The shots rang out at 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon--broad daylight on the Sabbath. The shooting victim was making a call at a sidewalk phone when somebody pumped seven rounds into him from an automatic weapon.
The murder occurred right outside the Sojourners intern house. Our newest group of interns had been here just two weeks. All but one of the seven interns were home, and they were among the first witnesses to one more senseless act of violence in our neighborhood. It was a baptism by fire for these men and women newly arrived in the city, and it prompted deep questions of faith.
The police went through their now common routine and, eventually, took the body away. Afterward, long-time Sojourners Community member George Gentsch came out with a pail of water and scrubbed the blood off the sidewalk. His simple act was one of both courage and faithfulness.
We know the causes of such violence only too well in the addictions to drugs and money, the root economic injustice, the culture of violence, the disintegration of families, the structures of racism, the lack of political will, and more. Underneath it all is the palpable presence of evil--in our institutions, our values, and deep within the human heart.
The following Sunday we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis, one of Sojourners' patron saints. Marie Dennis, a member of the Assisi Community here in Washington, D.C., reflected that Francis was "attuned to the suffering and pain of the world and yet embodied both hope and joy." That is both the mystery and power of the incarnation that we will all soon celebrate once more.