After what transpired in Newtown, a mere 15 miles from where I live, it feels surreal thinking about the scheduled Scripture readings that I and others will hear proclaimed this weekend.
At a moment like this, and especially for those who are among or know any of the affected families, it is humanly impossible to believe the words of this week's selections from Zephaniah and Isaiah: "The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. ... Shout for joy ... Be glad and exult ... No further misfortune to fear ... I am confident and unafraid. ... Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement."
How is anyone supposed to respond to that? With honesty. By admitting your complete incapacity to believe, much less proclaim, those words.
But it gets “worse” in Paul's letter to the Philippians 4:4-7: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
And finally, the Gospel talks about John the Baptist proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Savior of the World. Ah, yes, now it begins to make sense.
If ever there was a time when the people of Connecticut, or the entire nation for that matter, needed a savior it's right this minute because we are all caught in the throes of an agony that is beyond incomprehensible; it's crippling, crushing, murderous because we are the ones who are dying inside.
We desperately need the peace about which Paul writes. We need to have our hearts and minds guarded by God Himself. And we need to ask God to do this not only for us but, far more important, for those who are grieving in Newtown. To me, that means also praying for those who minister to the grieving so that they can proclaim the Scriptures this weekend because they KNOW that the words are true. I cannot imagine what is running through the mind and heart of anyone who must read those Scriptures aloud this weekend and then explain why they are true. All clergy, especially the priests at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown and the families they serve, desperately need God's peace that surpasses their own understanding.
God DOES want us to find perspective, He DOES want us to appreciate His goodness even more deeply, He DOES want us to share His goodness with others and thus overcome the cynicism and fear that are attacking this state and nation even as I write this.
While no one else will ever see it except for God, if you and I want to, we can gather together, whether in our own prayer closets or memorial services or wherever, to ask God to provide the peace that we and the grieving need. When we, in other words, ask Jesus to become our Savior, which is what this season is about, we find that, even in the midst of our agony, we actually can choose to "shout for joy, be glad and exult" because The
Lord, OUR God is OUR midst, a mighty savior.
Mark Azzara blogs about church and the non-denominational faith community for Hartford Faith & Values.