A homily preached at the Requiem Mass for the victims of Orlando.
Pulse is a nightclub. People go to nightclubs to dance, to have some laughs, to meet people. Pulse also served as a haven of acceptance for the LGBT community.
LGBT rights have come a long way since Stonewall: the riots in Greenwich Village generally credited with the beginning of the gay rights movement. Nevertheless, the LGBT community is a minority. Some in our culture view gay, lesbian, and transgender people with contempt. They still face discrimination and the threat of violence for being who they are.
That’s why Pulse served as a place of refuge. In this one place, members of the LGBT community needn’t keep looking over their shoulder and checking their peripheral vision for either physical or emotional danger.
Last Saturday night the club extended the offer of sanctuary to another minority as well. It was Latino night.
This was designed to be a carefree evening. Free from the tensions and silent judgments that minorities routinely face in the context of the non-gay, non-Latino majority in much of American society.
Pulse was not supposed to be the site of a massacre. And yet, in the early hours of Sunday a single gunman killed nearly fifty people and wounded more than fifty others with an assault rifle.
This was an attack on the LGBT and the Latino communities. It was an attack on America. It was an attack on humanity itself.
Pulse now joins the somber, numbing list of American mass shootings. Sandy Hook, Mother Emmanuel, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, the Grand Movie Theater in Lafayette. So far in 2016 there have been over 130 mass shootings. The United State suffered 372 of them in 2015.
While discussions of how to balance common sense gun control laws and the right to own guns is crucially important, this is not the time or place to do so. Neither are we here to urge a humane, reasonable approach to immigration.
Today, we gather to mourn the dead and to ask ourselves where we go from here. Not just as individuals or members of minority groups or even as Americans. We gather as the Body of the risen Christ.
The question that confronts us is this: How do we as Christ’s Body respond to our grief, our anger, and our fear? The answer to our question is found in the risen Christ. Jesus gives us simultaneously a source of comfort and a guide for transforming our wounded world.
Our comfort derives from the resurrection. When he emerged from the tomb, Jesus defeated death and held captivity captive for us all. God brings new and eternal life out of sorrow, suffering, and death.
Our hope for life after life is not a magic elixir. It does not insulate us from grief. And yet, we are consoled by our belief in the communion of saints: a fellowship among those on this side of the grave and those who have traveled to that distant shore ahead of us. We can no longer see them, but we remain knit together as a single body in divine love.
For those who perished amid the gunfire, the horror and agony of that night are like the wounds on the hands and side of the risen Christ. What were once disfiguring scars are now the glorious reminder that what they have endured is forever past. What in human hands would undo them becomes in the hands of God an infinitely beautiful mark of new, eternally unblemished life.
On this side of the grave, that same harrowing night reminds us that God’s dream for this world is not yet a reality. To borrow our Presiding Bishop’s phrase, in places our world is still a nightmare of our own making. And the risen Christ emboldens us to do all in our power to change this nightmare into the divine dream.
But we are not alone. Jesus continues the very same work today that he began before his death and resurrection. We are his hands and his feet. God’s mission is to heal the world, to restore shattered relationships, to right injustice, to end oppression, to vanquish want, and to bring peace to individual hearts and among all the peoples of the planet.
This is God’s own work in Jesus. As it was then so it is now. And we play an integral role in achieving God’s mission. As the late Marcus Borg put it, without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.
In response to the violence besetting our nation and the world, some reach for their own weapons, seek to build walls, and repel refugees seeking asylum on our shores. These are understandable human responses. We want to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
But let’s not kid ourselves. There is nothing in the Gospels about finding closure by killing bad guys. On the contrary, Jesus explicitly teaches us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek.
The Gospel tells us to welcome the stranger. It says nothing about erecting barriers to protect ourselves from people who are not like us.
The American soul is infected by a spirit of rage and violence. We see this in the epidemic of mass shootings. We see it in the fact that anyone born in this century experiences America as a nation in perpetual war. More rage and violence will not exorcise such a spirit. On the contrary, anger and brute force feed that spirit.
Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., saw rightly that only sustained non-violent action drains the life from the spirit of hate and violence. It was Jesus’ own path. It is the path of dying and rising. Jesus defeated the powers and the principalities of his day—and eventually our own day—on a cross.
Love is costly. But the resurrection assures us that love wins. Love alone brings the peace that passes understanding. And so I urge us to honor those who fell in Orlando by devoting ourselves to being the instruments of peace in our own lives, in our neighborhoods, in our nation, and in the world.