Thoughts on prayer and Newtown

I wrote these reflections for members of my church. Now I offer them here:

Greetings Westminster friends,

I’m sending this as a feeble attempt to offer some reflections on the Newtown tragedy. I trust many of your hearts have been overwhelmed with emotion — sadness, anger, tears. I was reminded of the French mystic and philosopher, Simone Weil. Here is an account from a classmate of hers at the Sorbonne (early 1930’s):

She intrigued me because of her great reputation for intelligence. [But more so…] A great famine had broken out in China, and I was told that when she heard the news she had wept: these tears compelled my respect much more than her gifts as a philosopher. I envied her having a heart that could beat right across the world.

A heart that could beat right across the world! That was Weil’s greatest gift, and it deepened as she discovered the love of Christ for the first time, while observing the destitute peasants in a small Portuguese village. She saw that Christianity was not for the strong but for the weak, and she among them. This discovery of dispossession invariably compels us to our knees, where the strange love of God takes the form of a Cross. With that in mind, I offer these thoughts that I wrote this morning:

Prayers are ascending from Newtown. And with the prayers are the questions, the uncertainties, the perplexities, the anxieties — in short, the vulnerabilities of naked and weak beloved of the Father who have been cast to and fro by the brute force of an evil that speaks the tempting word of despair. The killer drank this despair — it became a part of his descent into the nothingness, the void, into which he attempted to bring twenty defenseless children with him. This is the despair in which we have forsaken the love of the Father — a forsakenness that the Son bore on the Cross as a final demonstration that we, in turn, have not been forsaken by the Father. I say that the killer “attempted” to bring his victims into this nothingness — a nothingness where the love of God is not heard and not received with joy and thanksgiving. It is only an attempt, for we have heard, we have received — thus, our prayers are the definitive protest against this attempt and all such attempts. We know the void has been overcome, filled with love. Death is not subject to the whims of absurdity, of this wickedness; it is defeated. The Cross falsifies the tempting word of despair — as death is illumined by the Resurrection light. We approach this mystery with no confidence in ourselves. This Word of love is not something we can speak to ourselves — the death of these children is too real, too painful for such human conjuring. It is spoken to us, from the Cross, entering our drama, our crosses, as a certain hope of new creation. In this way, beyond our grasping, the love of God is found even here, in Newtown, perhaps more than anywhere else right now. These children belonged to God. He won them on the Cross. They belong to him now, and He is now delighting in them, in their play, in their joy.


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