Job, crying out to God for an account of the tragedies that had befallen him and his family, hears a response from the depths of the whirlwind:
Who is this who darkens counsel with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins - now, like a man; I will question you, and you tell me the answers!Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38)
It is natural for our belief in God to be challenged in times such as these. "If there is a good, and powerful, and loving God," the question begins, "how was this allowed to happen? Where was God? Where is God? Is there a God?" This question cannot but shake even the most fervent believer’s heart. There is no good answer to the mystery of evil. There are no words that remove its sting, no theories that neutralize its poison.
We live in an age where we expect quick answers – “Hey, Google it!” – and quick results. We want a pill, a plan, a speedy fix. When a parent takes the life of a child, when an act of violence shakes our community, when a society grapples with senseless violence, we are so often are left scratching our heads; we are forced to ask, “Why?” with the realization of how infrequent it is that we ever get any answer.
All over Facebook we see “Pray for Boston” memes and pictures. It’s right to pray, of course, but why are we always praying s a response to tragedy rather than praying, discerning, and working to heal our culture seemingly so prone to violence? True prayer is not magic, not empty words, not a disengaged activity. Real prayer forces us to roll up our sleeves, dig in, and to be the prayer we offer.
So where do we see God in the midst of tragedy, where is the light? The light shines forth from our hearts, hearts that have been cracked open and pried apart by tragedy. A fractured and cracked heart, rather than impeding love, actually makes space for love to grow, to pour forth, and to flow into the world.
This is the love that tears down fences, rather than flees the scene, to get to victims.
This is the love that staunches the blood-flow from severed limbs, picks up the fallen, comforts and extends hospitality to the injured.
This is the love that spends eternal moments frantically seeking after loved ones, forgetting old-ills and resentments upon the news that a loved one is safe and secure.
This is the love that aches this morning over the murder of innocent bystanders, guilty only of wishing to support friends and family in their race.
In love, our hearts reflect into the darkness of the world the true source of light that comes from the Son who illuminates all of creation. Our prayer never changes God’s mind about us but, in opening up our feeble hearts to God’s love and the power of the Risen One, prayer cannot help but to change our minds about God.
The light of love can never be squelched by tragedy or cynicism or hopelessness. As yet another shadow falls across our country, a shadow of senseless violence only too familiar in other parts of the world, we must not retreat into our hearts’ cellars, dim our lights, and hope the danger passes. As the nation’s heart cracks again, may this be a time for us to cease finding our unity only in tragedy, only in the shadow of death, and may it be a time for us to consider the root causes of our culture of death and violence and work, together, to be the prayer of healing and peace we are so quick to post on Facebook or Twitter. Let our bodies and lives, rather than social media, be the bearer of the hope our faith stirs within us.
Ryan Duns, S.J.