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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy and Anger: Reflections on the loss in Newtown, Connecticut

I have had so many thoughts about the news from Sandy Hook Elementary School. To try to put yourself in the shoes of those parents who lost their children - it's simply incomprehensible for me. These events, regardless of how often they occur, seem to raise so many questions for those around us. How can we even absorb what happened in Connecticut yesterday? How can we process? How can we go on in a world like this one? What can be done to keep it from happening again? What can be done to keep it from happening to me?

I have seen the media flood with debate on gun control. I have seen facebook and twitter overflowing with anger and fear. It seems that those around me are all trying to cope with the loss of so many young lives and those who served and educated them.

One image that I've seen associated with this event is a sculpture known as the Angel of Grief. The artist, William Wetmore Story, and his wife are buried beneath the original in Rome, but many replicas have appeared throughout the world - 8 in Texas alone (Source: Wikipedia, Angel of Grief). The posture of the angel seems to speak to people in their own grief, and the tragedy of Newtown appears to be no different.

In times when we need answers, Christians turn to the Word of God, the Living God. In Holy Scripture, we find a profound and timely encouragement for today. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, saying:

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12: 9-10, 14-15)

Hate what is evil. Bless and do not curse. We are so tempted in the humanity of our pain to curse those who caused it, but I try to remind myself that there is only one Enemy - only one who is the source of all evil, and all others are just fallen souls in his hands. They need our prayers, not our anger. They need our blessings, not our curses.

Mourn with those who mourn. Be sincere. I remind myself that though it's natural to reflect this situation onto my own life, asking myself what I can do to prevent such a thing happening to me should not be my first response. We are commanded to love of others with the same weight as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:39) and here, Paul takes it a step further by saying that we should honor others above ourselves. I believe that the apostle is asking us to mourn for others - and to do it sincerely. There is nothing wrong with being precautious, and certainly there is wisdom in learning from history and from mistakes, but Christ himself calls us not to worry: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (cf. Mt. 6:25-34).

Inspired by Story's statue and St. Paul's words, I offer up my own artistic contribution. Please feel free to share, if you feel lead.

Forget the gun control debate for now. Forget legislation and justice. There is a time for that. But for now, pray. Mourn. Love. There is only one creature worthy of hate, but there are so many worthy of blessing.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...Mourn with those who mourn.

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