We will never get over what has happened – children were killed, our hearts have been broken, and an image of our hometown has been shattered – but as I said Thursday evening my hope and belief, and even my experience, are that we can get through this. I am reminded of that every time I hear someone ask, “What can we do?”
That just might be the most frequent and urgent question I’m being asked these days. It’s a question I’ve asked myself again and again. Maybe you have too.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked that question. I’ve had phone calls, e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages asking, “What can we do?” I suspect you have too. It’s been asked by people I know and people I’ve never met. I’ve heard it asked here at St. Philip’s, around Uvalde, and from people across our nation and the world.
My guess is that those outside of Uvalde who ask that question do so as an expression of love, compassion, and support for you and me, for the families whose children died, for Uvalde. But for those who are here living this tragedy daily it has a different meaning and it’s about more than seeking information about what to do.
At a deeper level that question expresses our feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. And those feelings are real. I feel them, and I know you do too. We all have, and how could we not?
At a deeper level that question also expresses our hope that we will get through this, that there is a way forward, and that we are more than what has happened to us.
Hope and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness are not contradictions. Hope is never more real than when it is expressed, sought, and embodied in times of helplessness and powerlessness.
So what can we do? It’s a good question and in some ways it’s not that hard to answer. We know what to do. We love, we hug, we reach out to and check on each other. We show up and be present. We share tears and anger. We donate money, bring food, and take care of daily needs. We listen to each other, provide counseling, form support groups. We be gentle with each other and ourselves. We remember. We grieve and we live in hope. We pray. That is happening and I don’t want us to stop.
But I think there may be a better question, albeit a more to difficult one, for us to be asking: “What more can we do?” That “more” is at the heart of Jesus’ gospel. He was always living into, demonstrating, and calling us into the “more.”
- When Jesus preached the beatitudes – “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are the meek,” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers – he was preaching about the “more.” (Matthew 5:3-12)
- When he turned water into wine he transformed the “less” into the “more.” (John 2:1-11)
- All those times when he said, “You have heard that it was said ____, but I say to you ____,” he was choosing the “more” over the “less.” (Matthew 5:21-28)
- When the disciples spoke sternly to those who brought children to Jesus and he said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them,’” he was opening himself to and welcoming the “more.” (Matthew 19:13-15)
- When Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you,” he was offering her the “more.” (John 8:3-11)
The “more” that I’m speaking of is not about a quantity. It’s about a way of life, our values, and our priorities. It’s about who and how we want to be and not just about what we do.
Everything has been called into question by what happened last Tuesday and I can no longer look at my life in the same way. If today I am holding the same positions, keeping the same stances, maintaining the same priorities as I did Monday night when I went to bed; if I am not examining my life and values; if I am not reconsidering my priorities; if I am not considering new questions or points of view about poverty, mental health care, racism, gun violence; then I am not seeking or working out of the “more.” And if none of that has started for you the past week, if nothing about those things is changing or at least opening to change, you might want to ask yourself whether you are seeking the “more” or the “less.”
If we get through what has happened to Uvalde and nothing changes, if we just keep doing what we did before, if we hold the same values and priorities as we did when we went to bed Monday night, then we are settling for the “less.”
I don’t want to settle for the “less” and I hope you don’t either. That’s not what I want for myself, you, St. Philip’s, or Uvalde. I don’t want us to live in the “less.” I want us to choose, live in, and become the “more.”
And I wonder what the “more” is for you today. What would it look like for you and me to choose and embody the “more”? What “more” will you and I commit to? I don’t want us to just believe in Jesus, I want us to follow Jesus into the “more” for the sake of those who died, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, for the sake of Uvalde. Let’s choose the “more.”
What can we do? It’s the right question to start with. But let’s not stop there. I want us to let that question open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the “more.”
What “more” will you and I do?
What we need to do is to NOT “Get through this”. We need to not accept this. If we own weapons like the AR-15 we need to get rid of them – no sell them to someone else, but take a grinder to them so that they can do no more harm. If we know people who own weapons like this we need to pressure them to destroy them as well – or sell them to someone who will.
We need to not just “Get through this”. When Jesus made statements that the leaders of his time did not like, he didn’t back down. Neither should we. Perhaps we need to publish the names of people who own these weapons – the way we publish the names of rapists and people with bad credit. Perhaps that should be the next step. Deny insurance coverage on anyone owning a military-type weapon. Or, at least have it cost someone at least 300 points on their credit score. Records of who buys what exist in this country. Let the ATF find out who owns AR-15’s and Mini-14’s etc. and let it cost them.
The “more” for me is to realize that man and his emotions and thoughts will not bring peace and love into the world. All of the politicians, along with the antics of society and laws can never solve the problems and issues we find ourselves a part of. The answer is found in God.
So the “more” what I am doing is to strive to be a saint. Learn about my Catholic Faith, and what is happening to the Church, along with culture. Do my very best to strive for holiness…and to cut away the cancers of the soul that I have allowed in. My faith and hope is in God…only He will orchestrate this evil into beauty.
Stop criticizing those present who made mistakes and concentrate on realistic ways to prevent a recurrence.
Stop criticizing those who made mistakes? How in the world does one actually hope to prevent a recurrence without taking a hard look at those (at all levels) who made mistakes? I’m sorry if I offend by calling this sentiment out, but this desire to protect those who failed might be the worst possible thing we could do. It’s very likely one of the reasons we keep failing over and over again!
At St. Bartholomew’s in Baltimore, we rank the church bell 22 times during the Prayers of the People. We ache with you. The sermon ended with the following poem published Sunday in the New York Times. Perhaps the end touches on the “more” question.
Hymn for the Hurting
May 27, 2022, The New York Times
By Amanda Gorman
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Even our children
Cannot be children,
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.
Amanda Gorman is a poet and the author of “The Hill We Climb,” “Call Us What We Carry” and “Change Sings.”
Here in Somerset, UK we weep with you at this tragedy, Your sermons have brought is understanding and comfort in the past, so it is personal to us when this tragedy unfolds.
When schoolchildren were killed in Dunblane, in March 1996, public petitions encouraged our government to pass legislation banning the sale and ownership of most handguns, automatic weapons were already outlawed and all firearms require a certiificate and regular checks, Surely it is time to limit the availability of automatic weapons. Assault rifles are designed to give soldiers an advantage in combat, by rapid fire, but were not available when American gunlaws were passed. As Prisident Biden said, enough is enough. Pray to God that America liimits the availability of weapons so more mass shootings will not take place. Our children and grandchildren deserve freedom from fear.
As I was conducting exegesis for a sermon next Sunday (June 12th, Trinity), specifically, Romans 5:1-5, I came across a post on this blog from May 22, 2016. It was excellent and entitled “Bearing the Unbearable”. When I went to learn more about who wrote it, I was stunned to find that the insightful and comforting words came from a priest in Uvalde, written almost 6 years to the day of this latest tragic mass shooting. I am grateful for your work, and recall your words surrounding this scripture as the unbearable comes to your door once again: “If the Feast of the Holy Trinity means anything at all it means that we never bear the unbearable alone…[the unbearable] reveals the presence of God…in the midst of unbearable reality we are being guided into all the truth.” And that through the tears there is hope…God, Son and Spirit make it so. With a grateful heart for your work and prayers of endurance lifted for you and your community.