Where Are You, God?
People have asked if I am going to write anything reflecting on the tragic events that happened at Sandy Hook. The news and images have been so raw that I have found myself simply pushing the whole story away. Nevertheless, a number of people have not only encouraged, but challenged me to provide some words and reflections. They have said, “This is what priests do. This is what we not only expect, but need, from you.”
So let me refer to several people who have written on this subject with insight, poetry, and an eloquence that I simply do not possess at this time.
First, let me first offer an article from Archbishop Chaput. No stranger to tragedy such as this, he was directly involved in the situation at Columbine where his pastoral presence as priest and bishop was a comfort to so many people in the Denver area. I am struck by his answer to the question so many ask such as, “Where is God in all of this? How can an all loving god allow such things to happen?” I find his answers poignant but he also asks very uncomfortable questions and places an awesome responsibility on us if we claim to be believers and follows of Christ. Thus, I am sure, some will not understand nor take well.
Second, a priest wrote the following that I found quite profound not only reflecting on what happened in Connecticut but the way we all feel at some time when a time in our life gets a little rough….
Where are you God? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away?
Where are you?
What did they do to deserve such a fate? Why could you let this happen? Why?
Maybe you are not who I think you are? Maybe you really are powerless in the face of evil. Maybe I have thrown my lot in with a lost cause. One that mouths vague generalities in the face of indescribable violence and evil
Maybe all this talk of mercy, forgiveness, goodness, gentleness, peace and love is all empty. Empty words spoken to comfort the simple-hearted. Maybe we have all been fooled. Maybe I have been fooled. Maybe I am a fool . . .
And yet I sit trembling in the dark waiting for a word, a whisper, an assurance that my doubts are wrong. That you are here. That you are listening. That you have this situation under control.
But the wind whispers in the silence. No voice comes. No comfort arrives. The darkness remains as before
Then I light a candle. One candle. It is not even that warm, but the light cast shadows across the room. I see a reflection on the marble floor. The tear-stained face of a broken heart. But it is not my face that I see. It is your son’s looking down from the cross on the wall.
And then I get it. You don’t have it all under control because you were foolish enough to love us. And in loving us, you set us free. You set us free to wreak havoc on the world. To break hearts and murder dreams. To slaughter the innocent.
But you also set us free to become who you always knew we could be. Your son proved that when he absorbed the worst of humanity and refused to return it in kind. He became the model of what we are capable of. He chose love over hate, peace over violence, forgiveness over revenge.
And the whole time, you were with him. He couldn’t always feel it, but every tear he shed you caught in your loving hands.
You were there. You have always been there. And your heart has broken every time one of your daughters and sons has died. Whether they be innocent children or twisted gunmen. You loved them all. And your heart is broken once again.
And so I can weep with you, knowing that I am not alone. Yet I also know that I do not need to abandon my hope in the goodness of human beings. For you have never lost hope in us. Even though we may break your heart over and over again, you continue to believe in us.
And in the darkness of an empty room. I blow the candle out. For the light is within me. I am the light.
Let me go forth and be the light to the world. Let me be the Christ that I await this Advent season.
May God be Praised
Finally here is a third article from Christine Eberle, Campus Minister at Gwynedd-Mercy College (A gifted and talented woman who, incidentally, did some excellent work with me while I was teaching in high school). She reflects on an experience with a student who was struggling with tragedy and trauma in her life. Christine shares some provocative lines describing what a “faith crisis” feels like (Have we all not felt this at times in our lives? …..)
(The faith life that she practiced it in the past) worked for her for a long time. It worked when she didn’t get into her first-choice college and turned out to love her backup school. It had worked when the class she didn’t want to take wound up being the place where she met her best roommate ever. But it wasn’t working now.
It was like her faith was a high-stakes math problem, and she just couldn’t make the equation come out right.
The more painful the tragedy, the harder we have to work to wrap our faith around it. And sometimes our faith just won’t stretch that far. It has to bend, or it’s going to break.
To acknowledge that tragedy is not the will of God is to say something powerful about the goodness of God….“But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope: the Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; they are renewed each morning” (3:21–23).