Have you seen the front page of today’s newspaper? It’s the first issue since the shooting. When I saw the front page this morning I said to myself, “That’s what I feel like.” Look at it. There’s a date, May 24, 2022, and empty darkness. Nothing else. There are no consoling words, no explanations, no promises, no theology, no sentimentality. And neither will I offer you any of that.
I will not offer or even try to offer you any words of comfort today. And I’m not going to try to make everything better for you. I can’t. There is nothing I or anyone else can say or do that is going to make what happened acceptable, understandable, or even tolerable. I know that and you know that. Even if we don’t want to accept it, we know it’s true and so does Rachel. We hear that truth in today’s reading from Jeremiah 31:15-17.
“Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”
Today you and I are Rachel weeping for our children. Today you and I are Rachel weeping for the two teachers who were killed. Today you and I are Rachel weeping for Robb Elementary School and UCISD. Today you and I are Rachel weeping for Uvalde and all who live here. Today you and I are Rachel weeping for one another and ourselves.
I don’t want to be comforted today and I hope you don’t either. How could we want or accept comfort today for what we’ve lost? It’s too soon to talk about comfort. So I am going to talk about the only two things that can really be talked about today: suffering and love.
Suffering and love are the two great realities of this day. I know it feels like there is only suffering today. It feels that way to me too. But I also know that is not the only reality. The depth and intensity of your suffering today is matched only by the depth and intensity of your love for who and what has been lost.
I want to be really clear about this: Today’s suffering does not replace or diminish the love and it never will. Suffering and love always go together in life and in death. The love that binds us together can also break our hearts. You and I and this community now know both, don’t we?
Today you and I and the community of Uvalde are experiencing the brokenness that comes from loving. We’re suffering because we loved and continue to love. And as painful as it is, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Would you? And look at the outpouring of love our suffering is drawing from one another, this community, our nation, and the world.
I don’t ever want us to get over this love but my belief and hope, and even my experience, say that we can get through this suffering. That doesn’t mean our suffering will end any more than it means our love for those we’ve lost will end. It means it changes. It means we will continue to suffer what has happened to us but we will not be defined by it.
I know how hard that is to believe. Right now it feels like it’s always going to be like this. And yet, the Lord tells Rachel, “There is hope for your future.” That’s not about getting to heaven or escaping the reality of what has happened. It’s about facing the next minute, the next hour, the next day hoping against hope that somehow, someway, somewhere there is healing and moving forward.
That won’t be easy and it’s going to take a long time. It’s hard work and it will be our work for the rest of our lives. It’s your and my work to do. No one else can do it for us. But neither can we do it alone. We need each other and we’ll have to dig deep within ourselves.
And when you find some hope come tell me about it because I need to know it’s there. And when I find some I’ll tell you because I suspect you need to know it’s there too. Meanwhile, pray when you can, if you can; give someone a hug, tell them you love them; and heal as you can in your time and way. That’s what I’m going to do.
I get Rev. Michael Marsh’s reflections regularly. He is a really down to earth kind of guy. I knew he was from Texas but did not realize he was from the town where the shooting occurred. This a gut wrenching but from the heart.
Thank you Fr. Mike for the opportunity to grieve together in such painful moment. I sent it to many of my friends the invitation to participate in the Prayer Service. Many of them are commenting on how moved they were by it. I want to share the message that one of them – Maria Garmendia- sent after the Service:
“I am still pondering the depth and breath, let alone the beauty, of the prayer service I have participated in this evening. May peace be in the hearts of all the families and friends who have lost a loved one.
Fr. Mike’s reflection has led me to touch my feelings of sorrow and discomfort, has allowed the congregation to share in his own feelings of sorrow and discomfort and has led us all to a place of hope. No preaching, just gentle leading by being vulnerable and real!”
Gratitude and blessings, Carmen Zabalegui
There is a new understanding of connecting violence and hatred, and how it springs from Adverse Childood experiences (aces) in many of the perpetrators. We need to fund mental health advocacy and treatment in schools at every level. Most of the people who have done these mass murders have very high ACE scores. Please check out WordPress blog “Aces too high”; also the book The deepest well, by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris. We have to put psychosocial help in place for these kids as soon as the are identified.
Respectfully, Martina, there is something deeply, deeply wrong with a society that allows an 18-year-old to buy a military weapon that poses so much bodily destruction that DNA samples are required to identify victims. That is fundamentally wrong. Weapons of war should not be legal for anyone other than our military. Until this country and our lawmakers stand up to the fact that the second amendment is not absolute (just as the first amendment btw), we will keep having these kinds of horrific, violent events that cause tremendous pain and suffering to us all. This does not happen in other countries for a reason – and it is not because of test scores or mental illness as mental illness exists everywhere. It is because of guns and specifically assault weapons. I pray for all of Uvalde and I pray for our country and our lawmakers to do the right thing for our children. I pray for peace.
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Thank you for putting all of that into words, it helps so much. There is understanding of what has happened, just as there is no understanding what is happening in Yemen and Ukraine and so many other places where there is conflict. But, as you say, suffering goes hand in hand with love, and we are enabled to move onwards because of that. love Jane.
I am so sorry you had to write and share this beautiful and anguishing reflection. My heart breaks with your community. We are praying for you all.
I follow you regularly and appreciate your pastoral and mystical approach to preaching. While we are not with you in person, we are all hurting with you and Uvalde. Meet you at the Table friend.
This is really from the heart. Thank you.