The recent deaths of Michael Brown, James Foley and Douglas McAuthur McCain are deeply troubling. They were not just three more killings reported on the news and mourned over by their families and loved ones alone. More than that, they have become a barometer of our society.
The death of Michael Brown, a black man who was killed by a white officer forces us to face the racial discrimination which persists in our country and throughout the world. The killing of James Foley by ISIS fighters draws our attention to the potential for evil that is inherent in most religions. And the death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, a MN resident who died while fighting on the side of ISIS leaves us wondering about the growing religious radicalization of young people.
What has become of us? The beautiful vision God had for creation and the Good News which Jesus brought to our world seem much less attainable today than ever before. Politicians, historians, sociologists, social scientists and students of religion offer complicated and complex reasons why the world is so divided. To me, it seems very simple: we are selfish and greedy and we fear that which is different from us, i.e. skin color, religious affiliation, cultural expressions, etc. And when pushed to the edge we chose hatred over love and even death over life.
There is another way and a better one at that. I used to visit with an elderly Dominican sister on a regular basis. She was deeply devout and very concerned about our world. After she offered me coffee and cookies she would lead me into the chapel where we prayed together for the needs of the world since as she always reminded me: “there is so much misery in this world.” Her prayer today is more powerful than ever as she is praying with the heavenly hosts.
She was right, we need to pray for the world, however, prayer is only one side of the coin. On Holy Thursday we do two things: we pray as we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and we wash one another’s feet as we commemorate Jesus command to love one another in word and deed. Prayer and action go hand in hand. The one cannot exist without the other. Thus as we pray for peace in the world, we must work toward peace. As we pray for an end to racial divisions we must work toward equality for all. As we pray for coexistence of religions we must reach out, get to know one another and work toward trust and respect between religions.
Racial and religiously motivated hatred are ruinous to our society and to humanity as a whole. They are profoundly shameful. They are not becoming of God’s creatures. So, let’s resolve to pray and act so that racial division and religious hatred might end. Let’s choose love over hatred and life over death. Let’s break the destructive cycle of selfishness and greed and let’s open our hearts and minds to the wonders of God’s rich and diverse creation.
May Michael Brown, James Foley and Douglas McAuthur McCain be embraced by the mercy of God. And may their deaths help us to open our eyes and change our ways.