Respect and Transform

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This week My mother and I took our bi-monthly journey to the Uconn Medical Centenr with to meet with her geriatrician. Although the trip is less than ninety miles each way, it may as well be a lot further as each trip pulls me away from this place of detachment and denial back into the reality of loss and my mother’s progressing Alzheimer’s.
Being with Mom, even for a short period, is emotionally draining. The once passive, kind individual has been replaced with a woman who is petrified of losing control. And yet, she fights every support we put in place to help keep her in control and in her home. The disease that has taken away her memory and her ability to reason prevents her from understanding her reality and that the very things she fights against are the only things keeping her where she wants to be. 
As I returned to Narragansett late Wednesday afternoon, I thought a lot about my day with Mom, of how she demonstrated no awareness of her reality and how she now lashes out at my brothers and my sisters-in-law every time we try to make it possible for her to stay home. Somehow, Mom’s reality connected me with the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount, “why do you see the speck in you neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”
As I reflected on these words, I had to ask, how is our need to remove the speck from another’s eye while failing to deal with the log in our own eye affecting our ability to deal with the on-going violence throughout the world. 
Just one week ago, once again we witnessed another slaughter of human life. Fifty members of the LGBTQ community died at the hands of a lone gunman while innocently celebrating the night in an Orlando night club. Once again, as if on cue, the same discussions surrounding gun control, immigration, the “islamic” threat rose to the surface. The servers at Facebook I must have been on overload all week as every bishop, clergy person and politician chimed in either about their anger over the situation or to defend whatever political position was being challenged by the other side of the aisle. 
I have to admit, I am tired of the political and media drama that plays out every time these massacres occur. To be honest, i find it insulting to the victims of these heinous acts.  
As the song from the sixties asked during the Vietnam War, “when will they ever learn?” I have to ask, “When will we ever learn?” When will we choose to take the log out of our eye and see the deeper reality we face? When will we begin working to change this culture of violence which we, as a society, have created. 
As a Christian people we claim to be followers of Christ. We accept that he taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Because of what Christ taught, we vow to seek and serve justice by respecting the dignity of every human being. Here’s the problem I see every time there is a massacre, we, as a people, look to congress to legislate the answer. Yes, we need better and more sensible gun control. Yes, we need better and greater mental health resources to prevent those who are loosing their grasp on reality from causing the ongoing carnage.Yes, it is possible, we need to better screen individuals choosing to enter our country. But these acts only scratch at the surface of the issue. These acts will only take out one or two the demons which infect our country. Like the Garasene in today’s Gospel, it is Legion, many who infect us.
Sadly, we cannot legislate what is needed at the heart of the violence, because you cannot legislate respect. As I look around, as I listen to our politicians, as I watch what we celebrate on television, I have no doubt, we live in a post-Christian world. What saddens me more than the decline of the churches is our declining respect for each other. 
I accept that political correctness has been over done, and that there is nothing worse than someone who tries to be PC without a shred of sincerity. But let’s face it, our words betray us, they define our attitudes and how we perceive others. It has become too easy for us to define each other based on race, sexual orientation, religion etc. what we often fail to realize is that all of those definitions are just subheadings for what unites us, Children of God. 
This week Fr. Mead shared with me one of the joys he found when living in New York City. He said that as he walked the city streets and saw every type of human being imaginable. As he took in this mosaic of humanity he remembered one thing, we are all children of Adam and Eve. This he realized meant that every person he encountered was his brother or sister. 
How different this world would be if our politicians stopped duping us into believing our common enemy is someone other than ourselves. If our media taught us how to seek peace through cooperation and not by obliterating our enemies. . .if our children’s games taught them to seek and find the common thread which unites all of us and not provide for the expression of latent aggression. 
Imagine how different this world would be, if we saw the woman wearing a burka as our sister, if we saw the young dark skinned teen in hip hop dress as our brother. I wonder if we saw the men and women living on the streets of our cities as our brothers and sisters if this would increase our motivation to make sure everyone had access to adequate housing, good nutrition and the health care many of us take for granted. 
In this week’s message from Bishop Knisely, he ended by saying “today we pray,” He is right, action begins with prayer, so tomorrow we must act. As our time for outrage and words must come to an end, our actions must begin and they must begin with love. For it is time to transform this culture of violence in which we live into the culture of the Reign of God for which WE seek.
Amen

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