(My homily was from notes; this is a close approximation.)
I think we are all aware of the ugly events of the past week. In Dallas, five police officers were murdered, and several other people were wounded. You may not realize that police officers were shot at in other places as well. The shootings in Dallas came a day after two controversial incidents in which police, in carrying out their duties, shot and killed two men. And all that is against a backdrop of concern and suspicion about other incidents in which people died in interactions with police.
Now, we know these situations get misreported and misrepresented by media, by activists and politicians. And we know these things are not always clear-cut. One case is not like another. We know the police have a difficult job; so a lot of time our sympathy goes with them. On the other hand, some of the situations look pretty bad, and it's hard to understand why the police acted as they did.
There is a tendency to take sides; but as someone else pointed out, it really is possible to be supportive of the police, and yet also be concerned when things go too far.
You and I don't have to resolve the facts in these matters to know some things for certain:
-- Of course, nothing justifies cold-blooded murder -- by anyone.
-- Just because there is racism, and there is, doesn't justify violence.
-- Just because being a police officer is dangerous, and it is, doesn't mean anything goes.
This is a mess, because there is so much anger and fear; even if it's based on false claims or misunderstandings doesn't change that. This is a climate in which a lot more ugliness can occur.
So what do we do?
Well let's begin with the words of Jesus in the Gospel. He was asked, "who is my neighbor" -- and with his parable, Jesus gives the answer: anyone; everyone. No, we can't solve everyone's problems, but that doesn't mean we don't have to care, and do what we can.
A good and necessary step is to seek greater understanding.
Suppose you had a neighbor, and you looked over, and thought, gee, they don't take very good care of their yard, and the house needs to be fixed up; and their kids are playing outside pretty late all the time, and they don't look very well cared-for; and while you see all this, in your house, you are forming a definite idea of the sort of people they are next door.
But what if you went out of your house and went next door? Then you might discover some things: that perhaps one of the spouses is ill, and the other spouse is so busy caring for the other, that he or she can't keep up with the kids. Or perhaps there is only one parent carrying the whole load? Maybe they don't have much money so they can't keep up with things; and maybe they don't know anyone to call to help them. My point being, once you are actually in the situation, you might understand the situation rather differently.
What goes on in our cities is depressing, and should alarm us. The poverty isn't so much of material things, but of education; we have schools that don't work very well, and add in crime and drugs, and behind all that are lots of broken families. You and I get frustrated, because we are taxpayers, and we spend large sums of money and nothing seems to do any good. So it's tempting to look away and brush our hands of it all. But they are our neighbors.
And, if we want, we can go and find folks who are beaten and half-dead in Troy, in Piqua, in Dayton and Sidney.
Finally, you and I can ask the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts against rash assumptions and writing people off, and from anger.
We've had bad times before. In times of conflict, God raises up people who bring a voice of calm and peace; I don't just mean towering, national figures; I mean lots of ordinary people, speaking and praying words of faith. We never seem to have enough of such people. So, how about you and I tell the Lord at this Mass, we're willing to be such people, who speak peace, instead of cynicism and rage?