“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! ...Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” - Phil. 4:4-7
At this time of the liturgical season, we are being encouraged to set our hearts on the joy that comes from God. Yet, joy and rejoicing may very well be the last thing on some of our minds. The stress. The politics. Personal losses. Financial stresses. Family drama. The loss of a beloved friend or spouse. And more poignantly, the news of tragedy of the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Netown, CT. How can we possibly rejoice? How can we possibly be free of anxiety when some of us are, honestly, full of these things?
In one sense, I have no complete answer. But, with God in our lives, all things are possible. So, therein lies what I know. It’s not about an intellectual thing. It’s not about being able to solve all the problems. Rather, it is about being in right relationship with our Lord Jesus.
You see, he came knowing that we are a deeply troubled people. Our Father in heaven is not ambivelant or ambiguous about these horrible problems in our world. He wants to be our Shepherd through the thickets of our life. He wants to be the healing for those who are brokenhearted.
He will guard your hearts and minds (cf. Phil. 4:7). He will pour grace upon you if you just ask. Yet, sometimes we simply don’t ask. Often we fear letting go and letting God harvest us and bring us to himself. I wonder if we fear that we will be treated like the chaff which is burned in the unquenchable fire (cf. Lk. 3:17) because we feel our sins or pains are too great or that our Father is some kind of angry God. It is true that sins keep us away. It is true that our suffering is a temptation to walk away from God. But, do not fear! Love, and love will be returned. Let yourself go into the loving arms of our God who knows the fullness of our ills and pains. He desires to heal us. He was with each of those children and teachers at their moment of need, and he is active even now in their eternal destiny. God is not deterred by the evil of our world. He is not thwarted by such evil schemes. Yet, we all suffer when even one of us are harmed (cf. 1. Cor. 12:25-26). Our Lord Jesus has also suffered and can certainly sympathyze with us (cf. Peter 2:21).
I cannot fully explain the "why's" of the tragedies of life and especially the horrible events this past week in Newtown, CT. There is no way for us to heal ourselves completely of our pains. God, too, is saddened by these things. Yet, it is our faith that gives us the perspective of God’s providence and his desire to make all things new (cf. Rev. 21:5). The record of God’s mercy in the Bible is very clear. He has righted many wrongs, and he will continue doing so until the final day when his son comes again, and all will be made right in the justice of God. On that day, God will wipe away the tears from our eyes. On that day, we will be able to be glad and exult with all our hearts, for the Lord will have removed the judgement against us, turned away our enemies, and will have no more misfortunes to fear (cf. Zeph. 3: 17).
"Merciful Lord, turn toward us and listen to our prayers: open the gates of paradise to your servants and help us all who remain to comfort one another with the assurances of faith until we all meet in Christ and are with our brothers and sister for ever" (§175 Prayer of Commendation from the Order of Christian Funerals).
And so, we give you thanks for giving us these little ones and adults whose lives and deaths have caused us to pause. Thank you for the joy and love which they brought to the world. We praise you for you are great and have conquered death. We ask you to take these beloved souls to you where they may also rejoice in your mercy for all eternity.
So, rejoice in the Lord who heals the broken hearted. I say again, Rejoice!
Fr. William Holtzinger