It is hard to write this meditation this week — lately the tragedies have been piling up, and there are many weighing on my mind. I fear that we are all feeling a bit of fatigue, and it is hard to process each new event. The continuing crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria especially shouldn’t be forgotten or pushed aside — even if you have already donated earlier this month or this year, please consider giving again to Episcopal Relief and Development. (See https://support.episcopalrelief.org/hurricane-relief.) There will also be a special Service for the Victims of Natural Disaster in the Caribbean and Mexico this Saturday, October 7, from noon to 2 pm at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
It is the mass shooting in Las Vegas, though, that is the most challenging for me to wrap my mind around right now, and to figure out how to respond. We can, and should, always be praying. We can pray for those who have died, for those who are suffering, for the first responders, for those who will continue to respond to the needs after the initial crisis has passed. We can also bear witness to what has happened. Holy Apostles joined many other churches across the country on Tuesday and tolled our solemn bell at noon to remember the victims of this tragedy.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” If we want to be peacemakers ourselves, we need to take a prophetic stand, and make our voices heard. Bishops United Against Gun Violence wrote in response to the shootings in Las Vegas that we must have a national conversation about gun violence, and that the fact that we have not been able to do so is cause for repentance.
“Even as we hold our lawmakers accountable, though, we must acknowledge that a comprehensive solution to gun violence, whether it comes in the form of mass shootings, street violence, domestic violence or suicide, will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives. Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other. The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us. We join with the people of God in fervent prayer that our country will honor those murdered and wounded in Las Vegas by joining in acts of repentance, healing, and public conversation about the gun violence that has ripped us apart, yet again.” (See http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/statement-from-bishops-united-against-gun-violence-following-the-las-vegas-shooting/.)
Let us find ways to make peace in our lives and in our community and in our nation and in our world. And again, always, let us pray. The Bishops Against Gun Violence statement ends with a Prayer Attributed to St. Francis — particularly appropriate, given Francis’ feast day was this past week on October 4:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (BCP, p 833)