Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newtown, Ct tragedy homily 12/16/12

At the vigil or wake for a dead person the order of Christian Funerals has the following invitation to prayer: " We believe that all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death. Confident that God always remembers the good we have done, and forgives our sins, let us pray, asking God to gather ( ) to himself." Why do I mention that prayer, especially on Gaudette Sunday when all the readings are about "rejoicing?" It is because everyone here and everyone in our state and nation are trying to find meaningful answers to the question why? Why can such an unspeakable tragedy happen in a small bucolic town in CT? Why such innocent children? Why such anger and rage on behalf of the shooter? We may never know the answers to these questions. In the meantime, however, how do we handle the Tsunami of emotions: grief, sadness, anger, sorrow, fear? The reason the events of Friday have such a profound effect on us is that, as the opening prayer states, we are all connnected. Those of you who are Grandparents or parents, these children could have been your children. As an uncle of a 6yr old, an 8 yr old, and a 10 yr old, those children could have been my nieces. It is very upsetting. The underlying question obviously is the question of evil. Evil has been with us since Adam & Eve. Evil is the abuse of our free will. This is why independent living-a life outside of God's grace, can be so harmful to ourselves and to others. The good news, however, is that good triumphs over evil. just as Friday's events were plotted and pre-meditated so too, did people plot and conspire to have Jesus killed. At the moment when evil seemed to have conquered-the death of God-God was most victorious. God is not God of the dead but of the living. The ressurection of Jesus and the promise of eternal life is what gives us hope. Os Guinness, no stranger to evil, having fled China with his family in 1951 is the author of a book titled Unspeakable: Facing up to Evil in an age of terror and Genocide. The book was written in the wake of the events of Sept 11. In the book he attempts to answer several key questions: where does evil come from? Has the modern world made evil worse? How do the different ways of explaining evil affect how we respond to it? and what does the existence of evil tell us about our ultimate beliefs? We cannot answer each of those questions here but I invite you to come up with your own answers-ask the hard questions-wrestle with God as did Jacob and Job. Why me or Why not me are two questions people ask in the face of tragedy. Guinness notes regarding "why me?": "At the deepest level of all the question 'why me' probes the frightening thought of ultimate chaos and the terror of randomness. Perhaps the universe is not our home. Perhaps it is finally absurd, not only deaf to our cries but menacing to our safety. Perhaps life is really a roulette wheel of death. Describing his feelings after the crash in which a drunk driver took out the heart of Gerald Sittser's family: (his wife, four yr old daughter, and mother) he watched in horror as three generations of a family died within a matter of minutes. The words he used were nervousness and terror. It was not just that something bad had happened to innocent people, 'but that something bad had happenned so randomly.' The accident was not predictable, and the victims were not prepared. Life is not just difficult. Life turns out to be unfair, and cosmically unfair in a way that is terrifying. After that the ground no longer seems so firm. Soldiers and war victims know this terror. One comrade on the battlefield is killed another is seriously wounded and a third walks off scot free." For some of us the harrowing questions is the reverse: why not me? Os Guiness notes: " I survived the Henan famine when my two brothers died; my friend made it down from the 104th floor from the Twin Towers when nearly 70 of his colleagues perished; Alexander Solzhenitsyn escaped the Gulag and recovered from inoperable cancer when millions died around him. 'Every survivor wonders why he is alive' said Abbe Modeste, a priest, after the Rwanda massacre. Guiness, speaking quite personally, notes 'is it selfish and shameful to survive when others did not? Should we feel guilty? Or is it a matter of grace and gratitude? I have felt the latter all of my life, and for Churchill it was a key component of his sense of destiny.'" Why? Why me? Why not me? are the three burning questions. The last question is Where is God? Elie Weisel, Nobel prize winner, takes that question on directly: He is a survivor of the Holocaust/Auschwitz. In his memoir he notes: "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodiesI saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget the flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams into dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemmed to live as long as God himself. Never." It seems that Weisel has given up faith, but in a moment of great insight, he notes to a taunting prisoner who is asking the question. " Where is God, where is He?" When the SS forces the entire camp to watch the public hanging of a child. "Where is he now?" All the 15yr old Elie can answer is through a voice within him saying: "Where is he? Here he is-He is hanging on the Gallows." Where was God on Sept 11, 2001, He was in the form of two steel beams forming a cross at the bottom of the rubble of the World Trade Center. Where was God on Friday, the 14th? He was in the twenty children, the Holy Innocents, who went to meet their maker. In end, because of Jesus Christ, God is victorious. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it. "What should we do?" the people asked John the Baptist in the Gospel.He responded by preaching the Good News. That is what we do today. Why....Why me...Why not me....Where is God....these are the questions to bring to the Lord today. Our response? The Good News of Jesus Christ-Emmanuel, God with us, Lo, I am with you always until the end of the world. You and I are not alone-we are deeply connected. The ties of friendship and affection which knit as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death." Amen. Now that is Good News!

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