Dear People of Central New York,
In the wake of the horrors perpetrated in Orlando, I once again find myself struggling with the presence of evil in the world. As I write, details are still emerging, but the powers of evil lying behind this act of terror seem to include homophobia, claimed ties with extremist Islam, domestic abuse, the availability of assault weapons, and perhaps untreated mental illness.
In our baptismal liturgy we promise to “renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God” and “to follow and obey Jesus as our Lord.” At all times, but especially now, we can fulfill these promises by making our living faith evident in our words and actions.
You may recall the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said after meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I felt like my feet were praying.” So please, join me in prayer and action. We pray for the victims, for their families, and for the first responders who experience their own trauma. We pray for our Muslim neighbors who will receive undeserved backlash. We pray for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who are grieving, angry and afraid. We pray for our enemies, for those with whom we disagree, and for those who react to this horror in fear and hatred. And we pray for all people who will respond to evil by working with love and renewed diligence for God’s peace and justice on the earth.
We must not react to the powers of evil and violence with hateful words or deeds. As disciples, we respond to evil with good, respond to hate with acts of love that show our respect for the dignity of every human being. As hard as it may be, especially so soon after such a tragedy, our Lord even calls us to pray for our enemies. Such prayer is not acquiescence or even passive resignation; it is how we become the presence of God’s love in the world.
As your prayer and conscience lead you, continue to be the presence of Christ’s love anywhere you may be. Be a voice of hope. Be a voice of calm and reason. Be thoughtful; be kind. Above all, know that we are held in God’s deep embrace by the one who promises never to let us go.