We are soaked in blood. I am soaked in blood. There is so much blood everywhere we look, that we’ve stopped recognizing it. I’ve stopped recognizing it. I have not noticed its slow drip, drip, drip into my soul, choking out the love of God and neighbor that should be growing. Sowing instead seeds of violence and anger. So much anger.
Despite having material possessions that three generations before us could have scarcely been imagined, and grand license disguised as freedom, this is a people steeped in anger and soaked in blood. The blood is boiling over.
On Friday, a great demostration of just how saturated with blood and violence we are. On Sunday, the eyes of my soul shot open with these words from the prophet:
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Everyone, from the pundits to the politicans, from the parents to the children themselves, are asking how this could happen. They are also asking the same question that the people asked John:
What should we do?
What should I do?
In the midst of so much horror, what should we do to stem the tide?
There is nothing new under the sun.
John’s answer to the people is our answer too:
Repent. Change the way we live. Turn back to God.
Root out the seeds of violence that have taken hold of our hearts and the blinders that refuse to let us see the blood around us.
No matter what problem is befalling the modern American, and his government, there hangs a violent solution at the ready.
Someone cut me off on the highway?
Give him the finger. Or at least honk my horn while gesturing wildly.
Someone says something that makes me feel angry or offended and I mutter under my breath, “I could strangle him (or her).”
My child does something naughty and my first response to boil over with anger and say, “You are making me crazy!”
Bored? Why not play a video game where you score more points for running over innocent people with a car, killing prostitutes, or blowing up a building with people inside. It’s just pretend, right?
For six hours a day?
Or even worse.
“Mother’s Boyfriend Beats 5 year old to Death. More at 11.”
A headline from any city in this blood-stained land.
When I lived in Chicago, hundreds of people, most of them young and poor, were killed by violent actions each year.
We tell scared and vulnerable women that the violence of having their child dismsmbered inside the womb will solve their problems and set them free.
Our government tells us that having a bloated military-industrial complex will solve our problems overseas.
Deep down inside, the violent impulse is in each of us. It’s alive and well in me.
We have to root out the seeds of violence that begin in a sneer and end in bullets and bombs.
Mother Teresa once said, “If you want world peace, go home and love your family.”
The last of the prophets told us on Sunday what we should do, how we can begin to stem the tide and uproot the violence that has permeated our culture and our lives.
Acts of justice turn me outward. I am no longer thinking only of me, me, me but of the least, the last, and the lost.
How does the way I live affect the poor and disadvantaged? After I have met my family’s needs, do I give the excess to those with less or none? Have I tried to see the humanity in others, no matter how broken? Do I react with anger, exasperation, or rage to my own flesh and blood?
Why then, am I surprised that we live in a violent world?
While politicans can (and will) argue about gun control, mental health care, and other issues that surround this tragedy, the rest of us are left wondering what we can do.
We can honestly search our hearts and once we’ve done that, we can change. I can change. I can root out the seeds of violence by doing acts of justice. Living justly will bring about peace, the peace that only God can give. It will start the revolution of the heart, one which Dorothy Day once said, “has to start with each one of us”.