Over 8000 people attend the suburban All Saints Catholic parish each week. Wester, 62, also teaches homiletics, aka the art of preaching, at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. His preaching inspiration comes from Martin Luther King, Jr., Walter Brueggemann, and of course, he adds, the simple teachings of Jesus.
I’ve found in my 36 years preaching that silence is often the greatest reverence for anything. Take a few moments to silently live with our reactions. Are you feeling scared like you want to hide and never want to be with people again? Are you feeling angry? Helpless, like what could I do in the face of such great evil? Then, out of our silence—even if we don’t have words—what will our response be to the choice someone made to do evil? Will that response be governed by evil, or by virtue returned? If we are the people who we say we are, and follow the footsteps of someone who was nailed to a tree and forgave those who hurt him, what will be our response?
My other thought is a very Catholic-centered message that the cross is the centerpiece of our faith. There is no mistaking that this is one of those moments of the cross. Just like in the crucifixion of Jesus, the main thing we do is seek where there is love in the midst of this destruction. You can invite people to say, what are you looking at, what are the images that are filling your mind and heart? Are they the blood and limbs laying on the street, or are they the guys who tied the tourniquets to save people from bleeding to death, or the surgeons who worked to save peoples lives, or the families who took people in while they are waiting for loved ones?
Somehow it says to us again that our strength is in our gathering. Our fear, our anger might cause us to want to run and hide. But the strength you see today is in the gathering of the people. It is the strength we gather from each other and with each other.
People that are anxiety ridden anyway, something like this triggers that in them. People who are depressed or cynical about humanity, this triggers it in us. Wherever our Achilles heel is, this triggers that in us. The violence has the ability of triggering that in us unless we counter it with some other truth.
The Biblical passage this week is on Jesus the good shepherd from John’s gospel. Jesus says, They are mine, they are in my hands and no one has the power to take them from me. That message will be tied in somewhere in the hopeful part of my homily. That is the promise we live out of, the promise that takes flesh in how we take care of other people.