On this day when we recall the Ascension of the Lord, Mark's Gospel reminds us of the command the Lord left us to follow, as He returned to his Heavenly Father. For Jesus says to his followers, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." (Mk16:15) As we celebrate this Ascension day 2021 perhaps we should look into our own hearts and ask, "How am I proclaiming the Gospel to others?"
There is no doubt in my mind that we who proclaim we are Catholic have in the many years since Christ spoke those words have brought the Gospel message to countless people. I also believe the task of proclaiming Christ's Gospel message of care for one another is most urgent these days. Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment." The second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt. 22:36-40)
If we truly believe Christ's words. If we say we follow Christ and his commandments. If we call ourselves Catholic then I believe we all have a lot of work and prayer to do if we want to make a reality of Christ's words in our time here on this earth.
If you need proof that we have much work to do then I urge you to reflect upon the tragic news that unfortunately seems to be reported every day here in Chicago and far too many other places in our country. The Chicago Tribune reported that as of May 3 there have been 1,042 people shot by guns in Chicago so far this year. Most of those who were shot were young people. While our country has many issues that need to be addressed, the increasing harm caused by shootings is a national disgrace and an affront to what we declare in our Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in order to form a form perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Recently, Fr. Bob Hutmacher, OFM, wrote an article for the May 2021 issue of The Franciscan Legionnaire. I found his words very challenging and worthy of reflection by all of us who profess our Christian faith. As Franciscans his words reflect the heritage left us by St. Francis of Assisi and the call by our Holy Father, Pope Francis to promote peace and justice in our world today. I am including the first part of Fr. Bob's article in this bulletin and the second half of the article will be found in next weekend's (May 23) church bulletin.
GUNS DESTROY LIFE
There. I said it. If this headline bothers you, good! That’s my intention. In this article, which has been brewing for far too long, I refer to weapons owned by citizens of the U.S. who are not in the military or law enforcement. I also understand hunting as a means to provide food for others. Years ago a learned friar told me that all weapons are designed to take life, regardless of who uses them for whatever purpose. What spurs me on to finally write about guns among the general population is the large number of our children in Chicago who have become innocent victims. I don’t even like the word victim because so many have been killed unnecessarily: they were just in the way of the real victim(s). And what a disgusting thing to say about any human being, much less a seven-year-old child going through the drive-thru at McDonalds.
Whether robbery, gang warfare, mental illness or domestic mayhem is the “reason” for firing a gun, I am personally sickened every day I hear reports of gun violence. And it’s every day. Granted we live in a major city that has been plagued for years by multiple problems, we are also encapsulated by images of parents screaming in pain on streets in the middle of the night or outside hospital ER’s. When Sandy Hook Elementary was raided and 27 little ones and teachers were slain I’d hoped that the U.S. Congress would act. They did not. That was 2012. Las Vegas – 59. Orlando – 49. Virginia Tech – 32. Sutherland Springs – 26. I was going to list just the mass shootings (defined differently but those that included at least 3 victims) but there is not enough room on one page of the Legionnaire. Let’s look at a few numbers, though, because they speak volumes.
The CDC reports that in 2019 in the U.S. there were 38,355 deaths involving handguns. Of those deaths 23,941 were suicides, 14,414 homicides. The annual cost of gun violence in the U.S. fluctuates from $229 to $303 billion. That’s about $860 per person. The group Everytown reports that U.S. taxpayers pay a daily average of $34.8 million for medical care, first responders, ambulances, police and criminal justice. Everyday families directly affected by gun violence face $4.7 million in out-of-pocket costs for medical bills and mental health support. If you survey the statistics of the most tragic mass shootings in the U.S. since 1975 you see that every single one of them involved semi-automatic pistols and rifles. Every single one.
Each new attack is a stark reminder of the many, many others emblazoned on our corporate memories. Each mourning person causes a new shiver, new tears, new waves of anger and outrage. Revenge is far too often the reason many people are being robbed of the fulness of life. The recent case of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being shot by a Chicago policeman is a tragic example of how multi-layered each shooting can be. A child’s life abruptly ends. A family is shattered. A policeman walks a tightrope. Activists take to the microphones. Neighbors and friends scream for justice and the media coverage explodes until the next onslaught, which often comes the next day.
What have we done with the marvels of God’s creation and the mystery of human life? I’ll tell you what I believe. We have cheapened human existence to such an extent that I’ve had people make fun of me because I squirmed at a murder sequence in a movie. Laughed at me! It’s bad enough to be scared to walk city streets in any neighborhood, but laugh? I also admit there are times on Chicago expressways that I kind of squirm when going under an overpass. And I never honk if a driver cuts me off. These fears are wrong and completely snuff out the joy of life given to us by the Creator... Fr. Bob Hutmacher, OFM
(The remainder of Fr. Bob's article for the May 2021 issue of The Franciscan Legionnaire will be found in next weekend's St. Peter's Church bulletin.)