January 15, 2011 – What A Week Can Bring

When I last wrote this past Friday, after finishing I remember thinking about what in the world I was going to write about this week.  It appeared that it was going to be a quiet week, not much on my calendar, not much planned.  Little did I know that there would be 2 events occur that wouldn’t necessarily directly affect me personally, but that would be equally senseless.  The first of course was the terrible tragedy of the shootings in Arizona.  I could only imagine the scene … people going about their normal business of shopping, running errands and some getting the opportunity to meet with their representative, only to see 6 people killed, twice as many injured and countless lives turned upside-down.  Any other things that I was going to do that day were pushed aside as I could not tear myself away from the news reports.  I think I was not just curious about finding out more information, but I was also thinking about how something like this could happen in our free country, and that if it could happen at a shopping center in Tuscon, it could happen practically anywhere.

Then another tragedy occurred on Wednesday that hit a little closer to home, when I received a call from Fr. Gene that Shannon Waller, a 23-year old member of our parish and a former religion student of mine, had passed away.  Another terribly shocking event.  Like the events of a few days before, I not only felt immediate sorrow for those who were close to Shannon, but I also spent part of the night thinking about why something like this had to happen – a good person in the very prime of her life being taken away from us.

Being 41 years old now, you would think that I would have seen enough happen and experienced enough tragic events to make sense of them, but  that is part of the challenge of life, to put ourselves and our experiences in God’s hands even though we may never have all of the answers, at least until we see God after our time is done here on earth.  When I visited the funeral home last night, I wondered what I could say or do that would bring an instant sense of comfort, or that would help provide an answer as to why something like this would occur.  Frustratingly at times there just aren’t words that suffice, but God gives us hope that one day we will have the answers and it will all make sense.

Of course part of what helps us through is the stories that underly the tragedies.  After the initial shock of what happened in Arizona the stories of heroism and support started coming forth, from those who tended to the victims immediately afterwards, to those who tackled the gunman and kept him at bay, to the amazing work of the doctors and medical personnel who have been treating the victims.  It shows that the senseless acts of one person, no matter the magnitude of what he did, will not kill the spirit of the many, many people who have good intentions in their hearts.

And though we dread the process of grieving and going through the rites of a funeral, seeing the support of family and hearing the word of God gives comfort to us and helps us begin to turn our attention to how our lives were enriched by having those loved ones here with us, though they may not have been with us nearly for the time that we wanted them to be.

So after a week of wondering and asking why, the questions I have turn to myself.  Am I the one who is missing the answers?  Is my faith as strong as it needs to be?  Should I just accept tragedy as a part of life and not let it overcome me so much?  Does a real Christian allow himself to become so full of doubt?  I of course, deep in my heart know the answers to these questions.  In fact I tell my students that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having feelings of doubt.  Doubt causes us to ask questions, and asking questions brings us closer to the answers that we look for.  It is the person who thinks that they have it all figured out, the person who thinks that they have all of the answers, that really needs to take a second look at how they are living, and whether their faith is true.

I think those who cease practicing their faith fall into the trap of the tone that society has taken.  We want instant gratification.  We want to press a few keys on our computer and find an instant answer.  We don’t want to put our faith in a God that we can’t reach out and touch or talk to on a cell phone.  We don’t want to have to go through the steps to earn God’s love; we feel it should automatically be given to us.  Anything that we pray for should appear right in front of us.  I know that many of our parents gave us advice that we appreciate things more when we work for them and earn them instead of having them just given to us, and I think the same is true with God’s love.  It means so much more when we pray, when we take time to read the Bible and learn more about His message, when we turn to Him even in the difficult times.  And if the answers we seek have to wait a little longer, so be it.

I always appreciate the compliments and comments I receive about my blogs, but the truth is that I receive just as much benefit from them.  It gives me a great form of release, a way to share my thoughts with many folks at one time.  One of Gabrielle Giffords’ last acts before being injured in the shootings was to read the first amendment of the constitution before Congress, which talks about free speech.  I thank God always for the ability to say what is on my mind without worrying about the consequences.  And even if writing about Catholic Christian subjects isn’t the most popular thing, it doesn’t mean that it’s not the right thing. 

Thanks again so much for reading.  I appreciate each and every one of you.  Peace.

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