In case you ever wondered about what comes in the mail to the parish office, wonder no longer. This past Monday brought that unsolicited, unwelcome yet persistent scourge of any mailbox…the hate letter. Yes, even churches are not exempt from receiving such trash. Friday brought news of a different kind…the return receipt from the Vatican for the parish letter sent to Pope Francis in September. Good to know it made it all the way to Rome. Both these items pale in comparison to what others received in the mail this past week. Of course I am referring to the pipe bombs sent to various leaders in the country. From the letter carriers to those who were the intended recipients, such destructive parcels endanger so many unsuspecting people. It gives one pause. Thank God no one was injured. If only that had been true in Pittsburgh…
“STOP THE WORDS OF HATE!”
Pittsburgh Rabbi Jeffrey Myers spoke these words this week after the horrific murders in his synagogue, the name of which is ironically “Tree of Life.” News of this tragedy spread like a California wildfire throughout congregations of every stripe, eliciting horror, empathy for the victims and their families, and FEAR. Who hasn’t been wary of public places in the wake of the all the mass tragedies of the recent past?
Each new iteration stirs up our emotions until we become somewhat shell-shocked, being able to absorb only so much bad news.
In preparing to write this column I checked on the Gospel for this Sunday and was astounded by the ironic once again. For it is from Mark, chapter 12…the two great commandments…the first of which is the Great Shema of the Jewish people. “Hear O Israeli The Lord our God is Lord alone; You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What part about loving our neighbor don’t we get?
Will we ever get it? When a society becomes inured to the violence in its midst, they are in deep trouble. The entire fabric of society is damaged by violence, well beyond the victims and their families (although they certainly bear the brunt).
These happenings give us pause, indeed, perhaps causing us to ask what role, if any, we might be playing in them. How can we stem the tide of intolerance, hatred and violence? Can we? If the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice, as Martin Luther King observed, we might ask ourselves “How long, O Lord, how long?” Or we might ask ourselves what we can do to further the practice of civility in our neighborhoods, our communities, our nation and our world. If we do not, and we as a people continue to ignore the great commandments, then we will bear some responsibility for another verse from scripture…and Jesus wept.