Our first Scripture reading at last Sunday’s Mass was from the fifth chapter of the Prophet Baruch. Our reading began with an instruction: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery.”
That verse spoke to me rather deeply. We, in this wonderful country of ours, mourn all too often upon hearing news of another senseless killing, as witnessed again a little over a week ago. What is going on? Why are these killings happening?
Granted, the senseless taking of human life, killing, has been going on since the days of Cain and Abel.
But, what is going on?
Since Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, it has been written in stone: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Four simple words that should be well understood. Four little words that seem to express a simple, straight-forward message: “Thou shalt not kill.” A simple message, a straight-forward command from God, that should not be open to compromise, or to the possibility of being misunderstood.
Yet, two gunmen shoot and kill 14 people in San Bernardino, California, and we weep. Killing is bad!
Every day, from sea to shining sea in this great country of ours, unborn babies are aborted, and Americans sing the praises of our Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade. Killing is good!
A gunman kills three people in a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Uncle Sam’s children weep. Killing is bad!
A drone strike kills an Islamic militant in Syria, and Uncle Sam’s children cheer. Killing is good!
Twenty students and six adults are killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and Americans everywhere cry. Killing is bad!
A death row inmate is executed by lethal injection in Georgia and Uncle Sam’s children nod in approval. Killing is good!
Twelve students and one teacher are shot and killed at Columbine High School in Colorado, and Uncle Sam’s children are outraged. Killing is bad!
An old man in a nursing home in Oregon kills himself with the aid of his doctor, and Uncle Sam’s children praise the lawmakers who allow such things to happen. Killing is good!
Last month, a young man in Riverton shot and killed his wife in front of their children, and we’re appalled. Killing is bad!
One of the most well-known candidates for the presidency of the United States boldly asserts that he would “Bomb the (expletive deleted) out of” them, and God-fearing Americans cheer him on and his popularity rises in the polls. Killing is good!
More than 460 people have been killed so far this year in mass shootings. The injury toll is 1,314. The shootings have taken place in 47 separate states. America weeps! Killing is bad!
Little Johnny loves to play the video game his grandparents bought him last Christmas. He’s pretty good at it. The more of the enemy he kills on his little screen, the more bloody bodies lying about, the higher he scores, the more he wins. Killing is good!
Do we, by our lives, send a mixed message that, sometimes, killing is OK? Is this the inconsistent message we send our children?
Have we proliferated, in our beloved country, a culture which, in all too many ways, promotes killing, a “culture of death”?
We’ve removed displays of the Ten Commandments from public places and forbid religion in any way, shape or form in our public schools. We pledge loyalty to politicians and political pundits who tell us killing is OK. We flock to movies with high body counts.
Have we become numb to all the killing around us, on our televisions, at the movies, on our laptops and iPads and smartphones?
Are we stubborn in our morally compromised beliefs regarding the taking of another person’s life?
Are we set in our ways, brazenly stubborn in our belief that in all too many situations, we judge the killing of another human being as an appropriate and justifiable action?
If we are, then perhaps we should not be so surprised, upset or appalled the next time such a killing takes place or the next time someone individually judges someone else’s life as expendable!
Fr. Jim Heiser is with Holy Name Catholic Church.