So, the other day some a Junior in High School was all upset because his girl friend dumped him. Things got ramped up on social media (of course) and he made threats that he was going to shoot the school up or kill people. He didn’t have any guns, but he was arrested on already existing laws about making terroristic threats. So, a hot head who says dumb things while he processes the break-up. If we see something we should say something, of course. Even a little rampaging is too much rampaging. Kids these days have nothing to fall back on when their emotions are all confused and hurt. Sometimes it’s fallen society at large. Sometimes the parents and grandparents did nothing to bring them to Jesus who stepped into this hellhole to redeem us and save us and get us through this life so that we might carry His life and love and truth within us. Our identity is to be found when lifted up into the strength of Christ Jesus. But when we have no identity, when we are not anchored when the storm gets stormy… Anyone else notice that?
I recall the early 1960s, when I was a little kid, playing cops and robbers, or, back then, much less politically correct, cowboys and Indians, and threats would be thrown around while popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing one’s gun (the fingers of one’s hand) at opposing forces, other kids playing the same game, and saying “I’m gonna kill you!” and then saying, “Bang! Bang!” We didn’t mean anything violent by it. And if one was instead surprised by another kid popping out from behind a house or tree and pointing his fingers in the form of a gun at you and saying “Bang! Bang!” one would be just as happy to do up a super-dramatic fall to the ground, pretending to be hit. I did it just to do it. It was part of the game. Mostly we played hide and seek in the late evening. During the day it was baseball and football, or the riding of bikes, or… The inscaping of the kind of vocabulary used with “I’m gonna kill you!” with today’s horrible shootings – this time for real – is for me a sign that the times really are changing. Older people mouthing off words like that with the meaning they attached to it when they were kids playing in their quiet neighborhoods with good friends is paradigmatically different than a kid today saying the same thing when all they have seen is another report and then another about kids who say that and then do it. Anyone else notice that?
But there are other paradigmatic shifts in society which maybe not all have noticed. I was overseas teaching in seminaries on behalf of various bishops and national conferences of bishops when the September 11, 2001 attacks took place in these USA. I would remain overseas for another eight years on that particular round of activities without once paying a visit to the USA. It used to be that when I returned Stateside from any trip I would be greeted in the airports – without fail I must say – with “Welcome back!” And if it was JFK in New York, it would be: “Welcome back, Father!” But flying into JFK for the first time since September 11, 2001, even though many years later, it was most apparent that the entire demeanor of people had changed. Perhaps people were too close to it themselves to see it, but for fresh eyes it was mighty shocking. Customs work, for instance, now seemed to be much more about grudgingly doing a job where the people one was serving were treated as some sort of enemy – stunning really. Before September 11, 2001, Customs work was all about people who were serving people even while it was also true that they had a job to do. But it was always one human being with another human being. Now it’s more like we’ve forgotten how to be human. Or that we’re entitled not to be human anymore, as if there is some sort of ax to grind for having to do anything on a job one signed up for, especially if it involves other people. Anyone else notice that?
Meanwhile, another paradigmatic shift regards opinions about the crusades of the middle ages, when it was a religious thing to do to go on a military campaign against the Saracens, who like the ISIS of any day were slaughtering those in the Holy Land. You might remember the non-stop attack on the crusades some decades ago, around the time of September 11, 2001, that was waged by so many in the mass media, but especially by National Communist Radio, or whatever they call it, NPR, I think. Anyway, that fad seems to have faded a bit and is going the other way. I saw the above pictured bumper sticker on the back window of a truck in the parish parking lot the other day. And I hear lots of commentary from diverse people in diverse places wanting to know more about the crusades, what really happened, what the motivations actually were, you know, like defense of the innocent who were being slaughtered by the ISIS of the day. That’s actually a massive paradigmatic shift even while the “Squad” portrays terrorism as just another thing that people do. Any one else notice that?
Meanwhile, that is, while the universe is shaken and swirls in confusion and is ripped in one direction and then another, it is the self-sacrificing redeeming love of the Lord on the Cross that is an un-beat-down-able Constant:
Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.
The Cross is stable while the world just spins away.
In all of our fickleness, Jesus stood in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (Jn 3:16)
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever, ever ancient, ever new. And He makes us His friends, so that we walk in His presence. That ain’t us. But He makes it happen. Regardless of culture, regardless of background, regardless of age, etc., etc. People are hungry for the truth and goodness and kindness of the Lord that is so very powerful, stronger than our weakness, stronger than our stupidity, stronger than our sinfulness, stronger than death, bringing us to life now by that grace which will turn to glory – as Saint Paul says – in heaven, eternal life. Any one else notice that?