Turning resolutely towards Jerusalem

This Tuesday at daily Mass we heard St. Luke (9:51) recount to us how “When the days for [Jesus’] being taken up were fulfilled, He resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” 

The past two week’s news has been filled with horrific tragedies: the degradation of Puerto Rico and the neighboring islands, where people are now living without electricity (and often without running water); the massacre in Las Vegas at a country music festival; the September 24 attack at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville (where one parishioner was killed and several others injured); the mayhem in Spain’s Catalonia region as the central government resorted to violence as it attempted to stop an independence referendum; the stabbing murders of two women at the Marseilles, France train station this past Sunday (the same station at which last month four Boston College students were attacked with acid); the continuing murderous expulsion of the Moslem Rohingya minority from Myanmar (Burma); the thousands dead in Massachusetts from the opioid epidemic over the past few years, etc.

Into this morass, Our Lord resolutely determines to walk with us and calls upon us to accompany Him (Himself in our prayers and Him in the form of the suffering people we are all called to serve).

God did not will that any of these evil actions happen. People used their freewill in evil ways. Jesus came to help us stop doing this, so as to truly be free.

Pope Francis, in his homily on Tuesday, noted that the Apostles did not follow Jesus (until after Pentecost) in His determination to take up the cross. “At times the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying or did not want to understand because they were afraid; other times they hid the truth or they were distracted by other things; or — as we can read in today’s Gospel: they searched for an alibi so as not to think about what was awaiting the Lord,” the pope said.

In our days we often act like these disciples. We avoid the cross, we make excuses for doing so, we fudge the truth so that our lives can be “easier” (in the long run, we’re making our lives harder, by not embracing the truth, which will set us free, as Jesus said [Jn 8:32]).

To overcome this sinful inclination, the pontiff urged us, “Take some time today — five, 10, 15 minutes — either before the crucifix or with your imagination, to ‘see’ Jesus walking determinately towards Jerusalem and ask for the grace to have the courage to follow Him closely.”

Last Sunday, at that church in Nashville which had been attacked a week earlier, the minister, Joey Spann (who was one of the people shot the previous Sunday), said, “We’ve been celebrating for a week. It sounds odd, but we’re in celebration mode.” According to the Tennessean newspaper, the congregation was celebrating Melanie Crow because she died for her Christian faith. “This is our day of celebrating anyway. This is the Lord’s Day. We couldn’t handle this without the Prince of Peace. Just couldn’t.” 

Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas wrote to his flock the day after the shooting massacre, offering a message of hope: “Our hearts go out to everyone. We are praying for those who have been injured, those who have lost their lives, for the medical personnel and first responders who, with bravery and self-sacrifice have helped so many. We are also very heartened by the stories of all who helped each other in this time of crisis. As the Gospel reminds us, we are called to be modern-day Good Samaritans. We continue to pray for all in Las Vegas and around the world whose lives are shattered by the events of daily violence.” He then invited everyone to an interfaith prayer service that night (Monday) and he “invite[d] our sisters and brothers around the world to join us in prayer for healing and for an end to violence.”

Most of the tragedies previously enumerated can have some political solutions — prayer alone is not enough, but action without prayer will often lead to the wrong “solutions.” We need to pray for God’s guidance, we need to pray for the strength needed to love our enemies (whomever we might think “they” are), we need to pray for our own conversion, so that we can follow Christ to the “Jerusalems” of our day, to accept the “Golgotha” that might be in store for us (sometimes we’re cast in the role of Christ on the cross, sometimes we’re called to be like the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, John the Evangelist and the women at the foot of the cross, giving support to someone else on their cross).

Pope Francis announced on September 27 that he would like the entire Church to participate in an international effort he called “Share the Journey,” in which he would like us to realize that we are called to accompany immigrants on their journey, not viewing them as foreigners, but rather as brothers and sisters. The bishops of the United States have asked us to dovetail this initiative with our annual October observance of Respect Life Month by having a week of prayer and study on the topic of immigration October 7 to 13. During that time period here in the Diocese of Fall River we have the annual Peace Procession and Mass. The procession steps off from in front of St. Anne’s Church (818 Middle Street, Fall River) on Monday, October 9 (Columbus Day) at 6 p.m. and accompanies a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the walk to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, 327 Second Street, Fall River, where Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will lead us in Mass. 

Bishop da Cunha has asked that we participate in the Peace Procession and Mass this year as part of the “Share the Journey” campaign. The procession itself is a good symbol of the immigrants’ journey to the United States and of the Christian’s journey through life towards Heaven (on both journeys, Mary and Jesus always accompany us).

At the end of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Porgy turns resolutely to go to New York, to free Bess from a life of sin and drug abuse. The opera implies that he could very well die there, but, like Christ, he will not abandon his beloved. May Christ help us to have that same resolution to accompany our beloved neighbors in need.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts