Most people with access to modern media are well aware that once again the poisonous hatred of one individual has produced something which has gone viral and is being used by others to justify their own hatred.
In the midst of all this hate Americans are killed and even more men, women and children fall victims to violence from their own co-religionists.
With hatred and violence raging it took much courage and true pastoral love for Pope Benedict not only to visit Lebanon and cry out for peace and for cooperation between all religions, urging in particular the leaders to work for peace, but also it was prophetic for the Holy Father to sign and release the Post-Synodal document on the Church in the Middle East, containing within a plea for communion of love between Christians, Jews, Muslims.
We can all choose to be angry, we can all choose hate, we can all bemoan the fact that anarchy and chaos are spreading both within and between nations – or we can heed the call of the Holy Father and become instruments of peace, by loving one another, forgiving our enemies and by persistent prayer for peace.
Jesus Divine Mercy revealed to St. Faustina the power of prayer for mercy.
In these days when beside all those suffering from violence and hatred, suffering homelessness, unemployment in the global economic crisis, in these days when, as we saw in France and see unfolding in the United States, elections are fought not about ideas but, frankly, by a form of disdain if not outright hatred of the other side – surely, urgently, it is time for every individual, indeed I would urge all parishes, to daily pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before we all drown in blood, darkness, death, for it sure seems we are very close to a tipping point when there will be no stopping what seems to be coming.
It is almost the end of the day as I write this.
Already here in the north there is fresh snow on the mountains and in the foothills.
The harvest is being gathered, leaves are changing, as summer has passed on the mantle of time to the new season.
Each of us remembers where we were on this day eleven years ago.
I was on an expressway passing along the outer edge of the busiest airport in the country, trying to pay attention to driving while listening to the reports on the radio, having already seen the inferno of the towers on the news before my unavoidable trip began.
Out of the corner of my eye, glancing as I had done hundreds of times before on that stretch of highway to see jets taking off just overhead, I became aware there were none! Unbeknownst to me by then all planes had been grounded.
Around 11:30 in the evening I arrived at the Motherhouse of my community and noted lights were on in the rooms occupied by the general superior and went up to see him. He was still watching the ongoing news reports and when he saw me quietly asked if I had celebrated Holy Mass yet. I explained I had not having been on the road since early morning.
Immediately he turned off the tv and we went and concelebrated the Mass: In Time of War and Civil Disturbance.
Today here in the hermitage I celebrated the same Mass, recalling the time some months after this horrific day I was at Ground Zero.
All these years since each September 11 it is as if am back there in the company of my firefighter friend who lost so many brothers on that day while he himself with so many other heroes dug through the rubble that very day and for months and months on end to find and honour the fallen.
The opening prayer of the Mass echoes every human heart that yearns for the civilization of love: “O God, author and lover of peace, to know You is to live, to serve You is to reign; defend against every attack those who cry to You, so that we, who trust in Your protection, may not fear the weapons of any foe.”
“Of any foe!” – our greatest foe is of course the unpeaceful one, the warring one, the one who is the antithesis of love for his entire being is nothing more than hate and darkness.
Humanly speaking we Christians and our Elder Brothers and Sisters in faith, the Jewish people, know only too well the human foe and each day the news is filled with the hatred and violent bloodletting which still tears at the so very thin fabric of peace on earth.
In essence satan’s prime weapon is to poison one solitary human heart at a time with an attitude towards other human beings which sees other not as one like myself but as UN-like myself.
This enables a progression in such a heart from unlikeness, to rejection, to conjuring reasons to hate and the most putrid of the lies used to justify hatred, and its expression in violence against another person or community, is rooted in appeal to religion.
No baptized person can claim to be a faithful disciple of Christ if we fail to live out ardently Christ’s command that we love and do good to our enemies [Lk.6:27] and pray for those who hate and persecute us [Mt.5:44].
Just before the superior general and I began Holy Mass that night eleven years ago he said very gently: “Wait. I need to take a moment.”
There, standing at the altar before the Pantocrator Icon I heard: “Forgive O Jesus for the emotion of hatred heaving in my heart, help me to love and forgive.”
Out loud I said the same thing.
Jesus is challenging us when confronted by hatred and violence to choose to rise above, go beyond our emotions and choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance.
In the Canon of the Mass: Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good, we pray: Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labour and are burdened. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at His command. And may Your Church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope.
We can build no more fitting memorial to those who perished on 9/11 than the civilization of love.
From Syria to Mali, and countless other places our brothers and sisters are suffering in protracted struggles for authentic freedom; from Nigeria to Iraq, people are slaughtered either because they are Christian or because within another religion they belong to the wrong sect or tribe; Europe staggers from financial crisis to crisis, in the United States the never ending presidential election so far seems only to have acerbated divisions both within the major parties and among the general population.
The above are just some of the realities causing anxiety throughout the human family, not to mention extremes of weather from flooding to drought; the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in un-availed uncertainty; the millions of men and women persistently unemployed in the chaos of the global economy with the attendant increase in domestic violence, addictions, homelessness, while in the midst of everything abortion continues to be the prime genocide across the globe.
The ‘body politic’ prior to the 21st century and modern media was generally considered to refer to the corporate reality of a single nation, yet today with the plethora of international organizations, both political and economic among others, the web of globalization, in reality every human being is more than ever part of, intertwined with, each other.
There is upon earth, permeating in various ways, primarily by witness, another body, encompassing all nations and peoples, a body into which any human being may be incorporated with a simple yes to the invitation given to all: “Come, follow Me.” – I speak of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The life of this body, which also is the bond uniting the members, flows from, is communicated by Jesus [Jn.15:5] and He is the purpose and source, centre and lavisher of all needed gifts [Jn.15:7-12] so all those faithful to Christ may fulfill our shared baptismal vocation, the vocation to evangelize, doing so as real members of the Body of Christ [Jn.15:16/Col.2:19]. This reality is the Church present throughout the world, fulfilling Her mission which is to proclaim Christ , union in Christ, the entire ‘body’ and each member nourished by Christ [Jn.15:13-15/Ep.1:23/1 Cor.12:12/ 1 Cor.10:17].
If the chaos, brokenness, moral disorder, sickness, violence, divisions in the body politic are to be healed, transformed and a true body politic of charity, compassion, justice, right order to become reality then the witness of the Mystical Body of Christ, of the Church, that is of each of the baptized must be luminous, truthful, courageous and unstinting.
More than a century ago St. Pius X, who saw much of what currently faces the Church and the world today in his own day wrote:
“The firm purpose and desire……in the work of restoring all things in Christ, reawakens in Our heart a great trust in the all-powerful grace of God. Without that grace We can neither plan nor undertake anything great or fruitful for the good of souls here below…..what prosperity and well-being, what peace and harmony, what respectful subjection to authority and what excellent government would be obtained and maintained in the world if one could see in practice the perfect ideal of Christian civilization….the continued battle of the flesh against the spirits, darkness against light, satan against God …….[the]…sadness and pain these cause is accentuated by the fact that society tends more and more to be governed by principles opposed to that very Christian ideal, and is even in danger of completely falling away from God…..The Church well knows that the gates of hell will not prevail against her…she knows that she will be sorely afflicted…that her followers will always bear the brunt of hatred and contempt, just as her Divine Founder received hatred and contempt…..”To restore all things in Christ” has always been the Church’s motto…especially…during these fearful moments through which we are now passing.” [From IL Ferno Proposito: Pope St. Pius X, 1905]
Each generation assumes that whatever crisis is being experienced is the first time in history such a crisis has occurred, or at least of such a magnitude, and certainly contemporary means of instant communication, intertwined economies, enhances the magnitude – yet we see in the powerful words of St. Pius each generation has its own ‘fearful moments’, its own challenge to live in the full dignity of our God-given personhood, in unity of charity with one another, especially within the Mystical Body, for only flowing from there will come about the civilization of love and life.
Like it or not, and granted many other nations do not, reality is even with the intensity at which some other nations are scaling the heights to become geo-politically, economically, militarily more powerful, at the moment the United States remains the most powerful and culturally influential nation on earth.
Thus still every four years the protracted process of the presidential election is of global import and we all should pray that the American electorate understands this, grasps the reality they are not merely electing a leader of their body politic but a leader whose impact will be upon the entire global family.
The Mystical Body of Christ, referred to by Ven. Pius XII as the ‘perfect society’ lives in its members deep within the Heart of Christ and in the nitty-gritty reality of secular society, the national and international body politic.
The challenge in daily life, and the critical importance in political life, is are we truly leaven in the dough of society, truly salt and light in the darkness of the culture of death, or do we compromise the Gospel of Life and forget that when we cast a ballot for an elected official we are also choosing their agenda?
We need to remember, as teaches the Servant of God Catherine Doherty that “….Catholic faith is not only a matter of attending Mass on Sundays…..Catholic faith is a way of life.”
Currently two men who identify themselves as Roman Catholic are the vice-presidential candidates in the current election.
Their public statements about their adherence, and to what extent, to clear Catholic teaching should be carefully looked at given that, depending on who is elected president, one of the two will be, as the saying goes, ‘only a heartbeat away’ from that office.
Often times it can seem, in any election in any country, that the choice to be made is akin to choosing the lessor evil rather than the dominate good.
In Western democracies is has become extremely difficult to find candidates for office who are truly and without prevarication pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom of religion.
Interestingly invited by both parties to give the closing benediction at their conventions Cardinal Dolan clearly cried out for life, for care of the poor, in essence challenging not only the parties and candidates, but the electorate as well, praying in part: “….we praise You for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure…”
In the preparatory document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on ‘new evangelization’ all are urged as “…Christian communities, affected by the strong social and cultural changes taking place [to] once again…find the energy and means to ground themselves solidly in the presence of the Risen Christ, who animates them.”
It is not only to be hoped for but prayed for that all Christian electors in the United States will this November be aware of being in Christ’s Risen presence as they make their ballot choice.
Aware too that in choosing a candidate they are also choosing that one’s agenda for the United States yes, but as well making a choice of global impact.