A friend of mine used the expression ‘soul destroying’ to describe the murder of innocent people in Paris yesterday evening. It accurately captures the feeling we’ve all shared this last 24 hours. I’m sure we’ve all given voice to this feeling in our own way, too, my own manner being to call it ‘heart rending.’ I reflected this morning that the poor people who had been killed last night were going about their lives as normal only twenty four hours before. They never knew that ‘today’ was going to be the day for them.
Who would ever foresee it? Yes, we are all aware of the current threat to the West, but most people would probably agree that they have had the thought ‘it couldn’t happen to me.’ Most people have probably not being overly preoccupied by it until now.
As can be seen from the places that were attacked nowhere can really be said to be safe. They attacked a restaurant, for goodness sake. Anyone living in a city in Europe now must acknowledge it is a danger to them, however statistically unlikely it may be.
After my friend had expressed his sadness (which is not an apt enough word) at the events, he went on to say ‘Fu@k religion.’
This is a very understandable statement. People are angry (again not a good enough word) at these atrocities. One of my own first reactions to the murderers was of anger (for the third time, not good enough), but I also prayed to God for them too using Jesus own words, ‘Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do’ (Some of these people must indeed be utterly brainwashed). However, I did not give them too much thought as at this moment it is to the victims and their families our prayers, thoughts and sympathies should be directed.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw the reports on TV last night. ‘Not again!’ I thought. My most immediate reaction was to pray to God for all the victims and their families. ‘May they rest in peace and, please, God, be with their families. Help them in this time of utter darkness.’ Words failed me and still do beyond that.
In the immediate aftermath, people’s anger is coming more and more to the fore, hence my friend’s second statement. Religion is a powerful motivator and when someone is moved by their religion to commit such an atrocity, then something is severely wrong somewhere. It is happening now and has happened in many of the major religions, both recently and in the past.
Here rises again the debate: is religion a good or a bad thing? My immediate inclination is to say it motivates both good and bad things, as in all walks of life, there are good and bad people, for whatever reasons.
Going beyond that, another friend of mine with whom I spoke this evening, said from direct experience that (to paraphrase) ‘Religion, without charity, is a very, very negative thing.’ I can see his point. Without charity, religion becomes a system of rules which, in the wrong circumstances, will be imposed mercilessly. We can see this today in the most obvious examples.
I have seen it in my own religion too. People speak from hardness of heart. They judge and condemn other individuals and even entire group of people with general statements. This too is religion without charity. In the Christian context, it is utter hypocrisy.
What I really want to say to anyone who reads this is the following: Let us stand together in the face of evil, in the face of a lack of Good.
Let us look upon each other as human beings with intrinsic dignity. Let us not judge, condemn or dismiss as morally or intellectually inept anyone who disagrees with our point of view. Let us respect each other. Let us love each other for our very humanity. That is where our true value lies and that is where our obligation to love comes from. For me, it is because we are children of the Most High. For the atheist, let it be because we are all specimens of the highest class of beings, to our current knowledge, in the universe. Our brains are more brilliant than the brightest stars. We are sharing space and time here on this blue speck of cosmic dust. Let us make the best we can of our time together.
But let us also be prudent. Let us recognise when we must defend ourselves. Let us recognise right from wrong. Let us open our eyes to the times we are living in. There are many groups of people in the world who do not want your or my good. One would not be surprised to discover they work clandestinely together to create disorder in the world so that we have to rely on them. I refer here to any major organisation of people with some goal in mind. Do not trust them easily. Be cynical.
Let us create the balance between love for others and a healthy sense of self preservation in the world.
May the Light of the Lord God shine upon those who died in Paris. And may He comfort those people who mourn the loss of members of their families and friends.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed arth thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our deaths.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.