After what happened in Orlando last week, I came across different passages in the Scripture that I had a difficult time reconciling on with how we should react to an act of hatred like this. For that reason, I believe I should write about what happened. At the same time, I invite each one of you to pray for the victims and especially for their families.
The first passage I found was in last Monday’s Gospel in which Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil” (Mt 5:38). I did not have a problem with the first part which teaches us not to look for revenge. But I struggle with the second part: “Offer no resistance to the one who does evil.” How can we not do so? Are we not called to protect the innocent? How can we not do something to stop evil in our world?
This part may be interpreted as extreme pacifism, but that is not what Gospel is about. The Gospel asks us not to look for retaliation, not to seek revenge. But because we preach the Gospel, we preach justice, especially to the oppressed and the innocent; because of the Gospel, we are compelled to act against evil. As we so often pray, asking the Lord to help us, we also pray that “He will make us an instrument of His peace” … The Lord does not act alone in this world, for we are the hands of God and we should be the instruments not of hatred, or violence, but the instruments of His peace (not our peace, but His).
How can we do this? By educating our children about the true value of respect and the value of all life. The second reading is precisely what we need to learn: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Jesus teaches us respect for each and all, and that violence is never a solution. But what we do should not only be on a personal level but also as a community, as a nation, and as the human race. No one should be killed because of another creed, nationality, or sexual orientation.
A few weeks ago, Pope Francis asked this question: “How it is possible that weapons can arrive at every place in the world even to the poorest, but not food? This is the same thing that we need to ponder; and we need to demand those in power to do something.
In the Gospel passage I mentioned earlier, we are instructed to pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us (cf. Mt 5:43-48). At the same time, we have the obligation to act on behalf of those who are suffering or persecuted. We also have an obligation to live a life in imitation of our Heavenly Father. I know that this last part is difficult, but it is precisely why being a good Catholic is such a challenge. We are called to be better than those who hate; we are called to be better than those who lack respect for people they consider different because of their sexual orientation. We are called to be true children of our Heavenly Father.
We have a big job in front of us, on the personal level to work on forgiveness, and also on a social level to ensure that atrocities like the one in Orlando will never happened again.
In this world of violence, we need to work to become instruments of God’s peace.