I was logging on to my Facebook page yesterday when I learned that a gunman had decided to open fire inside an elementary school in Connecticut. Instead of posting something about a holly, jolly Christmas I reached for my sacred text and began to read from a book called, “Lamentations.” The context of that ancient writer was different than the tragedy on the east coast, but I thought at least I could borrow some helpful words from someone who was living in pain and darkness. Some of the words weren’t very helpful, but then my eyes scanned a phrase or two that at least captured what I was feeling the moment:
“All the joy is gone from our hearts. Our dances have turned into dirges.”
My day continued, but it wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. Instead of writing an article for publication, I dusted bookshelves and organized files. Yesterday evening, instead of writing notes on Christmas cards, I read tweets, posts, and breaking news headlines, all trying to find something or someone to blame for an unspeakable act. I woke up several times during the night and the first coherent thought that came to my mind was the calamity in Connecticut. All morning I have been staring at a blank Word document, wondering what I might write that would be helpful. I concur with many of you, other than the occasional expletive, nothing seems to help much.
Children die unnecessarily every day. We can’t seem to find a way to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for every child in a world where obesity ranks as a top-ten disease. Research dollars can’t be found to find the right medicine to successfully treat fatal diseases in a world where billions of dollars are spent to win and loose elections. Parents who do not have the skills to properly care for their children continue to make babies and abuse them to death. Children die unnecessarily every day. When children are murdered in mass, evil however, stares us in the face and seems to laugh at our efforts for peace in the world.
Amidst the darkness of the morning, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, “All is futile,” seems to make more sense than the message of the angels to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid.” However, I refuse to believe that there is no hope for redemption in the world. Maybe that’s why the Church decided to name St. Jude as the Patron Saint of desperate cases and lost causes. The world may seem like a lost cause, hopeless, too many insoluble problems, too many political agendas to make things right, but my tradition proclaims that evil does not get the last word.
We need help. We are helpless. Come to us in this dark hour that we may receive consolation in our tribulation and suffering.
- Tamara Gieselman, University Chaplain