On Friday, our country was shocked out of its Christmas anticipations when we learned of the unspeakably horrific event that occurred at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. We have been able to think of little else since then.
Our first cry is “why Lord?” This is the human response to every tragedy that befalls us personally or in some larger context. We want to understand in some attempt to make peace with it. If we can understand, then perhaps, we can accept.
The Why answer never changes. And mostly we just need to be reminded of it. God does not orchestrate such happenings, he allows them, because if our relationship with the Holy is to have any meaning, it must be freely entered into by us, the created. God stands ever ready to guide and lead us in our lives, but ultimately we must invite God’s grace. Otherwise, God would not be God, but some master who played out our lives as upon some chess board to His own delight, and irregardless of our own.
So we must pick our way through this world, living in faith hopefully and turning our hearts to God, opening ourselves to His loving guidance. To the degree that we do not, then we suffer the consequences of a lives lived by our own counseling, and obviously we do rather poorly at it. A young man is deeply wounded and we know not why. His mind is flawed to a degree that for him, the rage bursts forth in indiscriminate violence. We don’t understand and we probably cannot understand, for our minds are not so deeply flawed to confuse anger at some personal injustice with the innocent lives of others.
But after the Why, we ask what should we do? What can we do to stop this kind of thing from happening again? We sense that while we can never totally eliminate the actions of the mind gone terribly wrong, we can limit the occasions when we must suffer from it.
The question, what should we do, has been asked for ages upon ages.
In the gospel reading today from Luke 3: 10-18, John the Baptist is baptizing those who have come to him. He is calling for the repentance of sins. Time and time again, those receiving his water baptism ask him: What should we do?
The question is directed as to how we, as humans can become acceptable to God. How do we repent?
John answers each person in turn. To the tax collector, he advises to stop over charging to gain personal wealth from the those who can least afford it. To the soldier he advises to not practice extortion, bring false charges, or argue about the size of their own wages. To the average person, he reminds them to share what they have, little as it may be.
At this time of year, as we await the celebration of the birth of our Lord, we too are called to examine our lives and discover what we should do to repent. Where have we failed our families, our communities? What have we failed to say or do? Where have we failed in our prayer lives?
The event of Friday brings us to the question, what can we do about violence in our world?
I urge this today as the most important of questions that we should consider.
As God weeps at our hard-hearted clutching of violence as a way of life, we must seek out what we personally can do to lessen its existence in this country and our world.
You may ask yourselves some of these questions perhaps:
- Do I watch movies that promote violence as “entertainment”?
- Do I engage in or allow my children to play violent video games?
- Do I have firearms in my home? Should I consider turning them in?
- Do I promote actively gun control legislation?
- Do I engage my friends, family and community in questions of violence and how we might all work to eliminate it?
- Do I practice kindness to all I meet whether they return it to me or not?
- Am I gentle in my speech and behavior that others see?
- Do I promote actively the need for more and better mental health care, especially for those who cannot afford to pay?
- Do I reach out to anyone I feel may be in a dangerous place emotionally and seek to help or help them find professional assistance?
- Do I engage the world from a peaceful and tolerant stance?
- Do I actively promote the need for forgiveness and reconciliation as the best means of solving relational problems?
- Do I forgive rather than hold grudges?
We can do something to lessen the possibility of these terrible events.
If we are serious about following the teachings of Christ, then we must do something.