Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho and the death toll

Cho has something in common with me...

I, like most other people in America and abroad, have been following the Virginia Tech story that has been all over the news lately.

First of all, my prayers go out to all of the families who suffered the loss of a child. May the Lord draw you closer to Himself through this tragedy.

Secondly, I am disgusted with the media. They are shameless and seem to not care very much for individual people, they seem to only care about the "all-mighty story." The media loves scandal and has the tendency to seek out and latch onto anything that might show how "bad" society is (or individual people in our society).

That said, Cho himself sent the media packet to NBC and I am personally glad that they have aired it. I think that the American public (and the world) have a right to see and hear the truth that has been revealed by Cho. There are a lot of complaints to NBC for airing the stuff they did, and several people cancelled interviews with NBC because they didn't approve of the airing of the Cho material. While they have the right to feel the way they do, and they reserve the right to cancel their interviews, I think it is selfish for them to "send a statement" to NBC because of their personal disapproval - that is a very selfish and childish thing to do. Do they have a right to deprive the whole nation of this information because it makes them feel bad? I think not. If they don't want to see this stuff, then they can simply turn off their TV or change the channel. No one is "forcing" anybody else to view this stuff - we all have the power to choose not to view it.

I think that NBC has an obligation to presenting the material, YET they are responsible for presenting it in a way that is moral, ethical, and retains the dignity of all involved.

So, what does Cho have in common with me?
We both share the idea that this world is seriously messed up. We both share a personal conviction that we need to take action to do something about it. While I do not agree with Cho's method of presenting his view nor the actions he choose to rectify the situation, we nonetheless both know that something MUST change.

I think that if we all stop the noise and distractions coming into our heads and take a good hard look at our lives and the world around us we will realize that things are messed up. Yet many people go on living as if "that's just the way things are" and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Many people fill their lives with busyness and entertainment so that they don't have to deal with the fact that we are all sinners and change starts with myself. It is easier to give into the wide stream of society than it is to try and step out of it.

Cho saw the problem, but was misled in how he should respond to it. He failed to embrace hope. He failed to see that while we are all sinners, we are created as good beings who are capable of doing good things (if we cooperate with the One that is the source of all Goodness). Just because some people choose to serve themselves over the others does not mean that there is no hope in the bigger picture. Cho was caught in a world that was closing in on himself. He was more trapped every day and saw no other way to break free. Cho's story is a sad story, and all the more so because of the death he dealt senselessly to others. He said that he was doing this for others, that he didn't want it to come to this. As the investigators have confirmed, this was not a spontaneous action. Cho was going down this path for many many years of his life.

Where were the Christians? The *true* Christians who love through actions and not words, who bring the Good News of Hope, who say "yes, this world is messed up, but there is something better waiting for us!"

I say that we have all failed Cho - I failed Cho - and not the other way around. This tragic event should serve as a reminder that we all need to stop pursuing the serving of our own needs and instead turn outwards and care for those around us. I will give credit to the few people in Cho's life who tried to reach out and help him. But the path had already been set and there was little they could do. Cho needed to hear this message much earlier in his life, before he ever set foot on Virginia Tech's campus.

There was a time in my life what I was not Catholic, and I can say from personal experience that if someone actually takes the time to shut out all the noise of this culture, that insistent droning of the capitalistic marketing engine, one begins to see life in America for what it really is - all the good stuff and all the bad stuff - and without Faith, Hope, and Love, there is little to live for. Life in America without hope in Christ is oppressive and burdensome and can easily lead to a Cho.

Yes Cho, there is something wrong in general, you HAVE been slighted and not treated with the dignity you deserve. But let us have hope that it will not always be this way. There is Someone who has a plan for us, a plan for our welfare and not our woe, a plan for a future full of hope.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Prodigal Son

Today I was reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son. I recently read a homily by the papal household preacher (Fr. Cantalemessa) and he had some interesting insights into the parable that I had never thought of before.
Of course, if you have ever read or heard this parable you know that this is a story about the mercy of the Father. While I can see myself as the prodigal son in different areas of my life, I can also see myself as the older brother. The only character that I cannot identify with is the father (probably because I'm single and not responsible for anyone). One of the problems I have always had with the story is the answer given to the older son. In the past I always took the older sons side and cried out "Not Fair!" How could the Father have this attitude about the older son? Sure, all that belongs to the Father is also his, but why reward all those bad behaviors of the younger son by throwing him a party? I often get indignant at the fathers response and think that the older son does indeed get the short stick.
Fr. Cantalemessa says "The older son's mistake is to have thought that staying always at home and sharing everything with the father was not an incredible privilege but a merit; he acts more like a mercenary than a son. (This should put all of us older brothers on guard!) " Fr. Cantalemessa goes on to talk about how we can apply this parable to Jesus himself - Jesus being the first born son of God and the rest of us being the younger brothers of Christ. Jesus was not the bitter and angry older brother who refuses to come into the house, but instead is the loving and caring older brother who throws down his plow and goes out into the world in pursuit of his younger brother and to try bring his younger brother back! When He finds His younger brother, He is able to bring him back to the Father and rejoice with the Father over the lost brother! Jesus is not passive, but He actively pursues us on behalf of the Father because He loves us as much as the Father does.
I took Fr. Cantalamessa's message to heart and have been pondering the question, "In what ways do I 'stay and plow the fields' instead of pursuing my lost brother and bringing him home to the father where we can all rejoice over the returned son?" After only a day of asking this I have found many answers, but most importantly I no longer take sides with the older son in the parable.

Look out, I might bite!