19 Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 11, 2019
Last Sunday afternoon, ordinary people were strolling through the Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, preparing for various things. Some were preparing for that evening’s meal. Others were preparing for an upcoming vacation, or the birth of a baby. There were young families in that store last Sunday, looking ahead to the fall and buying school supplies in preparation for a new school year. There were as many different occasions to prepare for as there were “Wal-Mart Shoppers.” Each, in their own way, was looking to the future and preparing for something that was important or special to them.
But no one in the store that day could possibly have been prepared for the powerful blast of evil that broke through the doors and into the lives of these ordinary people. In truth, we should always be prepared to face off against evil. That is the lesson of this Sunday’s readings.
The discussion about the cause of this most recent instance of “domestic terrorism,” while heated, simply continues the debate that began with the first in a now long series of mass murders. Whatever the trigger, at the root is evil. Since the first bad choice (the original sin), evil has had a clear path into our world. Evil has been humanity’s constant stalker.
Moreover, evil does not always take on the form of a shooter in body armor and a ski mask. Evil very often looks to nature to inflict suffering upon us.
I wonder if evil takes as much delight from our pain and grief as from the fallout injury, injury to our faith. When all of these things are reported to us in real time and shocking detail, many who are not in the cross hairs of evil suffer the most devastating of injuries: DOUBT! How can a good and loving and merciful…ALL-POWERFUL GOD EXIST…with all of this evil lurking about, just waiting to strike?
So, we are reminded this week of the faith of Abraham. The faith of the Patriarch was so strong is that it steeled him against every challenge he faced and every test he underwent. This powerful weapon, this strength of faith in our loving God, was passed onto Israel through the generations, enabling the enslaved nation to defy the evil Pharaoh and to prepare as God commanded, to pass over to freedom in the Promised Land.
The sobering truth is that every single human being must prepare for death. Although inevitable, it typically takes us by surprise. To enable us to better prepare for this final challenge, our all-powerful and all loving God broke into human history with an unparalleled force, and in the most unusual way. Through Jesus, God was born into time in order to steel our faith as we face off against anything and everything that threatens our security. Jesus arms us with the weapons of love, forgiveness, and service. Through Christ, we are fully prepared to defeat evil.
Tragically, however, we live in a moment in history when evil shouts out: DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND PUT UP YOUR HANDS! Many people are obeying and are left defenseless. We are reminded today that we are very powerful so long as we remain in faith.