We live in stressful times. The Coronavirus is causing us stress in keeping us home from work, school, and leisure activities. Restrictions are beginning to ease but we will continue to be affected by the virus even after things open for at least a few weeks with precautions. The precautions have merit. God gives us the ability to reason. We need to rely on the gift of counsel (right judgment) from the Holy Spirit to make wise choices to keep people healthy.
Yet, the Coronavirus is not the only thing causing us stress. Well before the Coronavirus we faced stress. Stress that comes from a nation divided. Partisan politics is part of this. We need to work for unity, unity that is not based on one group or party’s position. We need to seek one will, the Father’s Will (thy will be done).
We can also have stress because of violence in the world. This is what I want to focus on today. We have been dealing with Mass shootings for a while but it seems to increase. Violence begets violence. Sometimes it comes because of mental health issues. We need to work and pray for all to receive good mental health care.
Sometimes the violence happens because of people becoming radicalized in their beliefs. This can be a group or an individual. Just this week, in the area where I serve, the police encountered a trucker in a routine traffic stop that led to a dangerous chase ending in shooting. We give thanks to God that no one other than the perpetrator was injured. From what I hear the police handled the incident well.
Unfortunately, while the vast majority of police are good people, there are some bad apples. We saw this recently in the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. This has led to protests across our nations. There is good intent in the protests, a voice that needs to be heard for equality and justice.
We need change. No one should have to live in fear of any sort. The protests start peacefully with a message that needs to be heard. However, sometimes they get hijacked. Peaceful protests become riots and looting. I don’t understand this. Maybe part of it is the problem of “mob mentality” taking over. Maybe it is a few bad apples intentionally leading things out of control. I don’t know. I don’t understand. It is not for me to judge. I pray for the police and all whose job it is to deal with this to do so as God directs.
I’m writing this because one thing has become different for me in these protests than in the past. There have been protests in our region before on similar issues but I don’t think the protests have gotten out of control before. That changed last night. Last night in Rochester, NY, less than an hour from where I am, a peaceful protest turned violent with cars flipped, set on fire, and looting. The police and local officials have spoken well of the original protesters. They recognize that others led things astray.
So, why I am writing about this on a Catholic blog? Because it shows we need God. We need God to help us change the hate into love. We need to love God and we need God’s help to love our neighbor.
Today is Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit. We need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I already mentioned the gift of counsel (right judgment) above. We also need the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to help us know how God calls us to respond. We also need the gift of courage to face our fears.
When we embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are manifest in us. The fruits are are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. The list begins with charity, meaning love.
We hear of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.“
The fruits of the Holy Spirit include peace. This morning the Rochester news media indicates things have calmed down locally. Thanks be to God. We show patience to wait through the violence (and the Coronavirus). Good self-control comes when we let the Holy Spirit be at work in us.
We need God. We need the Holy Spirit. Even in these days when we cannot gather together in church, God is still with us. I read a couple of comments on other Facebook pages posted in response to what happened locally in Rochester seeking our churches to be opened immediately. We long for the day, we are preparing for the day to reopen our churches. However, we must realize that the protests this week did not go astray because of the Coronavirus or the shutdown. Such things happened before there was a Coronavirus.
We must also remember God is with us wherever we are at. Wherever you are at right now, God is listening to you. Offer a prayer for the end to violence. Ask God to help you know what to do. Ask God to help the police and government officials to know what to do. Pray that everyone opens their heart to Jesus.
I end with the words the begin the special Sequence for Mass today on Pentecost, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!“