Thursday, December 11, 1997
Faith eases hurt, anger
Text of the homily at Officer's Pope's funeral

BY THE REV. MARK PRUDEN
Cincinnati police chaplain

homily
Police chaplain Mark Pruden, at left, delivers the homily in St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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I would like to express appreciation to Father Jim Bramlage for allowing me the privilege of being present in the sanctuary to deliver the homily this afternoon. Thanks, Father Jim.

I'd also like to thank the people of Cincinnati on behalf of the police division and the Pope and Jeter families for the tremendous outpouring of support demonstrated throughout the community this week. Thank you.

It has been a devastating week. Two very special men were killed in our city this week. Two very special men who had families and friends who are now without them.

'Killing a cop fractures the very foundation upon which our society is built and rips apart the very basic fabric from which our society is made.

'Killing a cop doesn't just break the law. Killing a cop demonstrates the epitome of contempt for the God who created the world and the laws he provided.

'That's why an entire city grieves when a cop is killed.'

- The Rev. Mark Pruden

It's bad enough that two very special men were killed. It's bad enough that their families and friends will be without them. We will miss the two very special men deeply.

It's worse that the two very special men were cops.

I once was asked by a friend, 'Why is such a big deal made of it when a cop gets killed?' I have to admit, I was so shocked by the question, I didn't know how to answer my friend. I can answer my friend now.

This is not a perfect world. This isn't a holy world. This is a sinful world, a world that needed a savior. God recognized what man has done with this world, and he provided for us laws to live by to keep some level of peace and order and to help us see where we err.

So, God ordained authorities. As the Scriptures say, the authorities that exist have been established by God. The one in authority is God's servant to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

In Biblical times, those who provided peace, protection and order were called ''watchmen.'' In the Book of Isaiah, the Lord says, ''I have posted watchmen on your walls. They will never be silent, day or night.''

And the watchmen answer also in Isaiah: ''Day after day, my Lord, I stand on the watchtower. Every night, I stay at my post.''

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Rows of officers salute as the coffin is carried to the hearse.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
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In Cincinnati's earliest days, even as late as 1853, the forefathers of our present-day police officers and firefighters were called ''watchmen.''

So we read of watchmen from that era who were killed in the line of duty. Watchman Davis, Watchman Strawther and so on. Today, police officers and firefighters do the watching, take this place, provide this protection for us.

So God ordained authorities. God also recognized that having laws without consequences for breaking them would be nonsense. So God ordained sanctions to be applied when laws are broken. Breaking laws jeopardizes peace.

Because this is not a perfect or holy world, we expect laws to be broken. Receiving sanctions helps us shape our behavior to be more godly.

This is all well and good. But killing a cop changes things. Killing a cop fractures the very foundation upon which our society is built and rips apart the very basic fabric from which our society is made.

Killing a cop doesn't just break the law. Killing a cop demonstrates the epitome of contempt for the God who created the world and the laws he provided.

That's why an entire city grieves when a cop is killed.

pope
Officers salute as the hearse passes the police memorial on Ezzard Charles Drive. | ZOOM |
We are each going to die. That's part of living. It's part of the basic hand we are each dealt.

But late last Friday night, something different happened. Something interrupted the basic deal.

Someone interrupted it.

We don't understand why this had to happen. We don't understand why God allowed Dan and Ron to be murdered. We don't understand why God allowed the epitome of contempt to be expressed for himself and the ultimate grief to be permitted for us, the family and friends and community now without Dan and Ron.

And we have faith. Faith is defined in the Bible as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

We have faith in the God who created us. We have faith in the God who created the world that has become imperfect. We have faith in laws he created.

We have faith in his son.

We have faith in the Resurrection.

Because of these things, we have faith in each other.

Because we have faith, we choose to continue.

We choose to continue to pray.

We choose to continue to work.

We choose to continue to be on watch.

Ultimately, we choose to continue to live without those we have lost.

We are confused, so we ask questions.

We are hurting, so we cry.

We are angry, so we express outrage.

We grieve, and we have faith. This is not a contradiction. Our emotions are part of us, and our faith is our treasure.

pope
Cincinnati police officers salute as the coffin is brought into the cemetery.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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The Apostle Paul said we have this treasure in jars of clay that show us this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

We heard in the Scripture reading a few minutes ago we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not abandoned. Struck down, but not destroyed.

We are confused, and we have faith.

We are hurting, and we have faith.

We are angry, and we have faith.

Faith to survive our confusion, faith to survive our pain, faith to survive our anger, faith to survive and walk through our grief. Not quickly, not all at once, but finally, eventually.

We each have roles in life. We are husbands and wives. We are fathers and mothers. We are children and brothers and sisters. We are civilians and friends. We are police officers and firefighters.

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Officer Mike Dreelius hugs a fellow officer as the graveside service ends.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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All of us, each in his and her own way, formal or informal, are watchmen who have a watch to keep.

And so, in our confusion and pain and anger, we continue on with the God we still have.

In our confusion and pain and anger, we continue on with the families we still have.

In our confusion and pain and anger, we continue on with the friends we still have.

In our confusion and pain and anger, we continue on with the jobs we still have.

God calls us to do that. Our families and friends and our society need us to do that. We choose to do that.

And in choosing to continue on in the midst of our emotion, we prove our faith.

In choosing to continue on, we each hear again the Lord's words, ''I have posted watchmen on your walls. They will never be silent, day or night.''

In choosing to continue on, we each say again to the Lord, ''Day after day, my Lord, I stand on the watchtower. Every night, I stay at my post.''

Today's report

A hero's farewell: Officer Pope laid to rest
Piper's sad song sends a fallen fellow officer home Cliff Radel column
Spc. Jeter's visitation today

Wednesday's report

Thousands pay their respects
Witness: Killer hid gun in pants
Web sites, other memorials
Pastor hopes funeral brings peace
Spc. Jeter's organs donated

Tuesday's report

911 boss admits error likely
Borgman cartoon
Shock, grief and guilt Laura Pulfer column
City thanks slain heroes
Killer's family visits his home
Many officers limited in experience
Forces across Tristate take heed
Names to be added to memorial

Monday's report

Argument preceded shooting
Tragedy puts face on job Cliff Radel column
Families lean on faith, memories
Friends, acquaintances mourn
Grief stays, say families who know
Police deaths declining

Sunday's report

Community mourns fallen officers
Suspect's family: He was 'respectful'
Sequence of events
Officers highly regarded
Officers deal with sorrow, job's risks
Chief's message: 'Take care of each other'
Hollister St. residents shocked