“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Or cry to thee ‘Violence!’ and thou wilt not save? Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).
There’s no point trying to make sense of this week’s tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It was senseless.
Like many of us, Habakkuk can no longer endure the situation the world finds itself in. Violence, abuse, and oppression are everywhere. He cannot comprehend how God can seemingly stand by and watch. He also realizes that we cannot improve the world’s situation by ourselves—God will need to help us. That help comes in the Person and mission of Jesus Christ, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, who saved us from certain death and restored us to life.
What he have seen this week in Oregon and Connecticut are the results of an increasingly hedonistic and godless society where foundational belief in the One True God is becoming progressively more irrelevant. We’re at the point in this country where even the mention of God is met with fervent opposition, booing, and even the threat of lawsuits. Our religious liberty, a fundamental tenet upon which this great nation was founded, is in jeopardy. We replace the God of the universe with moral relativism and subjective truth, where “me” and “my opinions” are god. A distorted sense of “diversity” and “tolerance” have replaced objective truth, natural law, and common sense. And we wonder why we’re in the mess we are in today. We reap what we sow.
For the naysayers who claim there is no such thing as evil or that Satan does not exist: this is your wake-up call. The fact that these horrifically malevolent events occurred so close to Christmas is the devil’s attempt to focus our attention away from Christ, who is the true light and life of the world, and instead stumble around aimlessly in the darkness of sin and death. Satan will try to use the events in Oregon and Connecticut to cut us off from the life of God, to empty us of grace and fill us with hatred, anger, polemics, and a foreboding sense of hopelessness.
Although we can’t make sense of them, what do the events of this past week mean for us who empathize? It is within the Cross of Christ that we find the true meaning of love and sacrifice, virtues intrinsic to the law that is written on our hearts (see Romans 2:14-15). “It is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross” (Saint John of the Cross).
In and through the cross, we must begin to find ourselves again and this effort must begin with a return to a culture of life: to a deep and abiding respect for all human life that is woven into the fabric of every human soul. The return to a life ethos will ensure that no human being assumes “the right to decide who shall live and who shall die. The right to life is not something that is given to human beings by a government, judicial body, parent, or institution of any kind. The right to life is the most basic and fundamental right that exists by the very nature of a human person’s being. We must not weigh human suffering on the one hand with the value of human life on the other […] We exist not to avoid suffering, but to find meaning in the suffering that is unavoidable” (Natalie Hudson).
Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with all of the families who have endured unbelievable loss after this week’s events. But what should our response be? The answer is not as simple as “gun control” or “prayer in school,” which will undoubtedly be used as pawns in a political shoving match. We must take a serious look inward: we must examine ourselves as a nation, rediscover the beauty and truth of our Christian heritage, and renew our commitment to metanoia, a turning back toward God, a complete change of direction. We have been wallowing in the mire of self-centered individualism for too long. We must challenge the pernicious influence of contemporary culture by building upon the solid principles and values that have shaped the heart and soul of our identity as the Land of the Free.
We are in a spiritual battle. Let us, then, arm ourselves as Saint Paul did with the weapons of strength, love, and wisdom in the Spirit. Our strength, which comes from God, is rooted in love and gives us the faith and courage to bear hardships for the gospel. None of us enjoys suffering, and as followers of Christ and witnesses of Truth, we cannot sit idly by and do nothing as others suffer and die all around us. In this busy world that numbs us and lulls us into complacency, it’s good for us to be shocked by what we see: to stand still and take a long, hard look at what the culture is truly saying to us, to look upon death, and to live with Christ in the heart of God—to savor the sweetness of the Father’s gift of endless mercy and life-giving love.