Dear friends in Christ,
Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Jeremiah 31:15-17
The pictures are ones that have made me weep this day. Pictures of people holding each other and sobbing. Pictures of little children walking in a line, their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them–some with heads down, some looking like their eyes are closed. Pictures of a Roman Catholic nun reaching out to comfort relatives. Pictures of children in the arms of their fathers, the child and father looking at each other as if to memorize what they see there.
Twenty elementary school age children are dead. A principal, school psychologist, and teachers or other staff members are dead. A twenty year old man has killed members of his own family, the people at the school, and himself.
Once again, mental illness and someone with two (registered) handguns have combined to create scenes of horror and take the lives of innocent people.
I am a mother. Yet I cannot imagine the horror of what the parents and grandparents, the sisters and brothers of these 20 kindergarteners, first, second and third graders are going through this night. Instead of getting ready for Santa Claus and presents, twenty-seven families have been senselessly plunged into the dark landscape of grief and loss wreaked by one person’s violence and anger.
As a priest and pastor, I want you all to know that I, like many people, am reduced to questions and tears this night. We all ask, ” Why do things like this happen?” This kind of occurrence is like evil personified–dark forces in our world. How can we possibly light Advent candles on Sunday and proclaim that the light of Christ is coming into our world? Where is God in this?
We who believe in Jesus Christ know that there is darkness and evil. Yet when we come face to face with it in the bloodstained bodies of little children, it is difficult to hope. We do hope, though. The risen Christ stands before us today, even in the midst of tragedy. I know that the Jesus of Nazareth who came to be with us as a child, as a real human being, must have walked this morning in resurrection light to hold each one of those children, their teachers, their principal–all who died–and to welcome them Home. The light has come in darkness. I know that. I hope in that. I believe that.
It’s just that from this side of life, we cannot always see that Light.
I do not know what you who have children have told them. On Sunday, I would like to light 28 candles for the dead. I would like to have special prayers with the children.
In the face of darkness, you and I must comfort and hold each other. You and I must say “ENOUGH!” to the easy access of weapons in this country. You and I must light lights in the midst of darkness. If you and I–as God’s children–do not do this,who will?
“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.” (BCP, 132)
Bishop Mariann Budde has written a response to today’s shooting. You can see it at http://www.edow.org I stand with her on this issue.
picture of candles accessed at Google images