A gunman massacres at least fifty people, injuring hundreds, at a country music festival in Las Vegas; officials and investigators looking for answers to a question that no one may ever be able to answer. In the wake of such tragedy, human nature wants the “why”. Why would someone do something so awful? Why did he do it in this particular way? In this place? At this time?
What do we do with the “why” when we find it? Some of us use it to direct blame; whether it’s a gun control issue, a political issue, violent video games, the lack of love as a child; some of us use it to reflect on our own lives; either way everyone wants to know what leads to these devastating situations, and how to avoid them again, or what warning signs to investigate, understandably.
Many times, finding the “why” may help some to feel better; like a diagnosis for someone who has long been seeking the reason for their pain. I think in light of terrible tragedies, whether nature or human-made, which we seem to have been increasingly witnessing over these past few months, asking “why” is a mark of human nature, as is our quest for education and knowledge, which is a gift from God. However, understanding that we will never be able to control it all, no matter what we know, directs my trust to God, who is greater than the evil in the world. Whatever the “because” may be to our “why“, our home, our safe place, our paradise, is with God.
In today’s readings, we find Zechariah (chapter 8) foretelling that people from many nations and tongues are coming to tug on the robes of God’s holy ones and say “Hey, can we come along? You seem to know what you are doing!” (“Let us go with you, for we have heard God is with you.”) Then in Psalm 87, we are told “God is with us” (today’s responsorial Psalm), and the final line of this Psalm talks of the joyful dancing in the City of God, as they sing praises to Him, “My home is within you“. Other translations of this text refer to home as “springs” or “fountains“: a beautiful welling-up source of living water which is constantly sustaining, feeding and refreshing us.
Finally, in the gospel of Luke, chapter 9, Jesus is rebuking James and John for offering to “call down fire from Heaven” on a city that rejected him. Why does Jesus rebuke them? My feeling is that in light of these first two readings, Jesus implies what Zechariah and the psalmist are saying. He is not waiting around for the reasons why this town has rejected him; his trust is in his Heavenly Father.
Having to know why for everything that happens can lead to more frustrations and a feeling of emptiness because the answer is sometimes a dead-end of blame, which evokes more helplessness and victimization, one of the enemy’s favorite tricks. The truth is that God is the source of our wisdom (not to be confused with educational knowledge); the author of all life; our eternal spring, and our home. He hurts along with us in tragedies, even more so than we can imagine. He knows “what on earth is going on here?” and rather than control all of us like puppets, He deigned in His goodness to give us all free will. That doesn’t mean everyone uses their freedom correctly. However, He is a God of justice who keeps His promises. Among these awful situations, God is with us. Our home is in Him.
Prayer: Lord of Hope; You promise us through your word that you are our eternal spring; our fountain and our home. Fill us up with life-giving spirit that speaks the hope of your promises to those around us; especially the suffering; especially those in darkness who don’t know your power, and are caught in the darkness that leads to harm for themselves or others. Embrace those suffering now from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, violent acts, injustices, disease, and most of all the lack of hope that leads to despair. In Jesus’ name, Amen.