HATE IN OUR NATION: The most basic prayer of Judaism is known as the Shema, after the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4 "Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad/Hear O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." Even though the full pray- er continues with the succeeding verses ("Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength ...") the first line is oft prayed by itself, summing up as it does the fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith. And undoubtedly those words were on the lips of many gathered in the Tree of Life Synagogue as shots rang out that terrible morning of 27 October.
The fact that a mere week after the most horrific act of anti-Semitic violence in our nation's history, perpetrated less than 50 miles from the Jewel, the Sunday readings repeated the Shema twice was a "coincidence" too powerful to ignore. Thus I was inspired to preach on the HATE that led to this tragedy, a HATE that is producing more and more violence, a HATE that is ripping our nation apart. I wish I could have preached at all seven Masses, as I felt that the words the Lord had put in my mouth needed to be heard by the entire community. Please understand that here I am not using the image of words being "put" in my mouth as a mere rhetorical device. That Saturday morning, in my prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I listened to the Sunday readings and then asked the Lord to give me the words I should preach. And literally, as soon as that prayer escaped my lips, the homily started to take shape in my mind. I FIRMLY believe that anything good that I say comes NOT from me but from the Holy Spirit. Conversely, when I stand "in the pulpit" and make no sense or sound stupid it is because I have foolishly IGNORED the Spirit's promptings and chosen MY words instead.
There is an old saw that the preacher is first and foremost preaching to himself. This homily was certainly NO exception. ALL of us are in one way or another guilty of fanning the flames of hatred by feeding into the us vs. them mentality. ALL of us - me included! - need to examine our consciences. To that end I offer the Examination of Conscience on this page as a start. Might I suggest that you clip it out and reflect on the questions frequently? The bulletin has to go to the printer by 2pm on Tuesday so as I write this (on a rainy day in Happy Valley) Election Day has just begun. Sadly I have no doubt that no matter what the results, the hatred will continue to grow. UNLESS we who claim to be disciples of Yeshua consciously CHOOSE to truly heed the Second Commandment and "love our neighbour as ourselves," finally accepting that there is no US and THEM. There is only US and we are ALL children of Adonai who is God ALONE.
COVER PHOTO: Is there ANY place more beautiful than Southwestern Pennsylvania in Fall? I walked out to the middle of Crawford Avenue Bridge after the 8am All Saints Mass at Saint Rita and before heading up the hill for the 9:30am Mass at IC and was rewarded with this shot!
You can find last week's homily on the parish website homepage at youghcatholic.org.
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