This from Today at the Missions:
The shootings at Virginia Tech have stopped all of us in our tracks. The senseless brutality of the act and the absolute horror of it leave us feeling stunned. How are we to interpret this? How are we to understand what happened? What context could we possibly put this in to make sense of it all?
And where is God in all of this?
The easy answer is to say that God had nothing to do with it, that we all have freedom of choice, that this is the work of lone gunman. This makes for a neat answer to our aching questions, as does Satan, who surely is the author of death, from the Garden of Eden until this very moment. But in the face of our anguish such explanations are unsatisfying, as if we can sense without knowing that they fail us. We may also want to believe God will create some greater good out of this – that he could have created no other way – and take refuge in a paradoxical God whose ends justify the brutal means. In short, we don’t know how to respond, don’t know what to think, what to say, what to do.
We must – we truly must – talk about what happened at Virginia Tech early Monday morning. A deeper story will emerge in the media over the next few days, helping us shape the formless mass of our feelings, giving some sense of structure to our thoughts. We will come to know both the gunman and the victims, if only distantly, and we too will share to some degree – great or small – in the grief of the victim’s families and loved ones. Though our lives will eventually resume their former selves we will be changed. More importantly, however, our questions will continue to weigh on our hearts.
Tonight in our public meals program we did something we’ve never done before – we had communion. I believe this is our ‘right’ response to such senseless tragedy; that we remember the innocence of the one who was betrayed with a kiss, who was tortured and murdered, condemned for a crime he did not commit. We must remember his anguished plea in the Garden of Gethsemane, his silence before his accusers, and, most of all, the redemptive power of his willingness to love beyond measure, to give of himself beyond reason, to sacrifice himself. This is the God we question today, the God we long for even as we ask those questions, the one wh0 has gone before us into senseless brutality, the God who spared not even his own son, who spared not himself, and did so for us. We might be outraged – and rightly so – for what has happened in Virginia, but how can we not grow silent and dim in the face of Christ as we meet him in the elements? How can we not remain calm and still as we contemplate the cross, and how can we not share his great love and sorrow, as he shares ours, in the sacred act of communion?
In the days that come the tragedy of Virginia Tech will become politicized. It will be a rallying cry for some, a polemic for others. Their will be great anger, and harsh rhetoric, accusations and recriminations. We, however, as followers of Christ, are called to another way, a deeper way, the way of the cross. Each of us must come to terms with what it means to be Christ in our own world, to come to terms with how we might comfort the afflicted or, in the case, the affected. When we are in communion with Jesus on the cross we realize our only response to that great tragedy – as with this one – is to love others as he has loved us, to greet the parched with cool water, the wounded with handfuls of salve. We will be imperfect, and we will surely have failings, but as this tragedy lingers in our lives we must love all the more.
We have no other way.