‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ is a societal question

heather    The Empire State Building shooting is the latest in what has become a very scary national trend this year. Starting in January, when three teenagers were shot and killed in Philadelphia, there have been a total of at least 14 multiple-victim shootings across the country, including one in LaPlace that took the lives of two St. John the Baptist sheriff’s deputies injured two others.
    What is going on? It seems clearer to me than ever that we are living in a culture of death, a culture that Blessed John Paul II wrote and warned about.
    In shootings that have occurred in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Ohio, Miami, Oakland, Tulsa, Seattle, Tuscaloosa, Colorado, Dothan, Wisconsin, Texas, LaPlace and New York, without exception, all have been carried out by men, and the vast majority were perpetrated by men with financial, emotional or mental problems.
    Across the nation, people have been calling for increased gun control, but I think there must be some larger underlying problem here. I recently read a blog on the “Examiner” that related these incidents to an American society that has institutionalized anti-social behavior to such a point by defining itself as individualism that people no longer connect to each other. Whereas in the past people would turn to their neighbors and get to know them, today’s society doesn’t know its neighbors.
    I can attest to such unawareness of others – I barely know the people living next door to me or the people living across the street from me. I remember as a kid riding my bike around the block and around the park; today, it seems to be a rarity to see children playing outside on bikes, skateboards or rollerblades. Most likely, children are playing inside on video games and computer games, wrapped in their own virtual worlds.
    Some may argue that even in such virtual games, a sense of community is active since many games involve multiple players. However, such “community” breaks down once the computer is shut down. People are not complicated – we, as human beings, are made for connections, we strive for human relationships. When such community disappears, individuals feel alone and trapped, and perhaps this results in the tragic incidents that we have witnessed this year.
While we certainly need human connections and relationships with other people, I think there is a deeper need that many people have failed to address. If we have been paying close attention to the cycle of Gospel readings in Mass, God seems to be speaking directly to our culture of death, combating it with the Bread of Life discourse. These readings from John, and most poignantly in the latest reading, emphasize Jesus as the giver of life, particularly when Peter, after being asked by Jesus if his disciples would like to leave, responds, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of everlasting life” (John 6:68).
After Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, after feeding the multitudes with fish and bread, many in the crowd leave, finding his message of the Eucharist as both a meal and a sacrifice – giving our selves to Christ and the continuation of Christ’s sacrifice in his body and blood – to be too hard. How often do we hear of many Catholics who have fallen away because, despite being cradle Catholics, Catholicism is too hard? Some have made difficult choices, choices that are in opposition to the church’s teachings and find they are incapable of viewing other choices except their own. These are the harsh realities that young adults and any adult face today. They must decide, and in these decisions, faithful prayer and discernment often is pushed aside. Yet, we must remember the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom can we go?”
    Peter’s words ring true today especially, as people are so disconnected from each other and feel as though they have nowhere else to turn. Oftentimes, we as a society are quick to judge and condemn the people behind the tragic shootings. We fail to look at the underlying problems – what pushed these men to feel there was no choice except death? Sometimes, even in this culture of death, we need to remind ourselves of the culture of life and the eternal life provided to us by Jesus. By following his example we will find that we are never alone, that there is always an answer outside of the violent and disconnected lifestyles upheld in society today.
    Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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