Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Spring Will Rise

On that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills flow with milk, all the streams of Judah will flow with water. A spring will rise from the house of the LORD, watering the Valley of Shittim.  Joel 4:18

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  Luke 11:27-28

Father, our families are torn by violence. Our communities are destroyed by violence. Our faith is tested by violence. We have an obligation to respond. Violence -- in our homes, our schools and streets, our nation and world -- is destroying the lives, dignity and hopes of millions of our sisters and brothers. Fear of violence is paralyzing and polarizing our communities. 

Brother Jesus, help us to confront this growing culture of violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope and a call to action. If a spring of peace will rise, it will only do so by our actions rooted in your example and teaching, the biblical values of respect for life, peace, justice, and community and our teaching on human life and human dignity, on right and wrong, on family and work, on justice and peace, and on rights and responsibilities.

While much is being done, more is required.  Holy Spirit, guide us as we work to cut through divisive rhetoric and false claims which suggest that more prisons are the only answer, more brutality the cure, or more violence the solution.  That path will not succeed. We can be better than we are when we want peace and work for justice with a new urgency on the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God." (Based upon Confronting a Culture of Violence: A Catholic Framework for Action)

Where you sit determines where you stand.  From the perspective of the woman sitting in the crowd, she was observing Jesus and giving him praise for where he came from.  From the perspective of Jesus standing at the front preaching, he did not want to dwell on the past but to focus the people more on the present moment (hear the word of God) and the future (observe it). 

Jesus envisioned the reality of a world filled with future possibilities made manifest by His ultimate sacrifice.  As we learn from the prophet Joel, the Lord is present in our present moment of economic prosperity and political autonomy.  Images of promised abundance illustrate the harmony and order that Joel expects the Lord to establish in the future as well…the Promised Land.  They look forward in anticipation.  Despite the fact that our “crimes are abundant,” the Lord forgives us and looks ahead.  

Jesus never envisioned the reality of a world filled with the kind of violence we see every day.  Our crimes remain abundant.  Our present moment is marked by images of bloodshed from Chattanooga to Charleston, from elementary schools to colleges, from Central Asia to Central Oregon.  How will we ever get to the Promised Land?
Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich
(Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently called for "reasonable regulation and controls for guns, especially handguns." It also wants to ban "assault weapons." After the 2012 murders of 20 first-graders and six staff members at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, the USCCB sent testimony to Congress the following year. "This is the moment," said the USCCB spokesperson who testified before Congress, "to push for better gun controls. We want to build a culture of life and confront the culture of violence." That moment came and went without meaningful action.

Let's be honest. The Second Amendment was passed in an era when organized police forces were few and citizen militias were useful in maintaining the peace. Its original authors could not have anticipated a time when the weapons we have a right to bear now include military-grade assault weapons that have turned our streets into battlefields. The Second Amendment's original intent has been perverted by those who, as Pope Francis recently commented, have profited mightily. Surely there is a middle ground between the original intent of the amendment and the carnage we see today.

Archbishop Cupich also points out the irony that just last month, Members of Congress stood side-by-side to applaud Pope Francis' call for an end to the weapons industry that is motivated by "money that is drenched in blood," and to endorse his call "to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade." Did they think the papal call was limited to arms trade outside of the United States? He concludes with this call to action:

It is no longer enough for those of us involved in civic leadership and pastoral care to comfort the bereaved and bewildered families of victims of gun violence. It is time to heed the words of Pope Francis and take meaningful and swift action to address violence in our society. We must band together to call for gun-control legislation. We must act in ways that promote the dignity and value of human life. And we must do it now.[i]

If you need help getting in touch with your Congressional delegation, then People magazine has provided a service to all: they published an easy-to-use list of Members of Congress so you can let them know you want them to take action consistent with Church teachings to promote a culture of life. As People editorial director Jess Cagle writes: “Let's make sure they know that from now on, "routine" responses just won't cut it.” 

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