On the night before he died, Jesus cautioned Peter, "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword (Matthew 26: 52)" as he tried to defend the Lord against his captors in the Garden of Gethsemane. Neither way of life is good, living by the sword or dying by the sword.
Twice in the past week, we have seen "living by the sword" in Asbury Park, New Jersey and Charleston, South Carolina. The horrific killing of our own Tamara Seidle in her car in full view of her child and the unimaginable massacre of nine Christians at prayer in their church next to their fellow Christians beg for an end to unchecked violence, further evidence of "man's inhumanity to man."
These brutal acts, tragically, are not unfamiliar to us. They are but two more sad instances of hatred run amok. With exhausting grief we mournfully question, "when will it end?" Perhaps, in our exasperation, we are wondering, "will it ever end?"
One act was the culmination of a pattern of domestic violence; the other, the endpoint of a pattern of insane racism. All of us acknowledge that these crimes, these sins --- and they are sins --- are repeated with painfully common abandon.
Dying by the sword should not happen any more than living by the sword. Humanity is better than that. It must be. We have to believe that about ourselves. And where we don't see that, sense that, feel that, we must do everything possible to change. It doesn't begin with someone else. It begins with me and with you.
As I watched the relatives of the Charleston massacre on live television speak one by one at the arraignment of their loved ones' killer, I wept, not merely because of seeing and hearing their heart-wrenching grief but more because of the words of forgiveness flowing from their same wounded hearts.
Before these news reports fade into our memories and some other tragedy replaces them, before our legal system passes judgment on the fate of these killers and they are forgotten, before the names of these victims are etched on tombstones and the flowers on their graves wither, every one of us must look deep into our hearts and minds, where evil can steal away the goodness God has placed there, and cry out to the heavens, "no more."
We must beg our Creator to give us the grace to turn even the smallest reserve of hatred and resentment that we allow ourselves into the love that God intended for us to show Him and one another at the moment of our creation. And, yes, we must find the courage, the strength and the resolve to forgive the unforgivable, as the Lord Jesus did on the Cross, for, as he prayed in the last moments of his life, we "do not know what we do."
May we learn from these heartbreaking actions what we must do and how we must live. We owe the victims that much.
Most Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton