Our nation has once again been devastated by the deadly effects of gun violence. It was indeed a stunning collision of time to have this happen as we were in the process of the beginning of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday specifically. One of the most compelling photos of the horror yesterday was a very distraught parent clutching another one, with her ash cross clearly visible on her forehead. Just minutes before she had those ashes placed there, with the words, remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. If she was not awakened by those words, and the touch of ashes on her head, surely she was awakened by just how quickly, randomly, and senselessly those words became true.
As with so many of these all-too-common occurrences, the details are still coming in. We do know that a shooter entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, taking the lives of 17 people, and injuring many more, all of them beloved children of God, making this one of the deadliest school shootings ever.
There have been 30 mass shootings so far in 2018. With so many terrible acts of violence occurring on an almost daily basis, it’s easy to become numb and not let incidents like the shooting in Parkland affect us. We must not, as a society, allow these horrific acts of violence to keep us from feeling the shock and the horror, the pain and the loss.
We are a praying people, and we offer our thoughts and prayer to all those who have been affected by this tragedy. But we also know that our thoughts and prayers are not enough. I encourage you to explore the resources that can be found on the website for Bishops Against Gun Violence, a group of which I am a member. You will find many resources there to help you actually do something. Because, in this mortal life, which Lent is designed to bring us into a closer connection to, it is not our role to sit back with quiet resignation as if death were our only call. It will come for all of us, but my theology has certainly evolved to say, I do not believe this shooting was in any way part of “God’s plan.” It is instead, part of our burden to work to correct.
I would leave you with the following prayer that can be found on the Bishops Against Gun Violence website:
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.