From what I am hearing, the news of Friday and the reaction to that news was part of the message in many if not most churches. How could it not be. The loss of live, so senselessly taken, and of twenty first and second graders, stops us in our tracks.
I spoke this weekend of the difficult challenge of hearing and responding to the Church's invitation on this Third Sunday of Advent to "Rejoice!" This Gaudete Sunday does not elicit a joyful, rejoicing response from our hearts. While we readily acknowledge the presence in our lives of the One born in Bethlehem long ago and the desire of our hearts to eagerly await his Second Coming in glory and the preparation for the celebration of his birthday, our celebration is muted. Instead of the joyful parade and celebration found in Oz when news of the death of the wicked witch was heard which prompted song and all, we are more subdued today.
I listened as the pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church, present with families in the firehall as the kids were brought in and reunited with families, was asked by the reporter what it was like and what he said to the families that remained, who had no child returning to them. He spoke of the devastation and the agony. The reporter asked "What did you say to those families? What word of comfort did you give?" He reported that he said nothing ... there are no words. He was simply there as a presence. He was an arm to lean on when knees grew weak, a shoulder to cry on when needed, a hand to hold, a sharing of tears. That is what those families needed at that moment, a friend, a presence, reminder that they are not alone. And he hoped that his presence would remind them that Christ stood with them.
I shared today that maybe this is the quiet kind of rejoicing that we can do in this dark hour - to rejoice that we have a God so loving and so caring that even in our darkest hour he quietly stands with us. He is the hand to hold, the arm to lean on, the shoulder for tears, the strong back for carrying us when we can no longer walk. We have that confident assurance that just as the monsignor was for those families in Newtown so too Christ is for them and for us. That is cause to rejoice, even if our rejoicing is a bit muted today.
Please pray for those families and that community as they now prepare to bury their children and loves ones. And please pray for that pastor and all of those who will have to speak words of comfort and of peace.