This Sunday at the 9:30AM service, we will gather for the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (more commonly known as the Blessing of the Animals). Since our earliest days in the Church, we learn about Saint Francis’ love for animals and all of God’s creation. However, Francis was much more than an animal lover. He was (and is) a prophetic voice for peace and reconciliation. More than ever, Saint Francis’ vision for peace is deeply needed in our nation and the world.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
As I prepared to go to bed on Sunday, October 1st, I glanced at my iPhone to catch up on the news of the day. As I opened CNN.com I was shocked to learn of the events unfolding in Las Vegas. A joyous gathering at a country music festival was tragically transformed into the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. I was in shock and deeply saddened. I wanted to help those suffering . . . but all I could do is pray—so I prayed the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith.
The government of the United States is failing to protect the people who call this country their home. For way too many years (well before the tomfoolery of the current leadership in Washington D.C.), lawmakers have been in a polygamous relationship with both the people of this great nation and special interest lobbyists. Commentator Dan Hodges said a few years ago, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” Since that awful day on December 14th, 2012 when a madman shot and killed 26 people including 20 first-graders, one would assume that our nation would rally together like never before and begin making the nation safer by enacting stricter gun control laws. We would assume 20 first-graders being gunned down in their classroom would make every lawmaker an immediate advocate for real change regardless of any lobbyist’s influence or party affiliation. Unfortunately, too many of our leaders merely offered heartless and soulless rhetoric aimed at placating their special interest donors and their political party’s platform. Did 20 first-graders simply die in vain?
Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Nothing has changed since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 58 others wounded in a hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. On October 1, 2017, 58 people were killed and another 489 injured when a gunman fired on a large crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Since Sandy Hook, as of October 2nd, 2017, there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings in the United States, with at least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 wounded. The counts come from the Gun Violence Archive, a database that tracks events since 2013 in which four or more people (not counting the shooter) were shot at the same general time and location.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
We . . . humanity must respond to this humanitarian disaster. Guns and gun violence are tearing apart our nation, they are destroying families, and they are senselessly ending the lives of so many beautiful people. Now, more than ever, we must be instruments of peace in this world and hold accountable those who have significant access and ability to bring about peace, reconciliation, and true change.
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
We are the voice of peace in this world. We are called to speak out and act on behalf of our children and for our children’s children. We must protect our brothers and sisters from violence, fear, and hatred. God’s call us to be prophetic witnesses of God’s love—a love that is always peaceful. Those who oppose love oppose peace. Those who oppose peace oppose love.
May God give us the strength and courage to be instruments of peace to this broken world. Furthermore, may we embody Saint Francis’ vision—to care for God’s creation with every breath of our lives.
The Reverend Ryan D. Newman
Rector and Head of School
All Saints' Episcopal Church and Preschool