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How to respond to the Capitol violence and confusion

In these tumultuous days, everyone is asking the question: ‘What is the truth?’ Based on how they answer that question, and given the relativism of the day, we are dividing ourselves into camps. This division was on full display when the Capitol Building in D.C. was stormed on Jan. 6. In that moment, we saw anger and violence generated by feelings of disenfranchisement burst into the open, just as we had seen in the months before in many of our major cities. Both the right and the left have resorted to violence that is unacceptable in a civil and democratic society.  

What is at the root of this turmoil? Our country is suffering from the unraveling of the common moral fabric and the truths that comprise it that have held us together for nearly 245 years. Now, when people search for the truth about almost any topic, they don’t find a single answer. Instead, they are confronted with a mob of competing voices, each with their own agenda. Finding someone or an organization seeking the common good is increasingly rare.  

So, what is a Catholic to do in this situation? How should we respond to the constant attacks on our national and religious values and the widespread erosion of good will toward our fellow man?  

The only solution that will repair the weakened moral fabric of society is to seek Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am reminded of the line from the Psalmist that says, “Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, he utters his voice and the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob” (Ps. 46:7-8). He is the only one who can pierce through our posturing and rhetoric and scatter the fog of confusion. Jesus, the Word of God, reveals us to ourselves and shows us the way to true happiness, both as individuals and as a society. 

To allow God to do this, we need to rediscover the value of silence and spend time with him in the Word and sacraments. We need to break away from the constant flow of information. As God showed Elijah on Mt. Horeb, he was not in the great wind, the earthquake or the fire; he was in a “light, silent sound” (cf. 1 Kings 19:9-12).  This means placing our trust in Christ for salvation and seeking his wisdom for how to live, rather than turning to commentators, politicians or political parties. They may promote legislation or give speeches that contain truth, and that is praiseworthy and should be supported when it happens. But we should not forget that we are made for heaven and are called to build up the kingdom of God, not a utopia on earth. Jesus reminds us to seek first “the Kingdom of God” and “the will of the Father.” St. Paul reminded the Romans and reminds us today, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  

This means seeing both our friends and our enemies as sons and daughters of the Father, no matter what their beliefs, ethnicity or political affiliation. It means adopting the vision of Mother Teresa, St. Francis or Julia Greeley. They saw others as Jesus does.  

When Jesus was presented with the woman caught in adultery, he did not condemn her but called her to repentance. Both St. Francis and Mother Teresa experienced a calling to care for the neglected, which certainly applies to our current hyper-partisan environment. Instead of the lepers or sick people left to die in the gutters that St. Francis and Mother Teresa cared for, each of us is being asked to see our neighbors, relatives, friends or enemies with the eyes of Jesus. St. Francis was moved to kiss a leper and later care for them. Mother Teresa was called to pick up the sick and dying and to defend the unborn. We are called to these same works of mercy, but also to love others as Christ loved us. We won’t be able to do this unless we receive the love of God and recognize that he is real. 

May the Blessed Mother, Queen of Peace, intercede for us and our country, that we would become more fully rooted in the Truth, that our minds become the mind of Christ, and that our hearts become more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Featured Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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