Yesterday, I set out to write my reflection on the Scripture readings for the third Sunday of the Advent season. Each was so full of promise that I wanted to puke. By the time I finished reading I was so angry with God that I was ready to put Him on trial again. It was a Job moment. Where is this God that is supposed to turn away our enemies as Zephaniah said? And Isaiah, what God are you talking about that deserves our confidence? I wondered what the priests who lead mass around the country are going to say in God’s defense on Sunday morning. I stopped writing.
I turned on CNN. I have to say, their coverage of the slaughter of 20 innocent children and their teachers was excellent. The reporters’ questions were sensitive and they were cautious about giving correct information and they avoided either trivializing or sensationalizing what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It was the first time since the killing that I had time to sit and watch, to take in what had happened.
Then I saw God. The father of a little 7-year-old girl, Robbie Parker, came forward to speak. He said that his beautiful daughter, Emilie, was always smiling. She could light up a room. She carried around with her crayons and paper and whenever she saw someone sad, she would draw them a picture. She’d drawn one for her grandfather months back and laid it in his casket before his burial. “Emilie would have forgiven the killer,” Parker said. “And she would have comforted his family with her pictures.” About the killer, he said, “God gave him the gift of a free will and this is how he chose to use it. I have been given the same gift and I choose to use it to help others.” Robbie is a physician’s assistance and he works in the neonatal care unit at the local hospital. He didn’t know how the grieving would go, how he would cope with his loss, he told reporters, but he knew that he would find comfort in comforting of others. Then he spoke to the other families: “We are forever linked by this event. We need to avail ourselves to all the help that is offered to us. We need to help each other.”
The gospel this morning is again about John the Baptist’s preaching, his calling people to account. As I prayed this morning, I thought about our collective neglect. We have failed to face the growing violence, the availability of guns, of violence in the media, even in the games children are given to play on line. We have held back funding to helping those who are mentally ill or those who are living with violence and abuse in their homes. We have failed in our efforts to control the drugs and alcohol abuse. When events like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut occur, we resolve to change things, and then we don’t. The national will, it seems, is weak and fleeting. We return to our every-day lives. But for some, their lives are forever changed.