The Certainty of Suffering and Sadness, The Assurance of Hope and Harmony, the Reality of Mass Shootings in America

“Jesus Christ could have appeared among us, radiant with joy and encompassed by divine splendor, amidst the glitter and pomp of His sovereign majesty. He deemed it more worthy of His glory and more profitable to the salvation of men, to show Himself to them girt with a diadem of thorns, clothed in purple and stained with blood, His face bruised, the gaping grimace of death on His lips, bearing the bloody unction of the nails imprinted on His hands and feet. In uniting Himself closely with suffering, Jesus Christ assuredly did not smooth all its severity and all its pangs; but He removed part of its bitterness, corrected and destroyed its poison. He made the chalice of His Blood fruitful. Like the brazen serpent set up by Moses in the desert, He implanted Himself in the center of the world as an inexhaustible instrument of mercy, life, and health. Owing to this transformation, His divine wounds, like fountains ever gushing, remain eternally open to all straying and fallen souls who are eager to escape from their coarse, sensual aspirations, wanting to immerse themselves anew in the joys of sacrifice and the honor of purity.”
— Fr. Charles Arminjon, p. 276-77
The End of the Present World

Two mass shooting in two days. This is the most recent public sorrow in America. There were likely more people killed in other countries, but we are most concerned with our own. These shooting could have been in our town, our neighborhood and could have taken our families from us.

I have no idea if any of the people killed in the two shootings were part of the privileged one percent. I have no idea how many were working class folks, how many were professionals or how many were unemployed. These things do not matter. What matters is that they were alive and now they are not.

My impulse as I write this post is to wonder about the spiritual state of those for whom death came unexpectedly as they shopped, dined, drank, conversed and lived. It is hard to image, groups of people seeking some need in life together, be it material things or the joy of a social gathering, suddenly having their life end due to an act of violence they had no warning or time to prepare to face the where or what that death may lead.

The wisest man who ever lived tells us, “No one has power over the wind to restrain the wind, or power over the day of death; there is no discharge from the battle, nor does wickedness deliver those who practice it.” (Eccl. 8:8 NRS) Do not these words have a special ring of truth today?

However, if you have not noticed, these events, be they acts of terror or madness, give us a warning about this world. Life, and death, are not predictable. And in spite of all the rhetoric that has begun and will continue, gun control may help but likely not much. Mental health treatments are needed but will not stop the violence. Even a change in our current hate-mongering, violence accepting secular leadership will unlikely stop the rise of evil we are seeing.

There is a reason the God of creation became human and suffered the violence he suffered at the hands of other human beings. The reason was to reach out to us, to alert us, to call us and to lead us to a hope beyond the inevitable conclusion of a world that will end in death and will always be a place of suffering and loss.

Yes, we should try and do all we can to stand against the evil. We should seek social justice and work against the powerful who prey on the less fortunate. We should speak out against hatred of any kind and call it the evil that it is. This is being the salt of the earth. But ultimately, in the end, our only hope is the Light of the world who is with us, among us, suffering within us until the alpha becomes the omega.

What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun?
For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity. (Eccl. 2:22-23 NRS)