Sunday Sermon – What Should We Do?

Although The Good Neighborhood does not endorse any single religion, we appreciate any message dedicated to the greater good as well as the lifetime of contributions to community and writing of Monsignor David M. Gallivan, Pastor of Holy Cross Church on Buffalo’s Lower West Side (345 Seventh St), who offers us a weekly Sunday Sermon. 

Words/photos by Msgr. David M. Gallivan, Pastor, Holy Cross Church

As we learned of the tragic massacre of 26 persons, including 20 small children, mental images rolled through my mind of dozens of my nephews and nieces and our 75 small children in our Faith Formation programs. Like many with whom I have spoken, tears welled up in my eyes with love for the children in Connecticut. When it happened we asked, “Why?” When John the Baptizer announced the coming of Jesus, some of his hearers asked, “What should we do?” Is there way we can rid society of the causes, at least some of them, of such massacres and the mental illnesses that result in these meaningless losses of life?

I have never shot a rifle or a pistol, but many years ago I sat hostage on the wrong end of a stolen and unregistered pistol for more than an hour while I “calmly” talked an emotionally upset man out of his crime. Earlier this year, a 13-year-old nephew bagged a large buck while hunting with his grandpa. His 10-year-old cousin achieved the same feat with a bow and arrow in the company of his dad. These boys are serious students who interact wonderfully with siblings, parents and friends. They are both products of close families. Would they use rapid fire weapons to mow down an entire herd of deer or a church congregation within a few of minutes? I think not. Should an alcoholic, bipolar and emotionally unstable young man possess any weapon at all? Besides loving and observing our children in many situations, what else can we do?

We can lobby to ban the kinds of firearms that exist only to pierce metal armor and kill. We can pressure for mental health treatment for patently disturbed young men (because it’s almost always young men). We can vote for candidates and policies that will address these issues. We can write letters and make phone calls to them. Urban gun violence usually involves one or two victims at a time. In my current 13-year pastoral assignment in the city I estimate that about 15 teenagers have died by gunshot within walking distance of our church. Somehow that seems to us more normal but it is not normal for their families. In the suburbs, massacres like that of Sandy Hook are shocking and can affect dozens. In the city and in the suburbs, unbalanced perpetrators too often use guns that are illegal, stolen or belong to another family member. The victims may die one at a time or by the dozens, but there oughta be a law and we are the ones who must make it happen.

Do we have a question this Christmas for John the Baptizer similar to the one he was asked 2000 years ago: “What should we do?”


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