Text of Fr. Sheaffer's homily for this weekend....
Our readings this weekend speak to us of great happiness and joyful anticipation but perhaps our hearts can’t quite hear that message right now as our nation – and really, all of humanity – mourns the tragic loss of life of twenty young children and the six adults, to whom their care was entrusted, in a most senseless act of evil and violence.
But it will also raise questions about our humanity: its direction, its purpose, its fate; and even deeper questions about God: God’s goodness, and the inevitable question as to why God doesn’t stop such tragedies from happening in the first place. We’ll even hear some people, grasping at some way to understand this, say that there is a "reason for everything" or even that this was "God’s will."
Of course this was not God’s will nor was there any reason or purpose for such a thing. It’s never God’s will that people suffer; it’s never God’s will that young and innocent life be taken away or that parents mourn their children and the lives that they hoped for them.
We don’t worship a god who wills that bad things happen to people. We don’t worship a god who wills violence or evil. We don’t worship a god who controls every thought and action in the world. No, we worship the One True God. God who created us in love; God who came to save us after we turned our backs on Him; God who wants us to be with Him in Paradise. But our God also gives us the choice. God doesn’t force us to love Him. God offers His love and we either accept it and are transformed by it, and share it with others, or we reject it and wreak havoc on the world. This wasn’t God’s will, but God will help us through it, if we open our hearts and souls, and allow Him to work in and through us.
We need to remember, too, that we are not puppets. God gives us tremendous freedom and, when we reject God, that freedom is often abused and, just as the good actions of individual people can affect all people, so, too, do the bad. This is why it is so vitally important that we, as Christians, live lives that mirror the love that God has for all people. This is why it is important for us to speak boldly of Gospel values of faith, hope, peace, love, and justice. It’s because we are instruments of God’s love and peace. We are God’s voice, God’s hands, and God’s feet in our world today.
Where is God today in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy? Is God absent? Is God the “myth” that atheists are so hell-bent on convincing everyone that He is? No! God is alive and in the hearts and souls of all those who are trying to comfort those affected by this violent assault. God is in those trying to care for and comfort the parents and families of those whose lives were taken from them. God is in the hearts and souls of those who mourn the deaths of their children and loved ones. God is in every person who has prayed for those affected by Friday’s awful events. God is in you and me as we gather here to worship and to offer our prayers for all those who are suffering, God is in you and me as we pray for peace in our world. God is in you and me as we live and breath the Gospel to all who will hear.
There were six good and loving adults, and twenty truly innocent and vibrant children killed Friday in a senseless and horrific act that should never be forgotten in the consciousness of humanity. In faith, we pray that those whose lives were taken from them will know the presence of God this day, that they will be carried home to heaven, embraced in the arms of their loving God, and experience the fullness of life in the warmth of God’s love.
May they rest in Peace. Amen.