The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
2017 – Cycle A
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
Another mass shooting. Las Vegas, Nevada is now added to the grim litany of Oklahoma City, Newtown CT, Orlando FL, Columbine, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech. “Pray for us” may still be the appropriate response.
Our politicians have spoken their requisite condemnations and given their official condolences. We have held our candlelight vigils and sung our “Amazing Graces” and “Let there be peace on earths”. The requisite search into motives to answer the unanswerable question, “why” continues. As if an answer would give meaning to these deaths? The hard truth we do not want to face is that in all these situations people died for nothing. There is no meaning in senseless slaughter.
And for all our public and well-meaning promises to be there and never forget. By the next news cycle we will have all but forgotten caught up in our daily routines, concerns and lives. Until the next massacre. The victims, their families and friends will in silent desperation carry their burden alone.
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland posed the question, “Where is God now?” Is it God to whom we should look or is it ourselves? Are we any different than the owner of the vineyard? After having sent out two delegations of servants who were beaten, abused and murdered, why would the owner of the vineyard think that sending his son would make a difference? After the son is killed, the darkest part of the story occurs. The owner becomes like the tenants – a murderer – who in turn kills the tenants. Contemporary Popes have taught violence breeds violence. Their words falling on deaf ears, violence breeds complacency.
The violent act of humans killing humans is at the heart of the history of the human race. It is reflected in the sinful turns of the story of salvation. Cain murders his brother Abel. King David plots the death of Uriah to cover up his adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Judith murders Holofernes. The children of Bethlehem are murdered on Herod’s orders. Jesus is killed by state sponsored execution.
There is in all these stories an obstinacy of heart, a stubbornness and inflexibility that leads to the death of the soul. We see this in Pharaoh of Egypt who’s hard – heartedness and stubbornness caused him to chase after the Israelites into the Red Sea. All Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and charioteers were drowned. Not one of them escaped. [See Exodus 14:15 – 15:1] Regretfully the Israelites in turn become stiff – necked in the desert. Not one of them entered the Promised Land.
The inability and unwillingness in our society to have a mature and informed discussion on the care of the mentally ill, common sense gun control and background checks, the abuse of alcohol and cold – heartedness of students in the face of someone dying in violent and degrading college hazing rites, the violent acts between races, in other words, the unwillingness to discuss the underlying reasons for the recurrent violence prevalent in our contemporary society is to my view an obstinacy of the heart like that of Pharaoh of Egypt. And it is killing our people and our soul. A paralysis has set in to our human spirit. This inability to be civil to each other and humbly open to other perspectives; this inability to take action against violence is a sign of an underlying and unspoken malady.
In your opinion, what is more important? The common good or an individual’s rights?
What are the values that informed your answer?
Was you choice informed by the values of the Gospel and Church Social Teaching? The values of the dignity of every human being. The value of biblical justice that is, living in harmony with God and neighbor. The value of working for peace by a conversion of our own hearts. The value of the common good so that everyone can benefit for the good of the whole community. We Catholic Christians have a valuable contribution to make to our society.
Individual rights speak the lie that it is possible that we each can do whatever we want, have whatever we want, and are beholden to no one else. It is an attitude that is lacking in maturity and responsibility.
The common good, which Pope Francis mentioned nine times when he spoke to members of Congress putting the greatest benefit ahead of the individual. The individual is at the service of the community. It means everyone must cooperate, give and take, find a middle ground for the greater good. There is no place for stubbornness of heart.
I strongly encourage each of us to reflect on our answer of the common good or an individual’s rights and our underlying values. In regard to the issue of violence in our country, what would you be willing to concede to bring about harmony, mutual responsibility, humility and common sense back into our civil and church life for the common good?