As I write this column (Monday, Oct.2), our country experienced another act of senseless violence, this time in Las Vegas. We feel angry, sad, helpless, a sense of despair, paranoid, and maybe even hopeless. All of these are legitimate feelings. But, I encourage us all to be mindful of how long we entertain these feelings and then seek out our Lord via prayer, Scripture, and the Church. With regard to the Church, the best response I found was from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the president of the United State Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas. At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Cardinal DiNardo’s comments not only comfort, but give us things we can and should do. First, pray. The Lord hears our prayers. This is a way of taking care of those who are suffering including ourselves. When others suffer, we suffer with them. So, we need to ask God to protect our hearts from the arrows of the Evil One (Prov. 4:23). This includes the hearts of the victims and their families. Prayer also brings us closer to God who opens our hearts for love of others. Prayer can help keep us from despair and remind us that God cares deeply about us and those whose hearts are broken. Prayer can bring hope and courage even amidst tragedy, for we are reminded in prayer that God is by our side even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. By our communion with God, the Scriptures tell us, we can fear no evil, for God is with us (cf. Ps 23).
The second is to do good. As simple as this sounds, responding to evil with evil is most certainly not an answer that will accomplish anything better than what has happened (cf. 1 Peter 3:9). Instead, we are to return good and blessings when evil is perpetrated. When we do good, we demonstrate that evil has no ultimate power. It demonstrates that God is not idly watching, disinterested in our fate. In moments of horror and evil, great grace is given. (cf. Rom. 5:20). God can create good, even greatness from evil. Our Lord is the master of the reversal. An example of this goodness can be found the various stories of those who selflessly helped the victims either escape or shuttle them to the hospital. I’m sure we will hear more about how the police responded and did what they could to stop the massacre from getting worse. They should be acknowledged for their courage by putting their lives in harms way for the good of others. Another telling example of goodness following the massacre was the overwhelming response of people willing to donate blood when the request went out.
Locally here in our faith communities, I have witnesses innumerable times when parishioners have gone through some incredibly dark and hurtful times, yet, they refused to be defined by it, and instead, chose to give of themselves in loving service. It is a saintly response to sin in our world, and when I have personally witnessed it, I am speechless, inspired, and challenged to the core. It is proof for me that God is in our midst and the Holy Spirit is moving to inspire us to greatness.
So, in the face of evil, we should stand together in prayer and goodness. We should not give in to the temptation for revenge, rage, fear, or sin. Satan is prowling and wanting to sift us all like wheat (Lk 22:31), but Jesus has interceded with his Father that our faith may not fail (Lk 22:32). Remember that evil will never prevail. Indeed, Satan has already lost the war. In the meantime, we stand in solidarity responding with prayer and goodness.
Fr. William Holtzinger