It’s all around us…
It’s on the internet in the form of comments on message boards, it’s in social media posts, and news outlet reports and YouTube videos by some very opinionated experts.
There’s an air of outrage all around us.
The Covington Catholic situation arose where it looked as though a group of boys, one in particular, was taunting and disrespecting an older Native America and then the outrage began. That boy’s home address was posted on-line and some were calling for an attempt to basically ruin his life. Then when it came to light that there seemed to be more to the story, people reacted against those who were considered the instigators.
Jussie Smollett, an actor on the television show Empire became the victim of a hate crime and the sympathy for him and rage against the perpetrators were intense. Now, it’s alleged it was all a hoax and so the vitriol and anger is now directed toward him.
If you watch the cable news stations, you get a view that points to the opposing side as demons who should be dealt with harshly. Maybe even violently. Some leaders seem to feed off this and even use it to their advantage. And, I’m sad to say, this exists even within our own Catholic Church.
There’s outrage all around us.
Social scientists talk about the phenomenon of scapegoating, where there is just something in our human nature that tends toward the blame and judgement of others. And when it starts, it almost becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill… it grows and grows until it is unstoppable. Sadly, there are people in power who use this mob mentality to gain and then maintain and then exploit power. Adolph Hitler convinced a lot of people that the cause of their economic woes was the Jews. And then look what happened. In Rwanda, members of the Hutu tribe became convinced that their neighbors, the Tutsis, were a threat. And then look what happened. Sadly, there is no shortage of examples throughout history – examples when good people were whipped up into a frenzy and convinced that someone else was the problem, a problem that needed to be reduced, eliminated, destroyed.
Jesus understood this. It happened in his day too. The story about the woman caught in the act of adultery tells us as much. There was a mob. And outrage, anger, blame, and judgement.
Today’s Gospel is an extraordinary discourse, a plea by that same one, Jesus, who knew about this human nature in us and who said that to be a follower of him, to truly, truly be a follower of him… then we are not to lead with outrage, but rather with love.
“Do good to those who hate you.”
“Bless those who curse you.”
“Pray for those who mistreat you.”
And then he stated directly: “Stop judging… stop condemning… forgive…”
In other words: Lead with love, not with outrage.
For victims of hate crimes. For sinners. For instigators. For the Covington Catholic boys. For Jussie Smollett. For those who we love. For those who are hard to love. For those who live without love. And for our enemies.
Jesus choose to side with them… all of them. And he asks us to do the same.