This well-trod path—how maddening, how wrenching to follow along it once again. Forty-nine young lives cut down in Orlando in a collection of minutes. How even to fathom that; how to fix it?
To our sorrow, there is nothing we can do to alter this most recent tally sheet of victims, just as there is nothing any of us can do to bring back the children and teachers and administrators killed at the Sandy Hook school and so many others before them. They have been killed, and we have been complicit, in what we have collectively done or failed to do, in their killing. That admission, of course, does not excuse the men who pulled the triggers or the poisonous ideologies or mindless wrath that propelled them. But the overarching obligation of each member of society to the common good also cannot be denied. Despite years of such mass shootings, despite the daily toll of gun violence in our nation’s communities, we have not secured this most basic right to life and safety.
It is a Christian duty, but abiding in hope can seem foolish at times. How many of us on June 12, hearing the reports from Orlando and checking in throughout the day as the death toll rose, were tempted simply to check out, to surrender to a numbing hopelessness before a problem that has come to seem intractable?
Some have urged not more prayer but action in response to the massacre in Orlando, and surely prayer devoid of acts would be regrettable. But prayer helps bring us to that still place where we can prepare for action; it is through prayer that we restore hope. The Resurrection reminds us nothing is impossible with God.
Yes, there are petitions to be circulated and political works to be organized if we wish to end the national plague of gun violence. But we can also look across our own communities and reach out to someone suffering because of these events or begin a dialogue with neighbors and friends who believe freedom is guaranteed by the gun, not imperiled by it. We can propose an examination of conscience within the church and our society that demands that we consider the source of such homicidal rage against our L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters.
And we can keep faith with the one who will wipe away every tear and bring life out of death, who assures us that though afflicted in every way, we are not crushed; though perplexed, we are not enthralled to despair.