On this day when we recall the Ascension of the Lord, we hear Christ's words to the disciples as found in the Acts of the Apostles, "... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) As we celebrate this Ascension 2022, perhaps we should look into our own hearts and ask, "How am I a witness to Christ in my life?"
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. As citizens of the United States, we all know our country has many issues that need to be addressed. However, the increasing harm to peace, safety and trust in our country caused by shootings and senseless violence 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.
I recently received the message below from Cardinal Cupich regarding recent murders. As the Cardinal points out while we need to pray for the victims of these hate-filled killings. "As Christians we are called to be our brothers' and sisters' keepers." Pope Francis reminds us, "We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life."
As many people have noted after every senseless killing, we mourn the loss of life but as the Cardinal points out our faith calls us to be "our brothers' and sisters' keepers." Lest we once again fail to try and end this seemingly endless cycle of violence I ask myself and I present to you this question: "Do you have any suggestions on what can we here at St. Peter's Church do to promote life and respect for all people and all God's creation?" What concrete action(s) might we do to help end this growing tragedy here in Chicago and also in far too many other places throughout our country? I offer Cardinal Blase's words below for your reflection.
On Saturday, May 14, a gunman used an AR-15, high-capacity assault weapon to murder 10 Black Americans at a Buffalo grocery store, wounding two bystanders. Many of his victims were near or beyond retirement age, including Pearl Young, 77, a grandmother of eight who taught Sunday school, and Katherine Massey, 72, a civil-rights advocate who had written in favor of stronger gun-safety laws. Civil authorities say the 18-year-old suspect traveled hours to carry out his rampage, apparently leaving behind a manifesto filled with white supremacist ideology, including the vile conspiracy theory that people of color are “replacing” white Americans.
In 2019, a gunman who shot up a Walmart in Texas wrote a similar manifesto that referred to the same conspiracy theory, complaining of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Whatever the theory, white supremacism is a lie. This ideology is not always so explicitly expressed, but it is condemnable whether it hides behind slippery political rhetoric or does not bother with any fig leaves of deniability.
We must pray for the victims of this outrageous act. We must keep them in our thoughts. But that is not all we are obliged to do. As Christians, we are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Part of that obligation entails being witnesses to truth. When this chapter of American history is written, what will our grandchildren say about what we did to protect the marginalized? What will they say about how we responded to a culture that became increasingly tolerant of rhetoric that demonizes our fellow human beings on the basis of their race or ethnicity or religion or sex? Will they wonder how we could have become inured to daily gun violence and mass shootings, how our consciences were numbed to the consequences of violence-inspiring rhetoric? Will they wonder at our failure to stop dangerous people from procuring assault weapons, including children, or our failure to see how social media is being used to rend the social fabric? What will they think about how we responded to a moment in which a Black American, indeed any person of color, is forced by the scourge of racism to live in fear?
These questions should preoccupy our minds as we stand at this cultural crossroads. We need not choose the path of indifference. We can choose to listen to the suffering of our brothers and sisters who suffer racism in all its forms — and then act to build a more just society. We can choose to face the challenge of gun violence, including that which occurs daily in the Chicago area, by enacting common-sense federal safety laws that help keep firearms out of the hands of irresponsible people and end the flow of firearms across state borders.
We can choose to take the path of love and see in our neighbors the face of Christ. We Christians can choose to act as though we actually believe that we, indeed all human beings, are made in God’s image.
It is in this spirit of family that we must stand in solidarity with the victims of the Buffalo massacre, with the victims of gun violence here in Chicago and across the nation, with victims’ loved ones, indeed with all people who face the threat of racism every day, holding fast to the knowledge that we are beloved by God, not because of how we look or where we or our ancestors were born, but because we are of God, made in his image, and directed toward love.
- Cardinal Blase Cupich
As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend let us remember in prayer all those who have died in war and especially those who continue to suffer in the ongoing war in Ukraine and other trouble spots throughout the world. I encourage you to attend the 10:00 am Mass in church tomorrow, Monday, May 30 for Memorial Day as we offer prayers for all the dead, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy freedom. When you gather with family or friends for a meal or picnic this weekend, be sure and take a moment of silence to remember the many men and women who have given of their time, talents and even lives so that we can live in freedom. And continue to work, act and pray to God for peace in our world.
Memorial Day asks each of us to reflect upon the precious gift of freedom we have in living in the USA. Far too often, we see exhibited, especially on social media, by some of our fellow citizens, false stories, racism and bigotry. Each of us must not fail to accept the responsibilities we have to be people of truth and not falsehoods. We must accept the responsibilities to work to make the freedom of this country a reality for everyone who lives in our great land.
I hope to see many of you at our special 175th anniversary concert on Friday, June 3 or Saturday, June 4. You will find details elsewhere in this bulletin or on our website. It should be an inspiring evening of great live music.