There’s been a shooting. Again. This time not at a university. Not in a parking lot. Not in a movie theater. Not in a shopping mall. This time in an elementary school—the worst possible place for a shooting.
At this writing, the reports say the lone shooter killed himself, six adults, and twenty children. My God! Twenty children! My eyes fill with tears at the news. My heart aches for everyone involved, but especially for those children, their parents, their families, their teachers.
The questions spew out. Again. Why did he do it? How did he get in? Couldn’t someone have stopped him? I, like you, walk around the rest of the day in a daze. I can’t stop thinking of the horror of it all. In my prayer I find myself saying to God: “Get me out of here! Take me out of this awful world where someone can kill twenty innocent children! I don’t want to be in a world where this kind of thing can happen. Take me to another place. Any place. Even hell can’t be worse than this.”
I try to balance my despair with the love and goodness so evident amid the horror. Those teachers. Such dedication and professionalism and (above all) love. Those parents doing the most heroic task in the world: raising a child. The police and rescue personnel, putting their lives on the line every day. The scores of medical personnel waiting in the nearby hospitals for the stream of ambulances that never came. Those priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, nuns, and psychologists who are there to help people pick up the pieces of their broken lives. Those reporters sensitively using their skills to try to help us understand the full truth of this terrible tragedy.
The lone gunman does not represent humanity, I tell myself. All those parents, teachers, police, rescue personnel, medical professionals, religious men and women, and reporters—THEY represent humanity. They who do their “jobs” day in and day out with very little recognition. They who have dedicated their lives selflessly to the well-being of others.
This was not the blog I had scheduled for this week. I wrote something on Mary and Joseph which I will post in a few days. But this tragedy made me think: It’s almost Christmas. And what are we celebrating anyway? We are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We celebrate how our almighty God came into this world—the same world I (at times like this) want to desert. How could I abandon the very world our God entered and (by doing so) made holier than it already was?
God came as a baby, the most vulnerable of beings. And as a baby, this Jesus will encounter evil from the very start. His parents will have to flee with him to a foreign land to save his life from a megalomaniac king who is slaughtering all the male babies in the area. The holy innocents, we call them. And this baby will not remain a baby. Through his life and teachings he will give us the key to transforming every hell into a heaven: Love. Selfless love. Unconditional love. And despite his own love and goodness, he will be unjustly convicted, tortured, and made to endure a ghastly death. And even while dying he will amazingly forgive the very people who are executing him.
I don’t know the answer to the question “Why did this happen?” But I do know the answer to this question: “What should we do with our lives today–and every day?” The answer is always the same: love, love, love.