by Father Mark Goldasich
On June 10 about 10:30 p.m., Christina Grimme, a 22-year-old singer and former finalist on “The Voice,” was shot to death by a deranged fan after a concert. Some 22 hours later, 50 people would be massacred and another 53 wounded at a popular gay nightclub.
And that was just in one city — Orlando, Florida. I can’t imagine how many other people were victims of violence in that same time period all over the United States and around the world.
All acts of violence appear to have one trait in common: hate. That hate may be for the person or persons targeted, but it may also indicate a self-loathing on the part of the perpetrator.
It’s so easy in tragic situations like those in Orlando to point the finger of blame toward others. However, if true and lasting peace is going to come, each person has to begin with his or her own heart. Maybe this little story can illustrate what I mean:
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The first morning, while eating breakfast, the wife saw the neighbor hanging up the wash outside.
“That laundry’s not very clean,” said the young woman. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Maybe she needs another brand of laundry soap.”
The husband listened, but remained silent.
Every time the neighbor would hang out the wash, the wife would make the same comment.
About a month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line. She said, “Honey, look! She’s finally learned how to wash! I wonder who taught her?”
With a guilty smile, the husband replied, “Sweetheart, I got up early this morning and washed our windows.”
Whoa! When considering the problems of our times, the first place we should look is at our own heart and perspective. In other words, if we seek a better world, we have to begin with ourselves.
Last Thursday’s Mass featured Jesus’ famous teaching: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Mt 5: 21-22a). According to Sister Carolyn Osiek, a New Testament scholar, Jesus is using a rabbinical method here, known as “putting a fence around the law.”
“To be sure that the law is observed completely,” she explains, “we take a step back and surround it with a wider observance. So, if the commandment prohibits murder, do not show anger towards another and then you will not be tempted to kill.” (Found in the June 2016 Give Us This Day, p. 64).
So, not giving in to anger will prevent us from hating and from the temptation to murder.
Most of us don’t think that we hate, but we probably just use a milder word for it: impatience, irritation or frustration. Just for fun, think about the last time you got “irritated” while driving. What language did you use toward the “offender”? What thoughts did you have? Did you flash your lights, make an obscene gesture, honk your horn or dramatically roll your eyes at the idiot — I mean — offender?
Or think about how you view the “other” political party. Or how you treat a K-State fan. A KU fan. A Mizzou fan. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to dehumanize another. And if we see someone as “less than human,” then it doesn’t seem to matter what we say about them or do to them.
Lately, I’ve been using Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation 2 at Mass. I especially like its preface, which says: “For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts, to prepare them for reconciliation. Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts, that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries join hands and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power, it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect.”
May these words work on our wounded, stony hearts and inspire us to pay more attention to how we treat others in our daily interactions. If we, as followers of Jesus, can root out even the slightest trace of hatred in our own hearts, then violent tragedies like we saw last weekend will start to become a thing of the past.