By Father Casey
By now you know the news. On Wednesday, a routine act that is a hallmark of the peaceful transition of power in our country became the setting for a destructive riot. For most of us, it will be a long time before the sight of an armed and angry throng stampeding into the Capitol building fades from our memory. Given that it happened on Epiphany, I couldn’t help but see in the unfolding events a glimpse of the sort of darkness referred to in the opening of John’s Gospel: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5).”
What has stuck with me the most are the images of the mob once they reached the interior of the Capitol. After they had rampaged over the barriers and past law enforcement, after they had brandished weapons and smashed windows, after they had paraded the Confederate Battle Flag past hallowed national heirlooms, after all their wanton destruction and terror, the great majority were content to snap selfies and gawk at one another. So much violence and mayhem, including five deaths, and it turns out there was no actual point. It was a purposeless spasm of fury, devoid of any reason other than destruction. Once the participants had burned up all the oxygen of their rage, there was nothing left to do but stand around and stare.
When you peel away the cynicism and contempt that have been displayed the past several weeks, what lies within is a sort of hollow nothingness. It is now abundantly clear that there was nothing to all these attacks on our democracy, both verbal and physical, other than a lust to retain power. There was always more Herod than heroism at work. It could not lead anywhere other than what happened on Wednesday, with a quickly evaporating flare of violence, because it always lacked substance. It was never for anything, but always and only against what it hated. Movements that lead to positive transformation, on the other hand, emanate from leaders and ideas focused on building a better society.
My fervent hope is that in coming days, in contrast with the mob, we can stoke something much holier within ourselves and those around us. Instead of resentment, let us stoke resilience. Instead of fear, let us stoke courage. Instead of cynicism, let us stoke a renewed commitment to the noblest virtues of our republic. That is how we will successfully turn the corner on this shameful chapter in our nation’s history. For we now know just how susceptible our country is to the forces that have brought down others in history, and it is up to us to make our national motto become more than words – E Pluribus Unum. So let us pray to the God we pledge to be under, that he will show us how to rise above the pointlessness of mayhem to become a more perfect union.
O God, you have bound us together in a common life.
Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth,
to confront one another without hatred or bitterness,
and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect.
Take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth;
that in your good time, all nations and races
may live together in perfect freedom and peace
and serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.