Over the past few days there have been countless expressions of grief over the victims of the Los Vegas massacre and condolence for those who have lost family and friends. I add my own voice to these statements, and am sure I speak for the people of this diocese in praying for strength and courage for everyone touched by this terrible event.
I am also concerned about you, my diocese. I worry about our children, suspended between fear for their lives and the desire to fire back. I am praying for their parents, who are doing their best to teach them about God’s protection and mercy. I am anxious for all of us whose faith is shaken. I pray for anyone who is working for a solution to gun violence, and anyone who sees no way forward.
Here is my word to all of you, for what it’s worth. Modern technology has amplified the reach of human cruelty and vindictiveness. But human sin is no argument against the abiding presence of God. We may wish that God would shut sin down, but we would all be automatons if that were so. God both risks and takes responsibility for our freedom. That is the biblical witness from beginning to end.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be messengers of hope in the midst of political paralysis, emotional desensitizing, ongoing polarization and pervasive cynicism. How shall we manage this? As I write this on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I am reminded of his total identification with Jesus, culminating in his receiving of the stigmata, the wounds of Jesus in his own body. Few of us are called to such a radical identification with our crucified and risen Lord. In fact, it’s probably the other way around. Jesus identifies with us, bearing our wounds. In so doing, he demonstrates continually God’s existence and God’s care for us.
How can we take this in? By taking time each day to sit or run quietly in the presence of Jesus. By reading and struggling with scripture (and thus invoking the presence of Jesus, who is the Word of God). By going to church and seeing the body of Christ there, poised to move out into the wilderness. In any case, it is our inheritance and right as baptized persons to be in union with Jesus. However we open ourselves to that union, it will flow in.
So, back to Las Vegas. True religion is not about closed eyes, still less about hardened hearts. My prayer is that together, as a Christian community, we can make a witness, which, out of our diversity, speaks to the whole church. It my primary prayer is that you are all right.