R.I.P. JESSICA MOORE & TYLER CLEMENTI - SMALL THINGS LEADING TO DRAMATIC CONSEQUENCES
Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 3, 2010
the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/100310.shtml. Thanks for reading and your feedback - God Bless, Fr. Jim
Who here has ever been to a party? How many of you have a webcam on your computer? It would probably be easier, faster to count the number who haven’t or don’t than those who have and do.
Over this past week, there’s been two horrific tragedies that took place on college campuses. And we’re not talking about schools we’ve never heard about in states we’ve never visited – out there somewhere... but schools right here in our state. Not far from our campus. Universities we have friends who go there, or work there now. And both started with very small things that brought dramatic consequences. A party. A webcam.
Last Friday, there was a party at a fraternity house in East Orange - not even 10 miles away. A bunch of Seton Hall students, as well as students from NJIT, Rutgers Newark were there. From what has been reported so far, someone came to the door, they didn’t want to pay the cover charge or were just told they couldn’t come in. So this person came back with a gun and shot at a bunch of students - killing sophomore Jessica Moore and injuring three or four others. Not to mention scaring the entire campus community who never thought something like that would happen to them.
Then came news that a Rutgers University Freshman named Tyler Clementi, committed suicide. Every time there’s a story of a suicide, many of us are just filled with sadness, anger, confusion. We try to ask ourselves why has such a thing has happened. What was it that drove this person to believe that there was no hope to the darkness and despair they were experiencing to believe that the only possible answer they had was to end it all. In this case, while we don’t know exactly what was in the young man’s heart and mind when he made that terrible decision... reportedly his final words were a Facebook status jumping of GW Bridge... sorry, we’ve since learned that his roommate and his roommates girlfriend decided to turn a webcam on while the guy wanted to be alone with another man. Tyler had asked his roommate for some privacy, for some alone time and instead his privacy was violated, his alone time was broadcast on the internet thrown up for public consumption (Even inviting others to watch) Obviously that had something to do with his decision to end his life. I have to believe that these two who did this, never thought something like that would happen (have to, because the alternative is even more frightening to contemplate)
And so we have to face a terrible reality that two college students in our own state of New Jersey within 45 minutes of our campus, both under the age of 20 years old are dead today. Their families are devastated. Their friends are confused, numb. The ripples flowing from these two dramatic incidents, we’ve yet to fully comprehend. What does this all mean? Are these just two random, tragic yes, but unrelated incidents? You might argue that, but for me, the phrase that keeps coming to mind is “Creation running amuck.”
How is it that such extreme violence as that shooting, how is it that such extreme emotional abuse as students broadcasting a very private and personal encounter (that the young man had even requested privacy for) for the entire world on the world-wide-web... how is it that these types of things are happening?
In very small ways. Small things that bring about dramatic consequences.
Because while there’s likely to be panel discussions, investigations, and classes on a whole host of issues from these two incidents ranging from - security, privacy, tolerance, respect... which are all good and important discussions. Yet, when we look at it, both of these things started in small ways: One person is denied entry to a party, another thinks “I wonder what my roommate is up to, let me turn this webcam on and...” Decisions, choices were made that played out in ways that I doubt any of these people involved in either of these incidents could have imagined.
Small things that ended up bringing about dramatic consequences.
That’s kind of the thing that we forget - whether it’s an example of someone doing something good or bad. Jesus says in today’s gospel If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” That actually sounds like a cool sight, huh? But He’s responding to the apostles who are looking for answers. He’s responding to the doubts and confusions in their hearts - Jesus, how are we supposed to deal with our doubts? How do we deal with our fears? How are we supposed to face down some evil, some powerful people? INCREASE OUR FAITH LORD - Jesus responds by saying - we don’t need more faith, like having to fill up at a gas station. We need to live the faith that we already have.
If we connect to Him, trust Him, let ourselves be won over by Him - God can do wonders to us and through us. No, we won’t need more faith, we’d find the supply that we have been gifted with more than adequate, more than enough that even in the smallest, seemingly simplest ways - amazingly beautiful things can happen. Those small things matters... Those everyday decisions are important. They all add up to things that we never imagine, never could conceive of.
Just imagine, if one person had said to the shooter “man, it’s just a party, let’s go somewhere else” or had one of the people had said to the roommate “dude, what are you doing? You shouldn’t do something like that?” Maybe two more college students would be on their campuses today, worrying about mid-terms, or finals rather than being mourned over...
What about us? I’m left wondering how many stories, examples or illustrations, how many tragedies do we need to reflect on to remind ourselves that our choices, our decisions, no matter how small they appear on the surface are important. Who will we encounter, what situation will present ourselves with this week where we have the opportunity to bring God’s life and love to in simply doing the right thing?
Our being here is a start. It says that on some level we have a desire to DO THE RIGHT THING - we come to Jesus and say “Increase our faith” – Help us bring your light to those in darkness, Help us bring your love to those feeling alone or afraid or unloved... Jesus tells us that we already possess all that we need. Baptized into his family, nourished on His Word and His Body and Blood, he’s generously supplied us with what we need and expects that we’re going to use it. He expects that we’ll listen to St. Paul’s impassioned words and “STIR INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD” that has been given to us... May we be ever vigilant to see how those small things can affect those around us - that, quite simply, we can destroy them by our cruelty or we can redeem them by our love.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern