This past weekend, the first two Readings had the theme of joy and rejoicing. All I could think of was the parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn. It was very much like the day after 9/11 when the Gospel of the day was “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you … .” America wasn’t in any mood to hear those words back then; the people of Newtown hardly had reason to rejoice this weekend.
Despite the usual calls for a national conversation on gun control and mental health care, things will probably be back to normal within a week as everyone celebrates Christmas. The handguns and assault rifles will continue to flow freely across store counters or in back alleys. Congress will make its budget cuts and among the casualties will be mental health care. As it was in the beginning, is now … and always will be. Hopefully not, but I sure ain’t gettin’ my hopes up.
I do intend to write my Congressional representatives, but not about gun control. That’s basically a waste of time, since the NRA and its minions have that under their control. Instead I will write about funding for mental health care. In almost every case of mass murder this year and last, the shooter has been mentally disabled. And it’s not just for the care of people who might be prone to violence. It will also be about the victims. Nearly 740,000 children and youth are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of violence each year – that’s more than 84 every hour. More than three million reports of child maltreatment are received by state and local agencies each year – that’s nearly six reports every minute. And let’s not forget the members of our military who are suffering from PTSD and cannot find help in the VA or other places. Join me by writing your representatives.
Will all those who can’t get the help they need turn to violence? No, not at all; they will just suffer silently, and all those who love them will suffer also. But all it takes is one person. It is also helpful to remember that each one of us has a violent streak within. Maybe we won’t shoot anyone, but there can certainly be hateful, violent words and thoughts. It’s only a matter of degree. Spirits can be wounded or killed just as easily as bodies. We must pray for our own conversion as well.
Now, one will rightfully wonder where God is in all of this. For an answer to that, I turn to this coming Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see Your face and we shall be saved.” You can see God’s face if you look at the grieving parents of Newtown, plus the families of the movie theater in Aurora, the Sikh temple, the Minneapolis manufacturer, the malls in Portland and Phoenix, Ft. Hood, etc, etc. May those faces of God spur us to action.
Hold your loved ones close to you this Christmas. We in Holy Cross will do the same for you.
With love …
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.