I had hoped and prayed that I would never again have to write one of these blogs. Never again reflect on how one deranged person could almost instantly bring about the death of innocent people, innocent children. But Friday’s devastation of human life in Newtown, Connecticut brought me once again back to the reality. Let me say this in the first paragraph. I have in this space on four occasions before argued strongly that the government (federal, state or local) must do something about assault weapons of mass destruction. What our nation was not able to find in Iraq we overlook on our own streets and in our own communities. A war against weapons of mass destruction was fought overseas but has thus far been ignored in our neighborhoods. The founding fathers (and mothers) could never have dreamed of AK-47s and Glocks. When they thought of the right to bear arms, they only knew single load rifles and pistols – necessary in some instances to protect oneself or to hunt for food. To this day, with some restrictions like registration and concealment laws, I think the second amendment was and remains sound but not, in the name of God, anything which would allow a killer to wipe out or to almost wipe out the first grade of an elementary school, or a high school like Columbine, or at a mall in Portland, Oregon. As President Obama said, it is time for the nation to address this issue. We rank the highest in the civilized world for armed aggression against innocent people and part of the reason has to be the ease with which one can procure these “weapons of mass destruction.”
When I have broached this subject in the past I have been “favored” with some of the angriest comments I ever receive. Most of the time, in language far too colorful to repeat here, I am told to “preach the Gospel and stay out of politics.” During the last three months, three of my most severe critics on the matter of gun control also sent comments asking when I was going to condemn the President for his so-called anti-life positions. Go figure! To be in favor of limits on assault weapons is to be pro-life.
I and I bet most Catholics are so proud today of the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Monsignor Robert Weiss, for his heroic presence to the families who lost children or their adult parents in this latest outrage. He represented the Lord to these grieving people in the only way he could, by being present, listening, not responding with pious platitudes. He was a good shepherd, a great pastor. That he wept on occasion is exactly what I would have done in similar circumstances. It is all so sad, so surreal, so tragic. Thou shall not kill, the unborn, the dying elderly, children, innocent people. What is happening to this nation?
Sunday’s readings were of some consolation. Thematically they were filled with the notion of “rejoicing.” Paul wrote Sunday’s reading from prison. Zephaniah wrote Sunday’s reading to an unfaithful people whom God still loved and John the Baptist humbly preached a message of conversion and redemption also not in the best of times. In eight days we will celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace and we would do well to remember what Monsignor Weiss said in Newtown – God did not do this, a human being did. We still have the opportunity in the time left to us on earth to work for peace – not just globally, but on the streets where we live. Elected leaders, right this wrong.
My heart and prayers go out to the families whose lives were tragically touched by the losses they endured on Friday. May the twenty-seven plus the mother of the shooter not have died in vain.