for their detention. For me, to walk humbly is to care for others, even those we may not agree with, and especially in the world’s most vulnerable.

This past week I clearly supported the poverty, and immense needs of the people walking in the caravan from Honduras – some of the world’s poorest of the poor – by my openly posting a message that anyone ‘who can walk 3 grueling months with a child to escape violence and poverty’ for a better life can live next to me anytime. What a negative reaction I received from some very unexpected people! Vitriol, hatred, and false facts all to serve as a means to justify what amounts to nothing but hatred of the alien; something so contrary to the Gospel that I cannot – must not – remain quiet. In fact, none of us who claim to be followers of Jesus can remain quiet in the face of such hate. If we do, Jews die, Black men and women die, police officers, die, the world’s poor die and we – you and I – we share the blood of them all for our lack of resolve.

The issues around politics, immigration reform, border security, child abuse, the rights of humans as human beings, freedom of the press, and the governance by compassion for all peopleare tough issues. None will be solved by social media fighting, but, too, none will be solved by us remaining silent as thousands suffer, and even die. Arming people with weapons, whether a gun or a bible used as an instrument of hate wills serve no good end.

Elie Wiesel once penned, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Words that every priest – and every follower of Christ Himself – should wear upon their breast as well. Why? Because ‘we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.’

 


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