When I was in formation to become a deacon, we had a class on how to prepare and deliver homilies. Our instructor advised us to spend at least a week in advance to prepare a good homily. However, there are times when current events forces one to toss out the long prepared text, and speak to what is happening right now.
A great tragedy has happened to our neighbors south of here; to our fellow New Englander’s of Newtown, CT. There are many households in that town where children’s beds lay empty and the grief is so great that you must feel it when you come into the community. A sadness magnified because of the season we are in right now, a season that is suppose to be full of lights and joy, especially for children. And there must be strong feelings being stirred amongst all of us here today, because of what is next door here, on the other side of that wall. Some of us who have children in the school may be wondering, “Is my child safe?”
Questions are already swirling about, “Why did this happen?” “What was wrong with that young man?” “Where was God, how could He let this happen?” I wish I had an answer: I wish somebody had an answer as to the why, because then maybe we could prevent this tragedy from happening again. The only thing I can say is that a great evil must have taken possession of that young man’s soul, and he gave into it.
As to being angry with God, well, humanity has been angry with God off and on for many years, during many crises and tragedies. Just take a look at the Psalms, especially Psalm 88, if you want to see some real venting of anger. Again, I have no good answer as to why bad things happen to good people, which by the way is the title of a book I would recommend. But I will share with you my personal reflection on where was, where is God in all this. In downtown Boston, at St. Anthony Shrine, the Franciscan friars have a statue of Jesus in their chapel. He is portrayed having his hand over his face, and there is the suggestion of a tear falling down his face. The title of the piece is “And Jesus Wept.” It is taken from the Gospel story of Jesus finding the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and experiencing grief over the loss of his friend. God knows grief, he knows loss, and because of that he is with everyone there in Newtown, the streets of Boston, in Oregon, Colorado, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where anyone is grieving; sharing in that grief, and offering healing, offering hope.
We are still in the Advent season, a time of expectation, and especially a longing for some hope out of all this tragedy. I would call your attention to the Advent wreath, to the rose colored candle that is lit. It reminds me of a very early morning sky, when the rays of first light is just breaking, and there is a pinkish color to the sky, promising a new day. Hope is coming. Hope is already here, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God is with us...” He is present among us, grieving with us, comforting us, and healing us.
Again, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:
“The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We will soon be gathered around the Eucharistic table to offer those prayers of petition, praise and thanksgiving. And through receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we will experience a peace the world cannot give.