A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

“How can this happen?”

Nicodemus’ question from today’s Gospel (John 3:7b-15) has a very different resonance today, for it has been repeated many, many times in the 24 hours since the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech yesterday.

“How can this happen?”

At that time, Nicodemus was trying to understand particularly mysterious things being said by Christ.

Right now, we are trying to understand the most deadly mass shooting in American history.

“How can this happen?”

Our Lord gently puts Nicodemus in his place.

Jesus answered and said to him,
“You are the teacher of Israel
and you do not understand this?
Amen, amen, I say to you,
we speak of what we know
and we testify to what we have seen,
but you people do not accept our testimony.
If I tell you about earthly things
and you do not believe,
how will you believe
if I tell you about heavenly things?”

Nicodemus was not stupid - he was well-educated and well-connected – and yet there were limits to his knowledge and his understanding.

Likewise we today – gifted with amazing tools of information gathering and transmission – in situations such as yesterday’s atrocity are often greatly frustrated by the limits of our knowledge and understanding.

Yesterday many students at Virginia Tech – as well as their families and friends – were frustrated and indeed terrified by what they did not yet know. Where was the threat? Who is dead? Whose life still hangs in the balance?

Now many of us are frustrated at a lack of answer to another question: How can this happen?

Why did the killer do it? Why could authorities have not done more to stop this?

And how could “a loving God” (whom the President called upon yesterday to comfort those suffering in the massacre’s wake) let this happen?

Human investigation may never determine all of what was in the killer’s mind and no “blue ribbon commission” will be able to devise a perfectly safe environment anywhere on this planet (not that we shouldn’t keep trying to do the best we can).

And, to paraphrase very loosely our Lord’s words to Nicodemus, if we cannot completely figure out earthly things, how can we figure out heavenly things?

We can indeed learn and understand many, many things in this world and we can even come to learn and understand much about God, especially with the help of his grace, yet we are only finite beings. We are not God. Our knowledge and understanding will never be complete until we come to be filled with the light of his mind in the beatific vision.

In the meantime, we will keep learning more and understanding more, while continually tripping upon the shifting limits of our knowledge and our capacity to understand.

Yet, even despite this tragedy – this horrendous evil – we know that God loves us and can bring an even greater good out of the present nightmare.

We know this because he sent his Son to us, who out of the horror of the cross brought us God’s love and salvation.

So must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him
may have eternal life.

How can this happen?

We can and should seek all the answers we can in this world
while keeping our minds and hearts open
to the unfathomable wisdom of the infinite God
and the ever-deepening comfort of his Holy Spirit.

The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from
or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.