Homily of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, for the July 5 Mass of Peace and Healing at Immaculate Conception Church in Highland Park
We come together this night to find comfort in a moment of shocking tragedy. Comfort comes in just being together and in the shared faith that God never abandons us. For the God who sent his only Son Jesus into the world to fully share in our life with all of its joys and hopes, its griefs and sorrows, is near us.
We grieve the loss of the seven victims killed and pray for the full and speedy recovery of the more than two dozen wounded and the healing of all the survivors. And we pray in thanksgiving for all the law enforcement and medical first responders and civil leaders who stepped up once again to serve and protect.
Yesterday, citizens of Highland Park took pride in being Americans, Americans who just wanted to celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday. Yet, instead of families marching in a parade, parents were force to cradle their children in their arms and flee violence in the streets. Instead of fireworks, rapid gun fire filled the air. Instead of a celebration of freedom and liberty, people were victimized by our nation’s enslavement to guns. Instead of a day to celebrate peace and freedom, a weapon of war and terror ruled the day.
There have been over 300 mass shootings in our country since the start of this year. Not one week in 2022 has gone by without at least four mass shootings. Every year, nearly 120,000 people are shot, over 40,000 of whom die. 8,000 of those shot are children and teens and nearly 2,000 of them die from gun violence in the United States.
As we listen to these chilling statistics, this very bad news, we need to hear the Good News of the Gospel. Yesterday at the very hour of the shooting, the Gospel passage we just heard from the ninth chapter of Matthew was being proclaimed in many churches in Chicagoland. It portrays Jesus bringing healing to an elderly woman and a young girl. It is striking how the healings come in such simple, uncomplicated ways. The touch of Jesus’ cloak and a comforting word to the woman; the taking of the little girl’s hand and lifting her up from her sick bed. These scenes remind us that God’s grace most often comes in simple and very natural human actions.
They tell the story of a young boy, who heard that his neighbor lost his wife of 60 years. A few days after the funeral, the five year old saw the old man sitting on his porch weeping. He went up to him and sat on his lap for more than an hour. Later the boy’s mother asked her son, “what did you say to him.” The boy simply answered, “nothing, I just helped him cry.”
God’s comforting grace comes in such simple gestures. We have no words to make sense of this senseless tragedy. We are here just to help each other cry, to lift up each other by the hand, to let other’s touch us with their suffering and pain.
But, that simplicity should also move us to take action that should be so simple. We cannot allow the debate over securing society’s safety through reasonable laws that govern the possession of firearms to become overly complicated. We should not make this so difficult. Whatever one makes of the right to bear arms, it should not paralyze us from enacting serious, broadly popular gun-safety measures. The right to bear arms does not eclipse the right to life, or the right of all Americans to go about their lives free of the fear that they might be shredded by bullets from weapons of war at any moment. Gun violence is a life issue and high-powered weapons have no place on our streets.
God’s grace comes to us this night in the simple gestures of drawing close to one another’s pain and suffering, in lifting up each other by the hand and by just sitting in silence to help each other cry. But this divine grace also urges us to put aside over-thinking, over-complicating the effort to move ahead with a common sense response, our common desire to keep each other safe. Let our prayer be that of Pope Francis, who sent us his message of support this morning: "With unwavering faith that the grace of God is able to convert even the hardest of hearts, making it possible to depart from evil and do good, may every member of society reject violence in all of its forms and respect life in all of its stages."
Let his simple prayer open us to receive the grace of God that comes in simple ways, a grace that liberates us to have the courage to end this scourge of gun violence, and a grace that reminds us that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.