In 2007, 32 were killed at Virginia Tech. In 2012, 28 were killed, twenty children from 6-7 years of age at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In 2016, 49 were murdered and 58 injured at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. As of this writing this morning, 59 have died and over 500 have been wounded in the Las Vegas shooting.
So many die violent deaths each day in our country and throughout our world. The common thread is this need not be so. How are we to respond? In the Gospel today Jesus sheds some light on the darkness that beleaguers not only our country but our world.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village (Lk 9:52-56).
Jesus rebukes the disciples for seeking to bring vengeance on those who wouldn’t show him hospitality. Jesus also said “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.’ and he would later state: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good…“ (cf Mt 5:38-48 ff). We need to follow Jesus’ lead and resist the temptation to lash out, to seek revenge, to perpetuate violence with violence. If we are to do anything, first and foremost, let us pray for those lives lost, injured, and affected in Las Vegas and all those who experience violence day in and day out, directly and indirectly.
Then we need to make an assessment of ourselves. Each thought we ponder and action we take ripples out from us and touches everyone. In what way do we contribute to the violence? Do we gossip, spread false reports knowingly about others only to degrade, do we pass dehumanizing images and accounts on social media, do we talk over or at people, do we impose our views and walk away not even willing to listen to another? The smallest act of indignity shown to another, whether it be a snide remark, a racial, ethnic, or sexist epithet, or any manner of disrespect contributes to violence.
My intent is not to pour salt on our open wounds. But to bring about change, we need to look at the darkness within ourselves, otherwise we are like the disciples who asked: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” We need to allow Jesus to rebuke us, and come to a place of healing within. In so doing, we are better able to counter the dark clouds of polarization, hate, and violence, not by looking for someone to blame, but by looking for someone to forgive. We are called to shine a light in the darkness as Jesus did by looking at one another as human beings, brothers and sisters created in the image and likeness of God. We begin by treating those within our realm of influence with love and mercy. May we seek not to cause pain but to heal wounds, not to divide but to reconcile, and not to separate but to include. Darkness only wins if we embrace it and become the darkness, hate only wins if we feed the hate.
An old grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice.
“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy to die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”
He continued, “It is as if I there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside of me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
Both wolves are trying to dominate the spirit of our country, which one do you feed? Today let us pray for the people of Las Vegas, and continue to pray for those recovering in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Mexico, Texas, and Florida and to provide support and aid as we can.
“Grandfather Tells” or “Two Wolves Within” Cherokee Legend, this and another version can be found at:
Photo: The two wolves are Rasta the Dancing Bear and Wolfie. Two wolves I had the fortune of caring for and helping to spread wolf education for the Sharon Audubon Center in the 1980’s.
Today’s Mass readings: