It’s the morning after another mass shooting at a school in the US. There are some sentences that may contain perfectly good English, but make not one iota of sense. We should never ever have to type some words together. And no matter how moved we are, how much we grieve with parents and families whose arms are empty, whose lives are irrevocably changed, the more often we type some words, the more blasé we become. We lose the individuals in the masses. Yes, the numbers are shocking. Yes, the situation is horrific. Early in the morning yesterday, there were reports of stabbings at a school in China. Again, apparently this is becoming more common. Or at least, more reported.
It’s Day 15 of the Advent Book Club (here’s what Pam says), and Nouwen quotes from a sermon “Be alert, be alert so that you will be able to recognise the Lord….in all you read in the papers”. Lord, were you there? Were you with the teachers as they tried to guide children to safety? Were you with the emergency services? Were you with the children, holding them in your infinite arms as they died? I believe you were, Lord.
But were you with the man who did this – barely older than my son? What signs did you give him of your presence in his life? What went wrong, Lord? What signs did he miss, what are the signs that no-one pointed out to him even though they saw them?
Advent is a time to be attentive to signs. Tomorrow is Gaudete Sunday, when we are called to rejoice, to lighten the heaviness of Advent waiting just a little. The timing may seem dreadful. But it is a reminder that life continues amidst the bleakness. More children were born yesterday than were killed. There are rejoicing people, as well as those who grieve. Both grief and joy are important. Both can be brought to God. But what we mustn’t do is stop watching and waiting, ever. We must be ready to see the signs, and just as importantly we must be ready to point them out to those around us. Yesterday’s events are a sign to me, that life is precious, that we must reach those on the edges and in the dark places. The Good News spreads only if it is shared, shared appropriately, sensitively, and with love.