Somehow on this day of deep sadness in our country, it seems most appropriate. God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to behold.
Yesterday, a sick young man perpetrated an unspeakable act upon us, resulting in the death of six and the serious wounding of ten others. We know not yet if they will all recover. People, who just happened to be in a seemingly innocuous place, were struck down by bullets. A mother and father lost their 9-year-old. A judge, just fresh from morning mass, suddenly is gone.
What can we, what must we, learn from such a tragedy? Words matter. They matter so much more than we can ever know. We don’t usually mean the harshness which they sometimes imply, the dangerous rhetoric they evoke, yet we are today reminded that in the hands of the mentally ill, they can set off a firestorm, by their use.
Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. (Is 42: 1-4, 6-7)
The Church declares and believes that this is a reference to Jesus, a prophesy of the future coming from the prophet Isaiah. Whether that is true or not is not important. For the words speak to each of us, reminding us that truth and justice come via peaceful, quiet, relentless standing up for what is right. It requires no shouting, no violence. Truth and justice have a strength and security all their own, empowered by the Spirit.
Like Jesus, we too are called upon in these dangerous times to forgo dangerous and incendiary rhetoric. We are called upon to speak truth to power and to stand steady and unfailing for justice. We need not utter a word. We must only stand as silent witness to injustice and inequality.
We need not bruise the reed, nor quench the light of life in anyone to do this. Through our birth and baptism we have breathed in the Spirit, the Spirit of love and peace which speaks for us, as us.
God has taken us by the hand and through his son Jesus, shown us the way. He has made straight our path to righteousness. We follow by example.
In the reading from Acts, Peter says:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
God shows no partiality. His love is unbounded, immeasurable. We are all, sinner and saint alike, made by the One, perfect in creation. This means that this poor demented young man is as much loved by God as the 9-year-old victim. Both are victims of our senseless game of hate mongering and scoring political points. We as surely made the young shooter a victim when we teased him with our vile speech, and used words of violence to make analogous points. We touched off a series of incoherent thoughts that resulted in his picking up a gun and heading out to achieve his confused ends.
We are acceptable by God for use to the right ends to the degree that we follow his example through his Son, acting always with love and compassion. We are still loved, no matter what, but God can not work in us when we are consumed with not-love, much as Jesus could work no miracles in some towns in Galilee because there was no faith.
In the Gospel, Matthew places these words upon the Lord’s lips:
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Here, John has protested that it is he that should be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. Jesus comforts him and tells him to do as he has asked.
“Allow it now.” We cry out, “No, God, don’t allow us to harm each other like this!” But God in perfect wisdom, comforts us, and “allows it now.” Why?
I’m tempted to say the usual thing–we cannot know God’s ways, but only trust. Yet this is never good enough.
There is a tipping point that we as humans must reach. A sufficient number of us, enough to sway our neighbors, our community, our nation, our world. We must each find enough rage and helplessness at the events of yesterday that we are ready to step up and stand up for justice and what is right. It is “fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We must do this. God calls.
Will we answer?
- Why did Jesus bother to be baptized? (insightscoop.typepad.com)