Tuesday, December 18, 2012

     Commenting on the horror that was experienced at Newtown, CT was not on the top of my “to do” list in these days before Christmas.  However, as I continued to pray over this and have made my own way through this Advent season it seems that something ought to be said if only for the sake of sharing and putting things into perspective.  Of course, perspective can be a difficult thing.  It tends to be so dependent on where we are individually and can too often be intrusive especially upon another’s grief or fears.  However, there is a Gospel, that is – a good news which saves, which wants to be received.
     First of all, it must be said that my heart and tears go out to the parents of these children and their families, as well as the families of the adults who were so senselessly murdered.  I cannot imagine the loss of a child much less the violent loss of a child.  The closest I can come is those times I have shared with families who have had to bury their children – ages 1 week, and 5, 8 and 15 years old.  They have been in my thoughts and prayers even as I have sought to ensure that our own children are feeling safe and that all due diligence is being observed in the operation of our school.
     There are a number of thoughts that have crossed my mind over the past week.  As I’ve read the papers, like many I have watched for some explanation of WHY this happened.  As of yet there seems to be no explanation.  Nor do there seem to be any easy answers as to how it could have been prevented.  I’m not going to waste space here enumerating or debating the many issues that are already being batted about.  The bottom line is evil exists and the innocent will suffer, even so close to Christmas.  What we need to remember is that the existence and working of evil is NOT a part of God’s plan for us.  As to why evil is permitted, that is a question for later.
     In the context of this Christmas season which is very nearly upon us we need to remember that the reason Christ came was to bring the good news of God’s love and care for us, a love that includes the sacrifice of his only begotten Son so that we might have eternal life.  As Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times has observed, “the only thing that my religious tradition (devout Roman Catholic) has to offer to the bereaved of Newtown today – besides an appropriately respectful witness to their awful sorrow – is a version of that story, and the realism about suffering that it contains.  That realism may be hard to see at Christmastime, when the sentimental side of faith owns the cultural stage.  But the Christmas story isn’t just the manger and the shepherds and the baby Jesus, meek and mild.  The rage of Herod is there as well, and the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, and the myrrh that prepares bodies for the grave.  The cross looms behind the stable – the shadow of violence, agony and death.”  The full column is well worth reading.
     Benedict XVI expressed his heartfelt grief and assured his closeness in prayer to the victims, their families and all those affected by this shocking event. "In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love".
     As for me, while mourning the senseless slaughter of this day’s innocents I will not focus on the evil which used the muddled mind of a young man to visit itself upon the people of Newtown.  I will focus on the modern martyrs like the young, 27 year old teacher who hid her children in the cupboards and closets of her classroom and then faced their would be killer, sacrificing her life that they might live.  God’s grace was at work even in the midst of evil and his light shown in her who, like his own Son, chose to die in order to give others a chance at life.  No greater love is there than this….
Pray well and remember who you are,