Monday 17 December 2012

There is a Great Cry in Ramah

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Cogniet, Scene du Massacre des Innocents

One is at a loss for words in the face of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut a few days ago. There are no words to speak right now, because I don’t think they exist. Or if they do, I do not possess them. It is true that we all reach for explanations, theories and solutions, and the professional world of words was alight with these almost immediately. Some have merit, to be sure, but frankly, I can’t debate these right now. For now there should be only grief. Rachel is weeping for her children; and she refuses to be consoled, because they are no more.

There is no explanation for evil, especially the suffering of the innocent. We make the same plaintive cry that has gone up to God since Job, and the answer is never quite sufficient for our logic to accept. We are given the image of the Crucified One. It is not an explanation, but at least it tells us that God is not indifferent, and is willing to endure the very worst with us. But the mysterium iniquitatis remains inscrutable. Therefore, there is no ultimately satisfying explanation as to why twenty children were shot dead along with six of their teachers in an idyllic New England town. It happened not far from where I went to high school and so it feels closer to home than other tragedies. The whole thing is an eruption of evil too malicious to dissect and square away.

So I will defer to someone more credible and worth reading on this than I. Father Alfred Delp was a Jesuit who was arrested by the Gestapo in Berlin near the end of the war. He had assisted in the planning of a new social order, based upon Christian principles, to be implemented after the fall of the Third Reich. It was a capital offence. While awaiting trial, Fr. Delp began to secretly write letters, reflections on Advent and Christmas, which were smuggled out of his prison. Delp was a man of intellect and action, but as he entered his own passion and anticipated his execution, he felt compelled to write the following.
I have frequently referred in these meditations to the dangers and setbacks we encounter at every level of existence, and I don’t want to go into that again. Let us leave the solution of these problems to prayer. It is best that all the suffering and misery should be gathering up in one great cry for help. There are times when this is the only thing that can be done. When all else fails we remember God and appeal for help. And in the stillness of this holy contact help assuredly comes. Sooner or later our fruitless efforts to escape our entanglements must cease; we must realize our futility. Straining against the jabs never helps—it only produces more worries. We must grow quiet enough to realize God’s omnipresence, to feel his comforting hand and open our hearts from within, silently, letting his healing have its way. Then the waters will flow over arid soil and things will start to grow again. If only we keep still. God permits many wounds—but there are also miracles. We are today—individually and collectively—fainting from loss of blood. Things have gone so far that no one can help us any more…

When faith wavers, hope disappears, love grows cold, adoration ceases, doubt nags and the whole life is shrouded like a winter landscape in snow, when hatred and arrogance predominate, life is mortally wounded. That is the time to get into reverse, and let the Holy Ghost work from within building up new life. From God’s view point the world looks quite different and we must at all costs get back to the divine point of view. And a great many situations must be subjected to this process of conversion.
So let us make our cry for help to God. We are a culture that bleeds from many wounds. Many of our crimes against life and love remain hidden from public view, but their malignancy has infected the spirit of our age. It is time for radical conversion, of return to God, of humility and docility, and of healing. Help will assuredly come. But first we must look to the east. There we will see the lowly figures of a man and a woman with child, weaving their way along a dusty road in a nondescript place, obedient to the God who saves, and through whom a miracle will erupt in our world.

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