So, as a preface, I'm starting to find that cycling is a great way to do contemplative prayer and mull over ideas in my head. Last couple of rides have given me enough internal quietness to let the Spirit speak and to let things bounce around in my head.
Today's ruminations were about the tragedy in Orlando. I was thinking less about the details and more about the cause. The conversation started with my youngest before I hit the road and continued in my brain as I rode. There are several reasons this tragedy happened but I think it all boils down to one word: hate. Hate for people that are different. Hate for people that don't meet our preconceptions. Hate for people that don't share our values.
Why? Why did someone hate these people enough to take their lives? What did any of them do to the shooter? For that matter, what did they do to anyone? What makes the existence of people that are different (gay, straight, or whatever) a threat to anyone? I've never understood blind hatred of a group of any sort. I'll be honest and say I've met people I don't like. I'm not sure I ever really "hated" anyone, but definitely didn't like. However, that was an individual assessment. I didn't, by extension, not like anyone else that has some characteristic that person had. I've always judged people as individuals.
I'm firmly convinced that hatred is the work of Satan. It's that voice inside someone that justifies all kinds of terrible things in the name of righteous anger. You know what that is. It's the anger you think you're justified to feel for whatever reason. You're in the right, others are in the wrong, and it's perfectly acceptable to be upset that your righteousness has been offended. We've all felt it. I know I have. But righteous anger is an oxymoron. Anger is never right. Neither is hate. And the first leads to the other. That's how Satan tricks us. Believing that our own righteousness is reason enough for our actions.
So what's the answer? Well, the obvious answer is love. The Beatles told us that back in the 60's, right? Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, maybe not. However, it's what God calls us to do. It struck me that today's readings (for you non Catholics, if you're interested you can find them here
) are a good contrast to the hatred shown in Orlando. In the Gospel story, a "sinful" woman bathes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints His feet with ointment. Why did she do this? Well, first, out of faith in the mercy of God. She was truly sorry for her sins and desired the mercy of God. Her way of showing this need for mercy was to humble herself before Jesus.
Which ties into the second part. She humbled herself out of love for Jesus and God. This act of love and desire for mercy resulted in her being forgiven. In her day, this woman was shunned by the community for being a "sinner". She was the other. Did Jesus condemn her like everyone else would have? No, Jesus loved her and forgave her. Jesus did not get on his high horse and use "righteous indignation" or anger to cast her our. Jesus showed us that we need to love those that are different or don't meet our expectations.
Let's face it, we're all sinners. On our own and by our own actions, we can never be worthy of salvation. The New Testament is clear that you can't get to heaven by just doing good works and following "the rules". Only God's grace and mercy allow us to get into heaven. And how do we receive this grace and mercy? By loving others. By confessing our sins and being truly repentant. By trying every day to live by the example that Jesus set. By not judging others who do not walk the same path that we do.
As Christians, we're called to live our lives using Jesus as our example. To be a light for others. To lead others to God by lighting the way and illuminating the path. It's not our job to force others to follow us or condemn those that choose a different path. We plant seeds and we leave the rest to God. This is what we do by loving others. We shine God's light to the world in the hope that others will see the path to eternal life.