Yesterday, January 6, 2021, is a day that will never be forgotten. I was out rideshare driving for several hours while listening to the news on the radio. I rarely listen to the news, as I usually prefer to have some light background music on while driving others around the greater Milwaukee area. However, yesterday was different, I needed to listen to the local traffic and news because less than 24 hours before it was announced by the district attorney in Kenosha, WI that no charges would be filed against the police officers involved in the Jacob Blake shooting last summer. Several streets in that community were barricaded the previous evening as they anticipated some protests and rioting.
For the most part, things seemed to be calm in Kenosha, and the rideshare trips led me out to the Waukesha area - I was safe and the risk was low that I would run into any demonstrations that might put my safety or the safety of my passengers at risk. Just as I reached for the dial to change the station, the news broke that protesters had broken into the United States Capitol building, the joint session of Congress had been suspended, Vice President Pence was escorted by secret service and a chaotic scene was unfolding. Upon hearing this, my heart sank immediately, I was deeply saddened by this news. I was also aware immediately that this would be a day that would leave a lasting and indelible mark upon this country.
This isn't a political blog, and I make the conscious choice not to share my political views on social media or in public - so if you are looking for a political analysis of yesterday's events, you'll need to look elsewhere. However, as the founder and president of a non-profit Catholic ministry, I believe I have an obligation to respond to the events we witnessed yesterday.
I host a podcast and radio show called Young Catholics Respond, and I often say that the title of the program is both a declarative and imperative statement. It is a young Catholic response to daily issues we face and also a call for young Catholics to respond to the constantly evolving cultural climate in which we live. Each time I sit behind the microphone and host an episode, I do so with the intention to both respond as a young Catholic attempting to put the Gospel into action and challenge other young Catholics to do the same. Although today I'm behind a keyboard and not a microphone, it is in that same spirit that I write this post.
When last year, 2020, began I often said that it was going to be a year of "perfect vision" and prayed that God would allow us to see Him more clearly and look at all humankind through His eyes and from His perspective. God certainly challenged us to see things differently as a worldwide pandemic has broken out impacting every corner of the earth.
The pandemic has caused all - every race, creed, and social class included - to pause and think about what really matters in their life. Some have used this moment of pause for the common good, helping and assisting others in their community by giving selflessly of their time, talent, and treasure. Others have used this to push a selfish agenda, loot, riot, and destroy. The unifiers and the dividers are coming into clearer focus and we have a greater awareness of who these individuals and groups are and how they seek to build up or tear down our society.
With each passing day, the contrast between unifiers and dividers seemingly increases. So too increasing is our anxiety and worry about the future of our world, country, community, and family. Simply, we are living in uncertain, difficult, and disturbing times. Many of us in our frail humanity are tempted to crawl in a hole and wait for the world to change, but God is calling us to something greater. We were created by God, positioned precisely at this point in human history to become saints and build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to two shepherd children in La Salette, France in 1846 she appeared wearing a crucifix around her neck. On the horizontal beam of this crucifix, there are two items, one on the left side and one on the right. On the right side of the crucifix, there are pincers, and on the left, there is a hammer (from the perspective of Jesus). In the simple wearing of this crucifix, and by juxta positioning the hammer and pincers on opposite sides she was posing a question. She was asking which one will you take? Will you pick up the hammer and drive the nails further into Christ's flesh or the pincers and pull the nails out of His wrists and feet?
You must make a choice, no one who gazes upon the horrific scene at Calvary can leave undecided, you can't walk away without either mocking or mourning Jesus. Despite the hammer being heavier than the pincers, many find it easier to pick it up, drive the nails further into Christ's hands, and walk away. Saints, take the pincers, kneel down next to the beaten, bruised, and lifeless body of Christ, and remove the nails. They subject themselves to the mocking of the others who tell them their God is dead, but they carry on and free Christ's body from the cross anyway. They show compassion, they don't lose hope, and because their faith is great they are rewarded with everlasting life.
History is full of saints and people of great faith who have in the most difficult of times knelt down, removed the nails, stood in hope, and cooperated with grace to ensure the ground on which we stand today is firm. With grateful hearts for these champions of faith, we are now being confronted and called by God to sainthood.
So, today as the sun rises upon the seemingly lifeless body of Christ and the vast valley of dry bones that surround us in every direction, God has placed a pair of pincers and a hammer at your feet. Which will you choose?