Friday, December 21, 2012

Newtown Tragedy


3 Advent  #9

Zep 3, 14-18a
(Ps) Is 12, 2-6
Phil 4, 4-7
Lk 3, 10-18

Peter Maurin Farm, Marlboro, N.Y.
December 16, 2012

Deacon Tom Cornell

                   It’s a challenge to faith, the problem of evil.  How can a good and loving and all-powerful God allow such things as happened in Newtown last Friday?  On the other hand, how can we bear such loss without faith, and without a community of faith, our church?  Our own parish family is still staggering under the loss of our Sarah Saturday before last, a sixteen year old girl killed in an automobile accident.  Now this, so close to us, ten miles over the Connecticut border, twenty first graders and six teachers.  I did my teaching internship at Newtown High School in 1959 and I was student counselor and English and Latin teacher in the next town over, Brookfield, for three years after that, and might well have stayed there but for Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement.  You couldn’t ask for, you couldn’t imagine better towns, better public schools, peaceful, orderly, safe.   And yet…. 

          No one is safe.  Every breath we take may be our last.  Be prepared!  And remember the words of Julian of Norwich, “The worst has happened and been repaired.” 

          This is Gaudete Sunday.   Gaudete is Latin for rejoice!  Rejoice?  How rejoice?  We are more than half way through Advent, the period of waiting, waiting for the repair.  The worst has happened?  The Fall!  And been repaired?  How repaired?   Jesus Christ, Christ himself, Christmas, Emmanuel, God with Us, come to suffer, die and rise again. 

          Evil entered that classroom in Newtown, but God was in that classroom too, and he is the stronger.  He has taken the little ones to himself.  We weep for ourselves!  They are our children too.  All children are our children.  Their families have only their memory.  They will not see those beautiful children grow and learn, see them at First Communion, Confirmation!  There will be no weddings, no grandchildren!  It is for ourselves that we weep.  They are in bliss, eternal bliss, forever innocent, to rise in glory on the Last Day.  That’s a Promise! 

          Last week a similar number of children in Afghanistan were killed by a bomb blast near their school.  Was it unexploded ordinance?  There have been so many more.  Drone strikes are not surgical, as we have been led to believe.  Many children have been killed by these fiendish weapons, nearly three hundred in the Afghan-Pakistan border area.  Afghani and Paki mothers and fathers feel the same anguish, anger, grief and loss as American mothers and fathers do.  Does this in any way diminish our loss, our pain?  Of course not!  Are those kids our children too?  God’s children?  Of course they are.  So why do we let these things happen?

          The Popes have spoken of a culture of death that pervades our society, a culture of violence, violence against the most vulnerable among us, the unborn and the elderly, against the poor, against immigrants, against children, against women.  We will balance the budget they say, but not by pulling out of unnecessary and unwinnable wars paid for on the credit card.  Let the old, the sick, disabled war veterans and children pay.  We have been lied to by politicians as long as I can remember, consistently, by Democrats as well as Republicans, and that’s a form of violence in itself.  I refer also to child pornography, widespread and easily available to feed unnatural lust and loathing, and the trafficking of women. 

          Too many guns, too little mental health evaluation and care in this country.  The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in his first address to the diplomats assigned to the Holy See, announced that the Church’s first priority in the field of international relations is the building of a culture of peace, a culture of nonviolence, a culture of life.  Do we need any more evidence that this is what we need in our country today?

          “His winnowing fan is in his hand,” John the Baptist announced.  Even here in an agricultural setting we may need to explain what a winnowing fan is, and what it means to winnow.  Before mechanization, the way a farmer removed the grain of wheat from its husk, or chaff, was to spread the wheat stripped from the stalk on the barn floor.  He would then take a large fan and stir the air over it all.  The dry husks, or chaff, are lighter than the grains of wheat, so the breeze the fan creates lifts the chaff and scatters it a few feet away from the heavier wheat.  The farmer can then gather up the wheat for storage and sweep up the chaff to compost or to burn.  That’s what it means to winnow, and the fan used is called a winnowing fan.  John’s words are harsh.  “The chaff he will burn in unquenchable fire!” a terrible judgment.  We have to take his words seriously, for we will be called to account. 

          Think on these words, think on what we have just experienced in that first grade classroom when you are selecting toys for your little ones this Christmas.  If you have already bought a war toy, or a violent video game, TAKE IT BACK!  Exchange it for a teddy bear, or a chess set!  Teach peace! 

          Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!  Peace  be with you!     W