“What is wrong with our world? The problem is that we have lost the center. We’ve lost the center which is Jesus Christ.”
These were some of the words of my pastor’s homily on Pentecost Sunday as he reflected on the Mass Readings in relationship to the current and very ugly, and depressing headlines. Not only are we still dealing with a major pandemic and its fallout on so many levels, but we recently witnessed another tragedy; a horrific case of alleged police brutality committed by a white police officer on an African American man in Minneapolis.
As George Floyd’s family sought justice for his untimely and brutal death, many concerned citizens joined their efforts through peaceful protests. Unfortunately, that righteous anger was tarnished by others who had a different agenda; an agenda that had nothing to do with justice or honoring George Floyd, but everything to do with hate and anarchy. As a result, several people have been killed, a police precinct burned to the ground, police officers injured, along with countless businesses and livelihoods destroyed. There are riots and raging fires in cities and neighborhoods across the country, at a time when the fire of the Holy Spirit is the only spark that really matters and is most needed. In the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday Jesus tells the disciples “peace be with you.” How are we ever going to have peace, as my pastor reminded us, unless we truly go into the whole world filled with the Holy Spirit?
The question came to mind as I was preparing for an upcoming talk as part of my online teaching series for my new book, Conquering Coronavirus: How Faith Can Put Your Fears to Rest. In the upcoming chapters I look at applying, among other things, small acts of kindness, the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, as well as time tested traditions of “real” face time with family. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We don’t have to be an Aquinas or Augustine to figure this out. But we do have to take the words of Jesus more seriously and act a lot more like the early disciples.
“The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” (John 20:19-23)
It all starts with loving God first and loving our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus also taught us. No doubt we are all weary right now to say the least. We were all impacted by an unknown virus that brought the world to its knees. But we can take the first step toward that bright spark by controlling our own anger, helping so many impacted by COVID-19 in some way, whether it is physically, emotionally, financially, or all the above. We can allow ourselves to be consumed with gentleness by turning to prayer instead of the evening news, and not allowing the world to steal the peace that Christ gave us.
I hope you join me.