God allows evil, hurt and loss. The pain can be beyond measure. The world experienced such inexplicable pain in Connecticut in December 2012. If you didn’t feel this horror deeply, then you can safely say that your emotional walls are too thick. I only know of one way to make sense of this tragedy and any tragedy.
Tragedy is a path to God. Not for the victim but for those left behind. Massacre, hurricane, tsunami, cancer – they all have one thing in common. Helplessness. In our helplessness lies a deep spiritual mystery.
Jesus explained this mystery with a shocking answer about the tragedy of a man born blind. His followers asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John Ch. 9)
We see it all the time. Heroes arose from the ashes of the World Trade Towers on Sept 11, 2001. Heroes arose during Hurricane Sandy. My father rose to near sainthood during my mother’s 12 year Alzheimers journey that ended this past spring. Most of these heroes will be unsung. They will do their duty. They will do it because they know it is what they MUST do. They were born to do it.
In these moments of tragedy, all self-doubt, self-pity and selfishness melt away. Somehow, the parents and siblings of the murdered Sandy Hook teachers and children will find meaning in the terrible losses they have experienced.
My own brother was born a healthy boy two years before me. Three days after his birth, the doctors realized he had an Rh blood conflict with my mother. He needed a blood transfusion. It was too late. His brain was irrevocably fried. He lived in an institution from the age of 6 till his death at age 48.
His life was a tragedy for my parents and especially my mother. As Alzheimers set in, she began to relive those hard years from the late 1950s. The unfairness of it. The helplessness of it. The lost potential of a first-born son.
Yet through those tough years, with no parents or family of her own here in Canada (they emigrated from Holland in 1954), many loving people walked beside her. Girlfriends, doctors, neighbours and most of all, my father.
The effect on me from my brother’s affliction deeply wounded me. He got all my parents’ attention. It was in seeking to heal those wounds that I found the inner peace I sought so desperately all my life. I gained from his loss. So did all three of my sisters.
We can never know the mystery of God’s plans. We can only know that every road, every event, every joy and every tragedy leads to the same cry to know and experience inner peace that is constant, reliable and unrelenting.
My prayer is that those who suffered loss last week in Newtown will find that peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding. Such peace exists only in the present moment – that eternal time and space which requires the grieving of our past losses and gratitude for what we have now.