In Colorado, A Cry From The Heart

Aurora, CO: Prayer vigil for victims of shooting (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Continuing to reflect on the evil in Aurora, Colorado… How it gripped a young man, James Holmes … How it relishes and feeds off of the rippled effects of violence in victims and families and ultimately anyone who hears the story … How it must be confronted with the lamentations of Jeremiah and the righteous accountability of Job. Job …who gets to ask God face-to-face why evil happens and gets no satisfactory reply.

Below is an excerpt from a lovely letter written by a Lutheran pastor in Fort Collins. It helped me keep my reflections grounded in the unknowable heart of God.

… In the coming days and weeks, you will probably encounter well-meaning people who will say to you, it is all part of God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it now. Everything happens for a reason. If these words are helpful for you to hear, I’m glad. But if these words tear at already-raw places in you and fill you with anger or despair, please know this: not all people of faith believe these things. I do not believe them.

The God I know in Jesus Christ does not use natural disasters or human-caused massacres to reward some and punish others. I believe God is able to reach into sin and death and pull out healing and life; this is a different thing from engineering tragedy for a so-called greater purpose. The God I serve and proclaim to others does not cause or desire human suffering.

I also suspect many of you, like us, may be asking why. Why did this happen? The media and the justice system will do their best to answer this question in the literal sense, trying to determine why James Holmes apparently entered a movie theater and began shooting at random. In a sense, however, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, because even if we get a “why”–an explanation from the shooter, or a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances that comes with time–these answers will still not be enough.

In its deepest sense, the question “why?” is not a request for a logical explanation; no logical explanation will justify or make sense of what is indefensible and senseless. It is a cry of the heart, an expression of grief. It is a cry as ancient as it was new again this morning. In the Bible, it is “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). …–Meghan Johnston Aelabouni, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, CO

Read the whole letter.

Abbot Philip: ‘We are not called to be unctuous or overly sweet or overly pious in a bad way.’

Today we have an odd collection of readings.  Job, in the first reading, is so depressed and overwhelmed by the awfulness of life that he is sure that he will never see happiness again.  The ending of the Book of Job, of course, shows him totally restored and once again happy.  All of go through periods, however, in which we have some doubts about the happiness of this life, some doubts about God’s care for us and perhaps even a lot of doubts about our capacity to keep on living.The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is about preaching the Gospel.  The word, Gospel, means Good News or Good Tidings.

This is a huge contrast to the feelings of Job in the first reading.  Paul is willing to give his whole life to preaching the Gospel and will receive no human recompense at all.  Why?  Because he knows that only in this way can he also share in the promises of the Gospel.You and I are called to preach the Gospel in the way we live each day.  It is not as though we must leave what we are doing, get on the road and go about talking.  No, we are invited to live in such a way that people will become interested in the Gospel just by seeing how we live. Mark’s Gospel picks up this same theme of preaching the Gospel.  Jesus Himself tells us that He has come to proclaim the Gospel.  No matter if He is tired, not matter if He is pushed on all sides—still, He knows that the Father has sent Him to proclaim the Good News.We are invited today to live with Christ.  It is He who lives in us.  All we need to do is allow His presence to shine through us.  We don’t have to do anything spectacular.  If we live with love and care for others, this shows through us.  If we are willing to suffer for Christ, this also shows through us.  We are not called to be unctuous or overly sweet or overly pious in a bad way.  We are called to know Christ’s love for us and to respond to that love by loving others.–Abbot Philip,OSB, Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico