In Every Barrel
There's an old adage that preachers should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. What this adage is saying is that homilies need to address the spiritual aspects of what parishioners are facing in their lives.
In general, I have avoided addressing many current events because I did not feel sufficiently qualified in the subject matter to favorably add to the discourse. However, some of these issues (abortion is an example) are so gravely important that not addressing them would be a dereliction of duty.
As many of you know I was born in the South, in the Bible Belt. There were many churches in my hometown. Over ninety percent of these were some flavor of Protestantism. Even though the Protestants and Catholics were often at odds, there was a bond that united us, and that was a deep love of God and a strong desire to live in union with Him.
Nearly everyone in my hometown attended church. As a result, there was a strong unwritten code of acceptable behavior. Even those who did not attend church, or did not believe in God, were aware of it. That common belief and purpose created a strong unity in society. You could generally trust those you met to abide by these common Christian principles.
Certainly, outside our religious environment, that is not the situation today. I'm continually surprised by the number of people who openly defy and denounce God, who engage in internet scams, and openly practice immorality in their opinions and actions. For a significant percentage of the population today, evil is the preferred way of life.
When the Coronavirus began, I was so encouraged. People were looking out for one another, joining forces to limit infections, and doing what they could to care for one another. People began making and donating masks. Industries converted to make medical equipment, and competitors even joined forces to find medical solutions.
An environment of gratitude developed. People gathered to cheer healthcare workers. It reminded me of old times, when people wanted the best for one another; when they wanted to build instead of destroy. I thought to myself, 'Yes, this is America. This is the America I once knew. This is true Christianity.
But only a short time later the tenor began to change. Those in authority were accused of doing too little, and then too much. Politics reared its ugly head. Pundits used misleading data to defile and condemn their opponents. It didn't change the goodness we had experienced, but it did significantly sour the environment.
Just over a week ago George Floyd was killed by a policeman. It is not my place to discuss the evidence in the case or to come to a conclusion. There may have been many factors that came into play. What occurred before the video? What was the nature of Mr, Floyd's and Policeman Chauvin's prior relationship? How did Mr. Floyd come into possession of counterfeit currency? Was racial bias a factor?
Once I was selected as a juror in an insurance case. In the jury selection process the attorney for the defense asked each potential juror, one by one, if they had ever been involved in a sideswipe car accident. He really didn't care how we answered. He was just trying bias the case in the minds of the jurors. His claim turned out to be totally false.
In the case of Mr. Floyd's death, everyone agrees that excessive and unreasonable force caused his death, and I am gratified that people protest against evil. However, because the incident involved a white policeman and a black victim, many have concluded that it must have been racially motivated. I would ask, “Is that true?” Or, like the lawyer in the insurance case, is that something the media, the political pundits, and anarchists want us to believe? For me, I cannot shake the feeling that there is more to the story.
In my youth I grew up in a very segregated society. I didn't see this as oppressive at the time, that's just the way things were. But with the advent of the Civil Rights movement the overwhelming majority of people expanded their view of Christianity and helped bring about dramatic change.
Are there still racists around? Certainly there are. Like bad apples, there are sinners in every barrel. Racism, and cultural conflicts of one variety or another, has been a problem in every part of the country, and in every part of the world. The seeming eternal conflict between Arabs and Jews is an example. But we also have to ask, is every conflict between different people due to racism? Or does it come from even greater depths in our psyche? It's important to question and discern the truth.
For me, even though the video evidence is alarming, I prefer to defer any conclusions and wait until a proper investigation has been made and a verdict is rendered. Too many, in this case, have rushed to judgment. And that has opened a pathway for others; for anarchists, professional criminals, and malcontents, to use legitimate protests as camouflage - to loot, riot, destroy property, severely beat, and even kill, innocent citizens - all in an effort to tear down our democracy, gain power, or implement their own selfish and distorted world view.
In the last few weeks we have experienced unprecedented lawlessness, looting, brutality, and violence. As physical as this war has become, and I do refer to it as a war, it is an even greater spiritual war. The essence of this violence is to discredit our faith in law enforcement and overthrow our democracy, However, more importantly, and in a wider view, it is an attack against God. These revolutionaries seek to discredit all religious truth, destroy religious rights, and promote a widespread denunciation of God. Otherwise, why else would they take time out from their looting to burn a church?
Today is Trinity Sunday. Some may find it difficult to peacefully focus on the Holy Trinity with so much turmoil in our society and in our hearts? Others may ask how do these events relate to the Trinity, or to the Church? What do they have to do Trinity Sunday? I would respond that today's troubles have everything to do with Trinity Sunday.
To see this, we must step back from the issues of the moment to see a wider view. These terrorist attacks are planned and orchestrated by Antifa, other revolutionary groups, criminal organizations, and even foreign actors, specifically to destroy our society, to destroy law and order, and our faith in God. They want to bring chaos and fear. Ultimately, they are attacks against religion itself. They are attacks against the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
These groups were not created in a vacuum. No, they adopted the practices and teachings of prior radical factions. Some, no doubt, from Karl Marx, Saul Alinsky, and others, perhaps taught to them by leftist college professors. For those who remember the radical group of the 1970's, The Weather Underground, there were six objectives in their planned revolution. The final and ultimate objective, taken from Karl Marx and stated in their manifesto, was to 'Dethrone God',
Regardless of whether those participating in this violence realize it or not, Satan and his minions are directing this discord step by step. Satan's primary weapons are anger and division, chaos and fear, and to turn us against one another. On our part, we need to recognize these attacks for what they truly are, They are battles in an immense and intense spiritual war, and we need to see them in spiritual terms.
St. Paul tells us, “to encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”1 So, how can we live in peace? Truth be told, we cannot live in peace with anarchy. We cannot live in peace with the works of Satan. That would deny our Christian calling to bring the Light of Truth to the world. All of this causes us great concern and anxiety, but we must fortify ourselves in our faith. We cannot let the turmoil raging around us to distract us from our calling to follow Christ every day, and every moment.
This is a battle. This is a war. After the Lord brought the Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt they faced a formidable foe in the Army of Amelek. God commanded Moses to stand above the battle and hold up the Staff as a sign of the Lord's Presence and Protection. As long as Moses held high the Staff of the Lord, the Israelites got the better of the fight. But when Moses tired and lowered the Staff, the Army of Amelek advanced.
In today's readings, St. Paul tells us, “to live in peace.” So, how can we live in peace? Scripture says of the early Christians that they were of, 'One Mind and One Heart'. The peace that is ours is the peace that only the Lord can give. Regardless of what occurs outside our doors we must remain united - united in peace, in love, in support, in doctrine, in purpose, in faith, and united in prayer. Jesus assures us that we are not alone, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will dwell in those who love God. In all circumstances, we need to hold high the Staff of the Lord. The current violence in our society is not a solution. Only in the Lord is true justice possible. Only in the Lord is there true peace. So, arm yourself with His presence in prayer and adoration. Hold up the Staff of the Lord and His victory will soon be ours.