Tuesday, June 14, 2016
On The Killing of Gay People
These are reflections I had while in the chapel about the recent killings in Orlando. (These thoughts seem to flow from my last reflections about “choosing”.) Even before I put pen to paper, however I heard many media thoughts about these events, and the discussions seemed to spit between “what REALLY happened” and “what should we do about it.” (I choose to ignore those rants about “who’s to blame”.)
These are thoughts I had on what really happened:
My mind turned to the Parable of the Good Shepherd, whose sheep “know My voice.” Imagine we are there, and hear that voice. “Yes,” we might say, “this truly is a GOOD shepherd. We want what He wants.” And we follow Him. Then, on a far off hill, we see a lamb, one who has wandered from His flock. What might we think and do? Might we not in our fervor say to ourselves: “Look at that lamb! He turns his back on the Shepherd and, standing on a hill like that so highly visible, he might be encouraging other sheep to go astray like he did.” And in our desire to show how important it is to follow the Shepherd, might we not take our shotgun and go kill that lamb, for the benefit of the Shepherd and His flock, and come back and proudly throw the dead carcass on the ground and say: “Look O Good Shepherd, I caught this straying one.” And then to the sheep: “Look here; see what happens when you stray!” And wouldn’t we feel proud and righteous?
But, let’s step out of the story and look at it from a true Christian viewpoint, as ones who truly know this Gospel. I think we can all agree that the Shepherd would not be happy at this killing one of His sheep, even a straying one. He loved it. And as Jesus later showed, He died for the straying.
And in a similar way, I thought of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What if the good son who stayed at home was fed up with his brother’s actions --- and his father’s sorrows --- and went out and killed his straying brother. Might he come home and proudly say: “Look, father, I killed that no good son who treated you so badly, and I brought your money back to you”? And what do you think the father would feel and say about his son’s righteous actions? Do you think the father would be happy?
And then yet a third thought came to me. Imagine we are looking forward to a family reunion in San Jose, California. Our kids said they’d be happy to join us there, and we sent them directions. And we hoped (and expected?) they would join us along the way. Leaving from New York, we were perhaps in Denver, well along our way, hoping any day to see our kids who would meet up with us and travel with us. Imagine our reaction when we saw their Facebook post from New Orleans! Might we not worry (or even grow angry): “That’s not the directions we gave you. You might get lost going that way. You said (or was it only that we expected?) that you would meet us along the way.”
Well, perhaps we would not actually say those words (but we might be in our hearts). But then, we’d look at those posted pictures, see the grandkids playing on the beach, and see the smiling family at some tourist site, and might not our hearts soften:”Well, they’re our kids. We know they want to join us in San Jose, and we know we’ve taught them well. We need to trust they will meet us there.” We want what’s best for our kids, even if they stray.
But now let’s imagine a sad turn to our story. Imagine we receive word that our kids took a remote road and went off a cliff, killing them all. What then would we think? “If only they had listened to us! If only they had followed our directions.” And in our grief, might we even blame ourselves for not somehow keeping them on a safe path? But if our thoughts went there, we would be forgetting all we learned and believed that the Catholic Church teaches.
So let me remind you.
First, Catholic parents (with the support of the Church) give their kids directions to heaven (or San Jose), but every person, EVERY person, leads a different life, goes along a different road. Sometimes we can choose bad roads, despite the best directions, --- or be lured astray. Second, God loves us, even if we stray, like the sheep or the Prodigal Son, or our straying kids. And he makes all roads straight; He makes good out of bad. Wherever we are at, however lost, He can still direct us to San Jose. Third, the journey isn’t over until it is over. Even if lost now, we can choose to get back on the right path. And then for Catholics there is even one Final Point to remember: For some, the final stretch of road to heaven includes a detour through Purgatory. Earthly death doesn’t end the journey. Who are we to assume that someone who went off a cliff and died in sin won’t still get to heaven (San Jose)? They may get there via a road we didn’t plan for them, but God did. And we may be surprised when we finally arrive in heaven ourselves to see that they beat us there.
This is what we believe. Do not forget it. Do not be anxious.
So what about the killing of the gay people in Orlando? Well, regarding those people, they are like the lost sheep, the Prodigal Son, and the detouring children. We aren’t to judge them or their actions, but to love them. And like the killed sheep or killed Prodigal Son or dead children in my musings, we must mourn yet have hope that they will still meet us in heaven.
And relative to the Muslim shooter, the sheep hunter, or the good son, they may have been people who acted with good intentions, seeking in their own way to please God --- but, sadly, they didn’t really know Him. A God who loves all His children would not wish them to do the things they did, and yet, a loving God would love them just as much as He loved the straying sheep or the Prodigal Son --- or any who chose to go astray. They are still His kids.
But what of the just blame or judgment for their sins; are their no consequences? What is justice? Well, perhaps the killers never had loving parents who showed them the way. Perhaps they had some illness, fed by their culture to appear as a virtue (even as narcissism seems to be a virtue among American politicians). Or perhaps, yes, they made evil choices and nurtured evil in their hearts --- but even so, we as Christians are not to judge, or worry. We are only to love, even these. And as for God, we trust His mercy triumphs over justice.
Relative to the actions of all involved in Orlando, those were my thoughts. And then I read these words in the Liturgy of the Hours:
Always speak and act as men destined for judgment under the law of freedom. Merciless is the judgment on the man who has not shown mercy; but mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13
Do not, my brothers, speak ill of one another. The one who speaks ill of his brother or judges his brother is speaking against the law. It is the law he judges. If, however, you judge the law you are no observer of the law, you are its judge. There is but one Lawgiver and Judge, one who can save and destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12