The power of the wicked shall be broken. (Ps. 37:17)
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. From students, teachers, and administrators to first responders, parents, and community members, people across society were forced, then and afterward, to respond to an unprecedented hatred, hatred that should never have had recourse to a firearm, hatred that should never have inflicted itself on a living being.
That hatred drove people to the most violent, harrowing ends of human experience, ends that are now unbearably all-too-familiar, judging by the news and our society’s collective reactions to similar tragedies: grieve, move on quick, and let it be, we are told—this is just how the world works.
But on that day and in the weeks, months, and years that followed, we witnessed bravery and love beyond all telling in the face of that hatred: children who encouraged their classmates to flee, teachers who gave their lives that their students might live, parents who devoted themselves to reducing gun violence in schools and communities.
Even so, there is an ever-present temptation to give in to the insistence that we let it be. The challenges before us may seem too large, the obstacles too many. But that awful beauty in midst of terror, the divine light that shines in the darkness which the darkness cannot overcome, should give us hope that God can make a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Is. 43:16, 19).
God does not grace us with witnessing bravery and love just for us to gaze upon bravery and love from afar and admire those qualities in others. Still less does God bless us and have us share this earth with people who embody those virtues just so we can remember them in eloquent eulogies and lament them and their untimely passing.
God means for us to take up those virtues ourselves and live them out in our own lives—in the words of the letter to the Ephesians, to take up the whole armor of God, so that we may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Bravery and love are virtues that exist for more than just the extremes of human experience; they are gifts that God gives us through the Holy Spirit that we cultivate little by little throughout our daily lives.
What that looks like will vary from person to person, but in all of us who seek to follow Jesus, that means a stubborn resistance, no matter the odds, to the temptation that lulls us into making peace with—or worse, embracing—evil, in even the smallest of ways. In all of us who seek to follow Jesus, that means an unfailing heart for those whom, as we hear at Lessons and Carols throughout this month, God particularly loves: the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry and oppressed, the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and unloved, the aged and little children, as well as all those who do not know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.
This day, as we remember those who lost their lives and those who gave them, I invite you to set aside five minutes to pray for bravery to contend with evil and injustice, and for love to heal hatred and make us friends with God and one another. May our God act through us, in us, and with us, so that the power of the wicked may be broken.
Post by Armando Ghinaglia
Image labeled for reuse with modification from June Mita Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/junie_moon_photoshare/7659087176