In Sin and Error, Pining

“Mommy, why are you hurting me?” Kimberly Hahn tells the story of taking her daughter to the hospital with a high fever. So high, in fact, that doctors needed to douse the child with ice water to lower her body temperature, something painful for a feverish patient. Maybe more painful for a mother, who has to see her child suffer and know that she cannot explain to a child’s mind why and how this suffering is ultimately for her good.

The Newtown massacre is our chilling bath of grief. We, too, cry out and ask why. And God in his heaven cannot make our lesser minds understand what is so far beyond our scope. To say that such senseless violence will ultimately be for our good sounds like insanity, like wishful thinking, like the opiate of the masses.

Or do we not believe in a God that powerful?

In the coming days and months, we will hear the debates continue that began minutes after the final shot echoed off the classroom wall and the shooter’s body hit the floor.

Politicians will speak on both sides of the gun control debate. Mental health will occupy news columns again (Msgr. Charles Pope’s extremely personal words about his own sister’s life and death are well worth reading.) Others will underline the risks children of divorce face. Pro-lifers will weep for twenty children and remind us all about the tears we should shed for three thousand every day.

But in the face of tragedy, of such a mystery of iniquity, we are truly tempted to despair, to confess all of our proposed solutions insufficient. Has anything changed? Are we no better than our forebears who sacrificed children to Moloch?

Long lay the world, in sin and error, pining.

If we have made any progress at all, it is in our knowledge of what we have lost. The media sensationalizes, but it also facilitates the solidarity of grief. We see the face of innocence lost.

As mourners in Connecticut lit candles, Catholics lit a rose candle, of joy. (St. Rose is the Catholic parish in Newtown.) The third Sunday of Advent is “Rejoice” Sunday.  To rejoice, so conscious of our fragility, physical and mental; to rejoice, in utter devastation; to rejoice, when we must admit our helplessness, is either insanity or the audacity that true faith demands.

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

We mean something to God. Our lives are precious to him.

He was powerful enough to have stopped this tragedy, and yet did not. How then, we cry, can He be a good God? “Father, why are you hurting us?” we plead from the icy waters of our pain.

We are challenged to hope.  Such events prove better than any philosophy ever could that we are weak and in dire need of a Savior. We long for deliverance from the bottom of our broken hearts.

Could it be that God is powerful enough to save us? Could it be that we cower in our collective corners as the bullets fall silent, awaiting a Hero? Could it be that we are truly preparing for that moment when He stands at the door and knocks?

The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.

There are too many families who will never celebrate Christmas the same way again. Our Catholic brethren who have lost their children will celebrate Christmas in between the anniversary of their child’s death and the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  And their faith amazes us. Their hope encourages us. Their love proves to us that there is joy beyond the suffering.

We worship a God who lost his Child, too. Who, for reasons our human mind cannot fathom, saw the death of his Son as the best way to bring us all to our eternal home.

And we pray through the intercession of a Sorrowful Mother, who has become a Mother to us all, and is also called the Cause of our Joy.

Christmas is about faith beyond the lights and tinsel. A faith that challenges us far more than we tend to ponder, but which also contains a truth so amazing we almost are too conscious of our nothingness to consider it. We matter to God. He loves us. He gave his life for us. And there is no power in the universe that can takes us away from his embrace.

A somber celebration for 2012, but one which forces us to choose between the radical challenge of faith and the darkness of despair.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the heavenly voices!


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.