Bishop responds to country’s violence

By Most Reverend Stephen Berg
n the readings for this weekend’s liturgy, the Twenty Fourth Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus vilifies the wicked servant whose debt was forgiven, yet who turned on his fellow servant and violently abused him, demanding, “Pay back what you owe.”

In the first reading from the Second Book of Sirach the wages of sin and evil are definitively stated: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.”

These are warnings to be taken to heart by believers in Christ and followers of his mission of peace and justice. In the recent events in Charlottesville we have come to realize the extent to which wrath and hatred inflicts our nation. We have witnessed a vile replay of history at its worst. White supremacism, anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, fascism and racism are evil and have no place in our nation, neighborhood or heart.

Almost 40 years ago, the bishops wrote a pastoral letter on racism. Among the many things discussed was the fact that “racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” The fundamental problem is this: too often we are apt to group people as either “us” or “them.” This begins with a fearful heart about another as “one of them,” then builds through gossip or categorical comments, proceeds through justification of a position of hatefulness, and then leads to violence. It is fear of the unfamiliar and “those others” which is again taking ugly shape in our midst.

Indeed, the Gospel calls us to examine our fearful response and to remember that we are not only receivers of God’s grace and forgiveness but we are chosen to be the guarantors of peace and justice for all God’s children. As we hear St. Paul to the Romans this weekend, let us remember, “Brothers and Sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

The answer is Christ, whose Church is a house of prayer for all peoples. The answer is Christ, who came to heal the divisions of sin and death. The answer is Christ, who prayed to his heavenly Father, “so that all may be one” (John 17:21).