A Response to the Shooting in Orlando

From Fr. Adam Thomas
June 13, 2016

By now, I am sure you all have seen the horrific news reports coming from Orlando, Florida in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in United States history. It happened in the wee hours of Sunday morning before our church services, but I was unaware until I returned home from the parish picnic. Ever since, I have been alternating between prayers, tears, and the anguished silence of fearful disbelief.

I do not, cannot, and will never understand the hate that spurs such acts of malevolence. It is utterly foreign to most people, and yet it seems to touch each of us directly or indirectly with its withering hand. We can respond with reciprocal hate, but that’s not what Jesus taught us. He only knew one way, and that is the way of love.

Indeed, I could not write this to you before I first reached out to one of my best friends from college. I sent him my love over Facebook because sharing love with somebody — anybody — is the only thing we can do, in the end, to destroy the insidious power of hate. This sharing of love won’t make the headlines like the shootings do. This sharing of love won’t reverse the tragedies that scar families, communities, nations. But this sharing of love will be the quiet, silently weeping center at which we find God, whose heart is breaking along with ours.

My friend told me that the only thing he and his friends could do on Sunday afternoon was go dance their hearts out at the D.C. Pride festival – their way of standing in solidarity and love with those who died at the nightclub in Orlando. In an odd coincidence, or a movement of the Holy Spirit, this friend has been on my mind recently ever since I read Philip Kuepper’s new book of poetry. You see, my friend was a rower at college, and I never understood his desire to get up at five in the morning to row; that is, until I read Philip’s poetry. Here is my favorite poem from Philip’s collection A Sea to Row By. It’s called “After the Thaw.”

All the way down
from the country
he rode hopeful
past the cold
clear rills, past
creeks afroth with run-off,

toward the bay –
would it be asweep with light,
as he imagined it –
where he would meet the crew
whom he would become
one of.

Wth them he would be
the rower he always was,
only more so, once he was
pulling oar in rhythm with them.
If asked, it was this
he would define as love.

Pulling in rhythm together, sliding through the water; one heartbeat, one breath, one strength. “If asked, it was this / he would define as love.” Acts of terror and hate seek to destroy this definition of love. Such acts ask the horrible question, “Can your love survive this? Can your love survive the scuttling of the boat and the crashing waves of hate?

Our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides one answer to this question and one answer only. Can your love survive hate? “Yes, because Christ’s love already has.”

Please join me in lifting up the people of Orlando and especially the families of the people killed from our broken hearts to the broken heart of God. Please join me in reaching out to your LGBT family, friends, and colleagues and sharing your love with them. And please join me in continuing to row together, pulling in rhythm with God and all the forces of love that will not be capsized by terror and hate. For pulling together in rhythm: what a definition of love.

2 thoughts on “A Response to the Shooting in Orlando

  1. Karen Hall says:

    Thank you, Father Adam, for your heartfelt and thoughtful words. I am proud to be a part of the St. Mark’s family.

  2. Ken carlson says:

    Your majestic words have a way of divinely painting a picture in the mind and spirit which captures the heart and inspires the soul. I too am proud to be part of the St. Mark’s family with you as the coxswain.

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