From Bishop O'Neill on Orlando:
"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.'"
Dear Friends in Christ,
It goes without saying that our hearts are broken by yesterday's mass shooting in Orlando, and I understand fully that no words can begin to describe the shock, the sadness, and the outrage that all of us feel collectively.
Certainly, I invite your prayers today and in the days ahead for all those who were killed, for those who are wounded, for all the many family members and friends of all the victims, and for the first responders who were called upon to put their training and skills into action.
But let me be clear. This invitation to prayer is not mere sentiment. Whenever we hold ourselves and others in prayer, inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lifting ourselves into the light of the living God, we enter ever more fully into the exchange and flow of that divine grace that has the capacity to heal, restore, and renew all things. Just as the risen Jesus breathed peace into the frightened hearts of his disciples after his crucifixion, so we too, through our collective prayer, breathe peace into this troubled and frightened world.
Here are some resources for prayer that you might find helpful for yourself or for your congregation: Prayer for Peace. Prayer for the Human Family. Prayer for our Enemies. Prayer for our Country. Prayer for Social Justice. Prayer in Times of Conflict.
Our life as people of God, however, is not simply a private matter. Even as we may pray quietly in the silence of our hearts, our witness to the love that is God must be made visible in our collective communities. There has been enough violence and enough bloodshed. Our world longs for a more transcendent vision of itself--of human beings being fully human--and we are a people sent by God into this world to bear witness to a more transcendent way of life.
Now is not a time for us as inheritors of the gospel of peace to shrink back or remain silent. Instead this is the time for all of us to make the time and to take the time to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart with others in opposition to the hatred and violence that so haunts this world (much of it sadly rationalized, justified, and glorified in the name of God).
In many communities across Colorado, vigils and prayer services are being organized. In Denver tonight, I will be in attendance at the vigil held in Cheesman Park at 8:00 pm, organized by PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Some of those are listed in the links below (or others can be found by a simple web search). I encourage you to attend one. This is a time to make your voice counted and to stand with others, across the lines of political persuasion and religious belief, for peace.
If there is no such gathering near you, why not gather your friends, your colleagues, your community together and organize one as your witness and gift to others?
Remember this always: the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. For it is fear that gives rise to all the resentments, the bitterness, the anger, the rage, and the violence that constitute hatred. It is fear too that silences the voice of the good and allows hatred to persist. But our God is the God of love, and the call of God is always to take heart, to have courage, to stand tall in the name of Love, and to be the light that pushes back the darkness, knowing that in all times and in all places and in all ways, Love wins.
So, dear sisters and brothers, through our prayer and our witness, let's stand tall for the gospel of peace. It's time to push back the darkness together in the name of Love.
Deep peace and many blessings be with you.