My friends, this past week, as you know, has been one of grief, of anger, of lack of faith, perhaps, that anything can be done about the “gun crisis” in our country. The term, “gun crisis, is one I heard this week for perhaps the first time—to explain the madness of gun proliferation in our beloved country. Someone wrote this past week that our country is exemplary in many ways, but then stated, to be the country with the most deaths due to guns, far and above every other country in our world is not something we should want to claim to our credit!
So, my friends, at the beginning of this homily; I would like to share several key thoughts that stood out for me in the readings for this Sunday that can perhaps help us make sense of all this, or at the least, move us forward toward change.
- First, the Wisdom writer tells us that the “holy people would share all things, blessings and dangers alike.”
- Second, Psalm 33 proclaims that, “Happy are the people who are chosen to be God’s own!” The psalmist also prays the petition that is on all our hearts—“May your love be upon us as we place all our hope in you.”
- Third, the writer to the Hebrews reminds us of the definition of faith—“the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see.”
- Fourth, Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel today are well-known to us as well—“wherever your treasure lies, there, your heart will be.”
I believe in a general way, each of these readings is about faith, some clearer than others, but about that hopeful, confident assurance, just the same.
This “holy people” that the Wisdom writer speaks of is in fact, all of us. This past week gave us such a profound example, in the yet again, mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton of how, we as a people, “a holy people, share all things, blessings and dangers alike.” Holy people, which all of us were created to be, feel joined when such a tragedy happens, even though we may not know anyone involved. We are joined because we are all God’s people and we must likewise be joined in demanding change in our beloved country that has gone so far astray in what we will “live with,” what we will accept as a new normal in actions, rhetoric and basic values.
This past week, as I said above, I have been hearing the new term used by writers trying to speak sense to the senseless killing that our country somehow has come to accept—that of a “gun crisis,” in our country.
One writer in particular, Daniel Horan, in a National Catholic Reporter article, states in no uncertain terms that, “America is addicted to guns, and that we’re in denial!” He goes on, “Our country mimics an addict in denial. Addicts, [we know], need to admit first that there is a problem”—and many in so-called leadership, are not there yet!
Those on the side of doing nothing say, “Americans have a right to bear arms—it’s there in the Constitution.” We must answer this statement as Horan does, “Our Constitution’s second amendment, the right to bear arms was an 18th Century response to a rebelling colony’s right to defend itself,” end quote, and we must remember that the guns available in the 18th Century were one shot, muzzle-loaders! Horan goes on, “This [Constitutional right] should not be a “cover” for nearly anybody to have access to weapons of mass murder!”
Now I know that there isn’t a one of you here that believes that our Constitutional right to bear arms includes these weapons of mass murder, so I am talking, in effect, to the choir. But does that leave us off the hook in regard to action? No, it does not! And having said that, what do we in fact do?
Let us look to our Scriptures. The Hebrew’s description of what faith is, “the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see,” has some clues.
I have said many times before, in this space, that faith and hope are so important, coupled with action, based in love to help us all persevere in these times. I heard a newscaster, Judy Woodruff of PBS, this past week, question a Republican congressperson on whether he thought this time, with this mass shooting; we could hope for some “gun sense laws?” The congressman responded, “I still don’t think anything can happen yet!” She responded, “Is it good to be of that mindset?”
What she was saying definitely reflects our Scriptures for today—the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see!” Friends, we must not lose hope that a better world than we are living in now can be, and we must couple our hope with action—call and write your congress people, be an irritant under the skin with your persistence, until they act for the good of us all! Go to a demonstration if there is one near you, join the work of Moms Against Violence, or support their work financially, pray without ceasing for strength to not let up, even though you become discouraged. Pray that closed minds and hearts might be opened. I always remember the words of a good friend, Father Paul Nelson, who once told me, and I believe it, “The truth, [or we might say, the good], always comes out—in the end.”
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us of the faith of our great forebears, Sarah and Abraham, “as good as dead,” the writer says, yet they didn’t lose faith in the God who had promised children “as many as the stars in the heavens, the sands on the seashores.” Their faith brought to fruition what they trusted and hoped for. And it will be for us too friends, if we keep believing, hoping, acting, and this is the key—acting in love for what we hope for!
The “acting in love” part is where, in our vernacular, “the rubber meets the road.” Our brother Jesus cautions us to, “be on our guard, that much will be required of [us] who have been given much.” He is never easy on us when it comes to passing on what he lived and died for. And if that sounds too daunting, remember to keep it simple—in any and every situation, ask, “Is love being violated here?” If so, our need to respond is clear! Much will be required of us to whom much has been entrusted!
Our forebears “held” our faith and passed it on, eventually with it, coming to us—it is part of our lives, thus we endeavor to make it be about, “all that we hope for.” Faith is indeed about hope and like Sarah, we must ask, “Have we done our part—in loving action?”
Earlier in this homily, I mentioned the NCR article by Daniel Horan, “America is Addicted to Guns and We’re in Denial.” So friends, when we wonder what we can realistically do, he says we can refute as the American Psychiatric Association has done, statements from the White House and the NRA that mental illness, violence in the media and violent video games are to blame for the mass murders in our country. The overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are not violent and far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it, they say. The Psychiatric Association says there is no causal relationship between violent video games and real-life violence.
Additionally, we must remember that nowhere in the rest of the world do we have the gun violence that we suffer from in the U.S. Australia is a good example—they have mental illness, and video games, but they also have strict gun laws that limit or down right prohibit gun ownership.
Both Australia and New Zealand, last century—1996 to be exact, banned assault-style weapons after mass shootings in their countries. This is the action of a mature, reasoned population, unlike the addictive behavior of our country’s so-called leadership. We know addicts always look to blame something or someone else for the cause of the problem.
Horan concludes his article stating, “Our exceptionalism [as a country] is increasingly located in our ability to deny reality, such as in “global climate change.” The “red herring theater” that takes place within Republican congress people after each mass shooting—the fact that within 30 seconds one person could kill 9 and wound 27 is simply inexcusable! People of faith and church leaders need to call out political leaders to face their denial—accept that we are out of control and that many more people will die because of our collective denial and inaction—we, the people are enabling the cycle of violence!”
Harsh words friends—but our reality! I close then, with no easy answers, only the truth of our brother, Jesus’ words, “Where our treasure lies, there—there, our heart will be too!” Amen? Amen!