As I begin to write this message, I am still trying to absorb the fact and the horror of someone killing 50 Muslims during Friday prayer in two different mosques in New Zealand. Of course I know that all too frequently here in our city someone either gets into a confrontation with another person and then pulls out a gun and shoots the other. Or we hear of an innocent child being killed by a stray bullet entering a home where he/she is playing or sleeping. Or we have the case of apparent gang shootings that supposedly are meant to “teach a lesson” or to “show who is in charge.” All of these cases are repugnant enough and indicate that more and more we have lost respect for human life under all sorts of circumstances, including taking the life of an unborn child through abortion.
Then we have the increasing number of mass shootings that are occurring throughout the United States and elsewhere: in Charleston, South Carolina, by a lone gunman firing at participants gathered in a church for Bible study and prayer; in Orlando, Florida, where a lone gunman fired into a nightclub killing whomever was nearby; in Aurora, Colorado and Parkland, Florida, where an individual gunman entered a school and shot whomever he encountered. Then there was the case of the man in Las Vegas, Nevada, who fired from a high rise hotel window at a large group of people gathered for an outdoor concert killing dozens of people and injuring many more. And we are still reeling from the shooting inside a company in Aurora, Illinois, just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I could mention all too many more such examples of innocent people being murdered because they happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.
But now we are trying to absorb this horrific news of the 50 people killed in two separate attacks in an Islamic mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, along with numerous additional injuries, some of them critical. They were gathered together for Friday prayer according to the Muslim custom. What was their problem? Who could possibly be so distraught to both plan and then execute such a heinous crime? What kind of person could think along these lines and again have so little regard for human life? Why could something like this happen in our lifetime, and in a country where the gun violence is so low that many of the police officers do not even carry guns when they are on duty?
Now we know the shooter was Brenton Tarrant, whose Facebook page streamed a graphic and extremely disturbing live video showing him gunning down people praying and who posted links to a rambling “manifesto” on Twitter that he dubbed “The Great Replacement.” The manifesto is basically a grievance document that lays out Tarrant’s twisted beliefs that mass murder is justified by immigration and low European birthrates. In one especially bizarre section, the gunman presents a list of questions that he assumes people will want to know—why he did it, who influenced him, etc. He then answers the questions in the lengthy document. Overall, he is motivated by a perception of white victimhood that he believes justifies violence.
“We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil,” he wrote. “It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.” In another place he states that he believes whites are facing “genocide” and admits that he acted in part because of race. The end of the manifesto proclaims, “Europa arises.” He is fixated on birthrates: “If there is one thing I want you to remember from these writings, it’s that the birthrates must change. Even if we would deport all non-Europeans from our land tomorrow, we still would be spiraling into decay and eventual death.”
He describes himself as just an ordinary white man, 28 years old, born in Australia to a working class, low income family. “My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues. I had little interest in education during my schooling, barely achieving a passing grade.” Again he stated, “I am just a regular white man, from a regular family, who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.”
In the manifesto, Tarrant makes it clear he intended to attack Muslims. He refers to Turks as “roaches” and orders them to “flee to your own lands, while you still have the chance.” He claimed that European men “are to blame. Weak men have created this situation and strong men are needed to fix it.” Muslims are “the most despised group of invaders in the West, attacking them receives the greatest level of support.” He also ranted about climate change, saying that by killing “the invaders,” he could “kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”
Although he was only 28 years old, he became radicalized and decided that in his mind he had only one alternative, and that was to act. He had arrived at a point where he had concluded that the white race was far superior to all other people and that he needed to do his part to save his own race now. He was and is a white supremacist, and anyone who was “other” was infringing upon his supremacy. He could not see that diversity of color, culture, background and religion, rather than being a problem, was actually a good. These “others” were not brothers and sisters; rather they were individuals and groups who were causing harm and disgust. They needed to be taken out rather than embraced for their contribution to a society that welcomes variety and difference and who can work together to build a just and peaceful nation.
Hatred has no place in our hearts and souls. Jesus calls us not only to believe that every single person is created in the image and likeness of God but also to live that belief each and every moment of every day. A tragedy as has occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand, impels us to condemn what has happened, to do everything we can to not allow it to repeat itself elsewhere, and to ask ourselves honestly whether as Christians and Catholics we are living what we believe. We cannot stay silent and passive. Now is the time to proclaim from the housetops that we will not just tolerate diversity but that we will treat every person with dignity and respect. Less than that is not who we are called to be as children of God.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
The episode narrated in the Book of Joshua today tells of a new chapter in the history of the chosen people. Gilgal commemorates the place where the Israelites entered the promised land after their time in the wilderness. After 40 years they entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and began settling in the land. Today we hear that they “celebrated the Passover,” commemorating their deliverance from Egypt under Moses. During their time in the wilderness, the Lord provided them with manna, but now we hear that for the first time “they ate of the produce of the land,” and “the manna ceased.” Now they begin to eat off the land God has given them.
Paul tells us that to share in the life of Christ is to be “a new creation.” Because of our sins we were alienated from God, but God is “reconciling the world to himself in Christ.” In saying God “made him to be sin,” Paul means that Christ became the offering to God on behalf of our sins. His death ransomed us from death and reconciled us to God.
It is significant that Luke tells us that today’s parable is addressed to “the Pharisees and scribes” who were complaining about the fact that Jesus is associating with “tax collectors and sinners.” In his introduction to the parable of the prodigal son, he calls us to focus on the complaints of the older brother, who was resentful of his younger brother and his father’s mercy. Like the older brother, the Pharisees and scribes complain about the mercy shown to “your son.” The older brother will not even refer to him as “my brother.” But the father invites him to “celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again.”
For Reflection: How can I share more fully in the life of Christ? Am I more like the prodigal son or the older brother? Do I understand and appreciate that often I share in the Father’s mercy just as they did?
AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM CARDINAL CUPICH
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
With this letter I write to you about a development that should disturb us greatly, both as citizens and as disciples of Jesus, the Lord of life.
Recently, two bills have been introduced in the Illinois House and Senate. The first, House Bill 2495 and Senate Bill 1942, both identical pieces of legislation, seeks to strip unborn persons of any protection—or even consideration—under the law and declare abortion to be a “fundamental right” and matter of health care. The end result is that an abortion could be obtained at any stage of pregnancy, including late term, for any reason and without any regulation. The law would no longer guarantee any modicum of humanity or compassion for any unborn person in Illinois, even if they are partially born. This legislation also repeals the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which protects doctors, nurses and hospitals who refuse to permit, recommend, perform or assist in abortion. In so doing, rights of conscience, especially religious objections, will be lost.
The second piece of legislation House Bill 2467 and its identical Senate Bill 1594 repeals the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act. This law, upheld unanimously by the Illinois Supreme Court just six years ago, has the common sense purpose of ensuring that parents would be part of the life-altering decision of their minor child in the case she seeks an abortion. This effective law has reduced abortions performed on minors by fifty-seven percent.
As citizens of a state and people of faith who care about the common good, I urge you to join me and my brother bishops in an effort to defeat this radical departure from current law and practice in our state. Please reach out to your State Representative and
Senator to urge defeat of these bills. You can find the name of your appropriate politicians and their contact information at https://www.ilcatholic.org/take-action/action-center/. To find out more about these bills, please consult the Catholic Conference of Illinois website, www.ilcatholic.org or call the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity at 312-534-5355 for further information.
Entrusting our efforts for all life, from the moment of conception until natural death, to the care of our Blessed Mother, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Blasé Cardinal Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
POPE FRANCIS’ SUGGESTIONS TO LIVE LENT FULLY
At his morning Mass on March 18, Pope Francis gave his advice on that day’s Gospel (Lk 6:36-38). One of Francis’ recommendations was not to judge and criticize others, and in doing this, he stressed that we must imitate God’s mercy, which is infinite.
He also talked about observing this season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving by being generous, not with “closed pockets.” Be generous in giving to the poor, to those in need. Be willing to give good advice and in giving people smiles.
He reminded us, “The Lord teaches us: Give and it will be given to you.” When you give, it will be given back to you, for God always gives us a hundred-fold of all that we give.
He decried “gossiping” in which we “continually judge and condemn others,” which makes it “increasingly difficult to forgive.”
In conclusion, he urged those present (and us) to embrace almsgiving, not only material alms, but also spiritual almsgiving, including “wasting time” with someone in need and visiting the sick and the disabled. This is time well spent.
PRAYING VESPERS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite you to join us for Vespers (Evening Prayer) in church on most Mondays and Wednesdays shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 P.M. Mass. This is a common prayer with both the friars and laity together praying this liturgical hour of the Church. We provide the book in which the prayer can be found; all you have to do is bring yourself and a desire to join with people around the world who pray this prayer every single day. We are always finished by 6:00, so you should be able to make your train or your bus if you decide to join us. Just come up to the front of church by the St. Joseph altar, and we will show you how the prayer is recited. We hope many people will consider this way of ending your day on a pleasant note.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
A friend was lecturing in Latin America. He was going to use a translator, but to identify with the audience, he wanted to begin his talk by saying in Spanish, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” He arrived at the auditorium a little early and realized he did not know the Spanish words for ladies and gentlemen. Being rather resourceful, he went to the part of the building where the restrooms were located and looked at the signs on the two doors, and memorized those two words.
When the audience arrived and he was introduced, he stood up and said in Spanish, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”
The audience was shocked. He didn’t know whether he had offended them or perhaps they hadn’t heard him or understood him. So he decided to repeat it. Again in Spanish he said, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”
One person in the audience began to snicker. Pretty soon the entire audience was laughing. Finally someone told him that he had said, “Good evening, bathrooms and broom closets!”