Tyler Clementi’s apparent suicide has become worldwide news. The 18-year-old’s body was found in the Hudson River this week, after he jumped off the George Washington Bridge, which is several miles from his northern New Jersey home. The allegation is his Rutgers roomate had recorded the teenager’s sexual encounter with a young man and transmitted it on the internet.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
My family lives a stone’s throw from the Rutgers campus, where Tyler had begun his studies weeks before. This morning, my parish priest took the unusual step of talking about a topical issue. Generally, he hews closely to the Gospel reading and speaks in general terms about how the words apply to our lives.
I’ve been praying for Tyler, a talented violinist who apparently was struggling with his sexual identity, and for the souls of all children, who are growing up at a time when the Internet, along with the fraying of social structures, have eliminated line between public and private realms. I’ve been praying for his parents, his family and all who loved him. What my pastor said this morning resonated with what I have been praying about all week. And so my ideas are inspired by his.
When God commands us: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” He isn’t just talking about the taking of a human life through murder. We humans are capable every day of inflicting another kind of death : the death of a person’s soul through creating scandal and by holding others up to ridicule. Idle talk and vicious actions can kill a person’s spirit. The alleged perpetrators did not push this young man off the bridge. Whoever violated Tyler’s privacy in his dorm room, whoever stood by watching and laughing, stole his dignity and his personhood.
Today’s Gospel reading lets us know the Catholic vision of faith: It is both something God offers us and something we humans, through our own free will, accept. I pray we all increase our faith and live it out through loving our neighbors as ourselves. Our journeys need to last all our days, acted out in the encounters with every soul God places in our paths.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’” S