Friends and Enemies

st-etienne-du-rouvray
AFP PHOTO / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.

The President of the U.S.’s oldest ally said yesterday, “Our republic has been profaned.”  A French priest, killed at the altar, as he concluded his Mass.

We cannot help but grieve and fret over this.  Something very sacred to us, very close to us—the sanctuary of the church at a quiet weekday Mass—profaned by violent bloodshed.  By cold-blooded murder.

Not that we priests have any more claim on bodily safety than anyone else—but the murder of a vested priest at the altar has unique gravity.  Because at Mass the priest represents the whole people of God, and he represents Christ, the Incarnate divine Son.

So this profanation of the republic of France also involves a profanation for us here, too.  We rightly grieve, lament, cry out with abject and bitter tears, at the altar in every church at every daily Mass today.

tombstone crossBut we cannot lose the very thing that priests stand at the altar to minister:  the mysteries of the divine and heavenly Kingdom.

The angels grieve over the innocent who have been killed; they grieve for them solely for our sakes.  But in heaven they grieve more for the guilty.  Lord Jesus said:  Do not fear the one who kills the body.  Fear the one who can cast both body and soul into Gehenna.

Yes, enemies have wrongly profaned our sanctuary.  They deserve to pay a just penalty for this grave crime.  But the very mysteries of the same sanctuary put us into human solidarity even with our enemies.  They, too, are children of the one Father.

So we must ask:  Did they have to die suddenly, too?  So unprepared to meet the true and just Judge?  It appears that the police rightfully killed them in this case, in order to protect hostages and the police themselves.

But we must as Christians wish that none of them had died, even the enemies who profaned our sanctuary.  We must wish that they could have stood trial, and confronted the truth, and hopefully repented.  We must wish that we could have had the chance to love them, and bathe their wounds, too, with our tears.

Holy Father Francis said on the plane on his way to World Youth Day that, yes, this is a world war.  He has said as much before.

But war means this:  if we want peace, we must love even the enemies who would kill our priests. We must try to understand them.  When we commune with the sacred mysteries of the holy sanctuary where we unworthy priests have the privilege to stand, we must pray for all who have died in this war, and all who fight in it, friends and enemies.

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