OUT OF ORLANDO, by Barbara Zeman

As I sat here this morning reading out loud the names of the victims, I was moved to tears. Who wouldn’t be? Who were these people? What were their stories? Did they have an inclining that this would happen? Why do we care? In today’s readings I am moved by the circumstances we find ourselves in with Jesus in the gospel. The question again jumps out for me. It’s a question I face everyday in the mirror 'Who am I?'

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was human … that Jesus was flesh and blood … just like us … searching for his identity … wanting to be accepted, loved for who he was. He felt every emotion that we do. He doubted … he learned from mistakes … he grew in stature and in wisdom. And, just like us, he had trusted friends who he looked to for confirmation.

Today we see Jesus, the vulnerable. As he asks his friends “Who do others say I am? Can’t you imagine yourself in a similar circumstance … searching for identity, wondering whether who you feel you are in the inside can ever be expressed … wondering if you ever can be free to just be yourself? Well that’s exactly what Jesus is doing here. When he gets the response from his friends “… some say this … some say that …” it seems Jesus might have taken a pause … a breath of sadness followed by and internal question “Do they really think that?”

Just a second later he turns to his friends and says … Ok then, who do YOU think I am?” At this moment can’t you see Jesus becoming speechless internally thinking "OK they GET IT!" But externally pulling back even more because he knows what is to follow. Perhaps he even regrets that he asked the question out loud in the first place. And in a split second he tries to silence his friend’s response.

"Don't tell anyone." he says. Not because it isn’t true … but maybe because he isn’t quite ready to accept his destiny, himself. Maybe he was asking internally … “Why me?” Then perhaps he takes another deep breath as he resigns himself to his moment in time and begins to ready his followers to their own destiny, should they continue to follow him.

Now fast forward to last Saturday evening and the nightclub in Orlando. Who were these people? Was Jesus in their midst as they were caught frozen in their tracks … wondering why me? Did they stand looking into the mirror before they left home wondering … “Who are you?” Did they feel alone … abandoned … unheard … misunderstood? Like Jesus, these people were human. They felt the fear, the hate, the helplessness as their lives flashed before them.

And we as a country awakened Sunday morning to yet another senseless massacre. But did we awaken? Are we motivated by the lives … not the deaths … the lives of these innocents to reach out and love one another, to have compassion for all involved?

Strip their labels. Let go of this culture’s absurd obsession with segmenting … separating and marginalizing people with arbitrary titles. Stop being … gay, lesbian, queer, trans, inter-sex, straight, white, brown, black, Jew, gentile, man, woman. And just settled into who we really are. God’s children.

Are we motivated by the words of the Epistle that tells us who we are “Each of you is a child of God.” Can we take up our own cross and look ourselves in the mirror and ask … “Who do you say that I am?” knowing that the answer may be hard to hear. Are we moved by Jesus’ humanity? Or are we frozen in time, unwilling to thaw to the realization that we ARE all one. Even the shooter was one of us.

Out of Orlando by Barbara Zeman

Out of this tragedy, oh God, 

Help us, to find the courage to go on, never wondering if you are there.

Help us to bring the light of love to the darkest recesses of despair.

Help us to forgive the unforgivable.

Help us to find compassion for those who don’t seem to care.

Help us to have the courage not to accept that nothing will change.


We are all your children, oh God, struggling to find dignity, freedom and peace.

Help us to realize that we belong to each other.

Help us to let go of the sadness, the pain … the grief.

Help us to heal the wounds that run deep.

Help us to thaw those hearts frozen in fear.

Help us to hold the world in love’s embrace.

Help us to look into the eyes of a stranger and see your face.