As the Easter Season draws to an end this Sunday on Pentecost, the week’s Mass readings have been from the Acts of the Apostles. These ancestors of ours filled with God’s Spirit went about putting into practice all the Lord had taught them while he was with them. And even after the resurrection they still had lessons to learn. They came to understand that no one would be denied entrance into God’s fold. God’s Spirit made this quite clear in Acts 15:7-21. In another reading from the Gospel of John, they heard the new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34-35. The scriptures inform us of a way to encounter one another in our daily life.
Fast forward to today. We have just heard of more mass shootings, in Buffalo, NY, Laguna Woods, CA, and in Tulsa, OK. And last week, in Uvalde, TX, the unspeakable happened. Nineteen children and two brave teachers lost their lives at the hand of a crazed 18-year-old gunman, who also died. The entire community, including children, families, and first responders, are scarred forever with memories of May 24th. Law enforcement response will be under scrutiny for months to come for decisions made on that fatal day.
In San Antonio, a young man was shot recently while sitting in a car waiting for his cousin. People are targeted because of their color, race, or belief system. Leaders from Russia feel they have a right to utterly destroy lives and cities in Ukraine to be able to claim it. This list goes on and on.
During this pandemic time, a certain civility went out the window. The American value of individualism gave permission to men and women to fight on the planes with Flight Attendants over mask mandates. The common good held no meaning to some. Many died of Covid and left families to fend for themselves because they refused to take the vaccine. In our own ministries here in Boerne, groups have turned away because of restrictions that were put in place for the good of the whole. The value of individualism has risen to unprecedented heights.
The Apostles had much to learn about the meaning of the new commandment and we in our day still have much to learn about what it means to “love one another as I love you.”
Pope Francis reads the signs of the times and sends us letters addressing these “signs.” In his Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, he calls us to learn to encounter one another; he reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters” and that each and every person has indelible “human dignity,” and so much more.
What happened in Uvalde and all around our nation has left me numb. I pray that we as a country will rise to address the complexity of these issues so that all will have the opportunity to live in a peaceful and just society.