At least one of my colleagues is surprised that I haven’t written anything about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut this past weekend. He sent me an email suggesting that I include the following line in anything I wrote and it is, indeed, a fine sentiment. “Sometimes the gravity of tragic events precludes us from accepting easy answers, however it does not prevent us from asking the hard questions.”
One of the toughest things for any Christian and, perhaps especially, for those in ministry, is how to offer anything helpful and healing in the face of a tragedy. The plain truth is that I have been paralyzed by shock and horror these past several days. Not only because of the massacre at Newtown, but also because of the 30+ Chinese schoolchildren stabbed by a single attacker and the 20+ children who were blown up by a mine while gathering firewood in Afghanistan.
No act of willful violence can ever be justified as far as I am concerned, but to target children… it beggars my imagination.
My colleague also wrote: “It’s all right to hurt, to weep, to feel powerless in the face of unspeakable tragedy. But eventually, upon reflection, we will act, and as Christians, those actions must derive from love and forgiveness.” He’s right, of course, and my mind goes to the Amish community that forgave the shooter of five of their children several years ago. For me, safely removed from the carnage and its effects, it isn’t difficult to think about love and forgiveness for the poor crazed perpetrators – it is trying to wrap my head around why the children had to suffer and how their families will cope with unending grief.
Margaret Silf talks of a faith that says, “I don’t know, but I trust.” It’s what I’m left with – a trust that, at the end of my earthly life, God will explain evil and suffering in a way that will heal me.
I have been praying the following from our Advent Resources:
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.