Last Saturday I sent a pastoral letter to our Church regarding the terrorist attacks in Paris that had occurred the day before. My instinct was to reach out as soon as I could to the people of our diocese and our clergy who would be gathering for worship on the next day to offer words of support and spiritual guidance in a difficult time.
For those who missed it and would like to see it, here is a link to the letter:
In the letter, I called us to the Christian way of prayer. Prayer is the first response that I know when I am faced with any number of situations, including joyful surprises, the arrival of long-anticipated events or sudden and terrible tragedies, such as last Friday’s attacks. Prayer is a religious processing “tool” that invites the wisdom and compassion of God to inform our own understanding of the world around us and demonstrates that it is through a dynamic relationship with the One Who Is that we make meaning and seek direction. Prayer is a form of discernment that gives us a holy sense of the next right thing to do. Prayer is the first response that often leads to action.
In the past several days, prayer has been a place of comfort for me in a political landscape that looks to be more frightening by the day. A landscape that, across our country, sees government officials drawing tight boundaries, putting up walls in response to fear and making broad-brushstroke assumptions about an entire group of people- millions of them- who have been forced to flee from their homeland. I am delighted that our own Governor Tom Wolf has maintained that Syrian refugees will be welcomed in Pennsylvania.
Prayer does lead to action. Later this morning, I will be hosting a long-awaited meeting with Ms. Charlotte Fry, State Coordinator of the PA Refugee Resettlement Program and several members of our churches who are eager to learn how we can assist in the refugee cause. I have received introductions from some of our clergy members to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Central PA and will reach out to offer words of compassion and understanding. I have been in contact with other Muslim friends around the country and have let them know of my support in these difficult days. In an exchange with Bishop Pierre Whalon, Episcopal Bishop for the Convocation of Churches in Europe (located in Paris), he told me this week: “…continue to pray, and let us know that you are. And we all need to promote dialogue with local Muslims. The world needs to see Christians and Muslims holding each other in mutual respect and friendship. Daesh and others want us at each other’s throats. Let’s confound them.”
While I know that within our Church we have a wide-ranging number of opinions and political outlooks, I am moved to respond to the events of this past week from a place that knows no party affiliation and has no modern political agenda: I am moved by the call to compassion that is given to us by Christ and underscored in all of our gospels:
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Mark 12:31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Luke 3:10-11 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…
May God’s peace and compassion prevail.