by Rev. Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish
Many of the darkest days on the calendar of American history are etched clearly in our collective memories: Dec. 7, 1941, Nov. 22, 1963 and Sept. 11, 2001. To that list has now been added a new date: Jan. 6, 2021, when a group of American rioters stormed and sieged the U. S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
As a result of this violent protest, 5 people died and 52 were arrested and many were injured. There is no way to condone or justify this event, and it most certainly needs to be denounced. This is not the way our God or our Constitution direct us. It cannot happen again. As Christian people of faith, we are called to mirror the life and teachings of our founder, Jesus Christ, who calls us not to violence but to peace.
“Taking up the sword” either in word or in deed is never the solution to any conflict or problem. St. Oscar Romero, who himself stood up to violence before his 1980 assassination, bravely stated: “We must overturn so many idols, the idol of self, first of all, so that we can be humble, and only from our humility can learn to be redeemers, can learn to work together in the way the world really needs. Liberation that raises a cry against others is no true liberation. Liberation that means revolutions of hate and violence and takes away lives of others or abases the dignity of others cannot be true liberty. True liberty does violence to self and, like Christ, who disregarded that he was sovereign becomes a slave to serve others.”
Denouncing and decrying what happened on Jan. 6 only goes so far. It is easy to point the finger at its wrongness and think our work is done. The difficult part is charting the path forward so that these “cries against others” and revolutions of hate and violence never happen again! It is in service of this challenge that we need effective leadership, not only from our government officials but from the church. There is a lot that went into carrying out this siege on our nation’s Capital: anger, resentment, frustration, disillusionment, distrust, hatred, fear, and misunderstanding. Together, these ingredients led to misconstrued thinking, distorted ideas, the questioning of established truths about the democratic processes and ultimately, an assault on our nation’s Capital like none seen since 1814.
We must learn to listen to each other’s stories and cannot simply ignore what has happened. We must remember that we are all human being who are trying to find our way through what can often be a stormy life. The past several months have been difficult. We are tired. We have been stretched beyond our limits as the pandemic rages and our economic and global become more uncertain. It is no wonder that many are at their breaking point. As members of society, we must look beyond what is immediately apparent to see that which is often overlooked. Outside the Capitol on January 6th were “people.” Inside the Capitol were “people.” We all too easily trample over and dismiss our common humanity attempting to satisfy self-serving agendas and priorities. We need to remember that we are all human beings who have feelings and experience pain. We all yearn to be loved and feel safe.
What led these people to reach the breaking point? What is missing that needs to be a part of the process? What is broken that needs to be fixed? These are just a few of the difficult questions that need to be deeply and thoroughly considered as we move forward. St. Oscar Romero is correct is telling us to overturn the idol of self. People and Americans in particular, have replaced the image of God with the image of self. When my needs and wants come before all us, conflict is sure to follow. While what is presenting itself in the short term can be described as a political/social conflict, the remedy is not only political or social in nature. What we are pushing up against at this juncture in human history is our human need for spirituality. Hence, the true and only certain remedy to all of these struggles is really spiritual in nature. We are not just human beings trying to learn how to be human. We are spiritual beings learning how to be human! Until we accept that fact, there will never be peace.
Let us pray then for peace. Let us pray that all people will find the wisdom and courage to accept who they are and learn to know and love their Creator. Let us also pray that God, who never abandons his people and always bring light to darkness, will guide those with the greatest authority and influence to see us safely, constructively and peacefully through these challenging times. God always creates and recreates, and we must trust that something good will come as we move through these challenging times. Let us look also to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his example of the cross, for wisdom and inspiration. Even when most hurt and rejected, God’s Son never took up the sword or sought revenge. Like Jesus, we must die to self and shatter our golden images so that we can step aside from our ideologies and agendas, and learn to truly love one another. Finally, let us look to each other for support as companions on the journey of faith as sources of hope, faith, love and light.
All holy women and men who sought a path to peace, pray for us!
Fr. Mark S. Suslenko
SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
January 7, 2021