In the face of the mass murders in Orlando, Florida, this weekend, it is difficult to write.
It is complicated and frustrating and it feels like we have already been through this before. So many mass shootings, and this is another one that is apparently an act of terror carried out in the name of a radical religious ideology. When I heard the news, I thought about the killings in San Bernardino, just last December.
The only response we can make is to turn to God in prayer. Our prayer is not passive or an afterthought. It’s not a substitute for action or an excuse for doing nothing.
When we pray, we place ourselves — our lives, our loved ones, our world — in the presence of our Creator’s loving eyes. We recognize that there is a higher meaning in the events of our time and place, that this senseless violence and fear is not “all there is.”
We remember that God is always with us, and that he has a plan of love for creation and for everyone’s life. And we ask the Father of creation to be near to his children who weep, to comfort those who mourn, to strengthen all of us to overcome evil with good and hatred with love.
So once again we are praying after a mass shooting in our country. We want to pray for the innocent victims in this latest attack, for their families and friends. We want to pray for the people of Orlando and all those in our country who are fearful for our future.
Our prayer, too, must be expressed in a renewed commitment to human dignity — to the core conviction that all life is precious. We need to insist that all people are made in God’s image and have God-given dignity and rights — whether or not we agree with their beliefs or what they do with their lives.
Once again, we need to insist that violence can never be “sanctified,” that the true and living God is not served by the shedding of innocent blood or forcing others to believe what we believe. We need to build a new culture of solidarity and generosity, a culture of dialogue. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by fear of others who don’t look like us or pray like us.
In this new time of fear and uncertainty, I find that I am also praying harder for our brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq and everywhere in the world where terror has now become a way of life, where the simple fact of being a Christian means people are persecuted and killed.
It is always tempting to take our faith for granted or to live as if Christianity has no enemies. But when we meet those Christians who are suffering and dying for their faith, when we hear their stories, we know that isn’t true. Jesus said we should love our enemies. He never said we wouldn’t have any.
As I have said before, I believe we need to become a Church that prays every day for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
The prayers of the early Christians helped turn St. Paul from a persecutor of the Church to a missionary disciple.
We need to have that same deep faith today. We need to pray for the conversion of those who persecute the Church. We need to really believe that God can reveal his Son to those who right now are killing and causing suffering in the name of religion.
The apostles taught that perfect love could cast out fear. And Jesus showed us the perfection of love on the cross — the love of a God who does not take life but gives his own life so that we can live.
In these times, when things seem dark and uncertain, the cross remains in the center of human history — a sign of the encounter that is always possible between human sin and divine mercy.
The cross shows us that the true and living God does not call us to sacrifice the lives of others to serve him. True religion is love that we freely give to God and express in self-sacrifice and service for the sake of others.
So this week, as we pray for one another, let’s keep our eyes fixed on the cross.
And let’s entrust our lives once more to the loving care of our Blessed Mother Mary and let us ask her to bring us the perfect love that casts out every fear.