For Sunday, July 24, 2016, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The turmoil of the past few weeks—another terrorist attack in France , police shootings, and the violent protests that followed—call to mind the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Our society has fractured into numerous factions. Republican and Democrat, black and white, progressive and conservative are unable to talk to each other and quick to blame one another for whatever tragedies we suffer. In fact, we much sooner blame conservatives for gun violence and liberals for terrorist attacks than we do those who actually commit the atrocities.
Listening to all the rancor vulgarly displayed in the media makes one wonder if we should bring back the Old Testament practice of mourning in sackcloth and ashes. Perhaps as a country what we need more than anything else is a time of silence to grieve for all the lives lost and all the families affected by the violence of the past year. Maybe by closing our mouths and simply shedding tears together, we might be reminded that, despite our differences, we really do belong to each other.
In this Sunday’s first reading, we witness a beautiful example of one man showing mercy and love to others. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were not Abraham’s kin. In fact, there can be little doubt that their reputed violence, inhospitality, and debauchery deeply offended him. It would be understandable for him to take pleasure in seeing God’s justice done. Yet Abraham begged God to have mercy on them. Though they were not his people, Abraham had a sense that he belonged to them and that they belonged to him. For that reason, he felt compelled to intercede for them and bargain for their lives.
In his recent encyclical on care for God’s creation, Laudato Si, Pope Francis remarks about Noah, “All it takes is one good person to restore hope!” (LS 71). In Sodom and Gomorrah, as few as ten good people would have prevented the destruction of those cities. In our society today, it would not take many of us to turn the tide of destruction and avert further violence. All we need to do is put aside our agendas, drop whatever label we have chosen to hang around our neck, and listen to one another. No matter what our backgrounds, we have something to learn from each other. If we can stop calling each other names and raising suspicions about each other’s motives, we might actually come to understand that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.
Once we understand that we belong to each other, we will not need political parties, social agendas, or race to define our identity. Seeing ourselves as children of God, we will come to understand that we are all brothers and sisters. Just as all the violence of the past year has begun with one person inflicting harm on another, just so this revolution of compassion can be initiated simply by one person deciding to listen to her neighbor without judging or condemning. Then we might experience healing, peace, and, finally, justice.
And, in case you are not convinced of the power of one simple gesture of love and compassion, consider the example of one young Portuguese soccer fan who consoled a crying French fan after his team lost the Euro 2016 championship. All of us should consider doing the same to someone who is hurting today.
Douglas Sousa, STL
we are all your children.
How quick we are to choose lesser identities.
How slow we are to see each other
as brothers and sisters.
How quick we are to speak
and how slow we are to listen.
How quick we are to judge
and how slow we are to understand.
Give us the spirit of Abraham to work for mercy
rather than for ruthless justice.
Give us a spirit of intercession
rather than of condemnation.
and give us peace.
We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.