Following is the homily preached by Father Bernard A. Healey on Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. Father Healey is pastor of Our Lady of Mercy parish in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
We were all shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Newtown, CT. And while today is Gaudate Sunday, Rose Sunday, a time to celebrate with joy that Christ is coming soon, that Christmas will soon be here I am sure that we are not feeling any joy. Rather this morning we may be more like the crowd standing before John the Baptist in today’s Gospel who ask the simple yet profound question: What should we do?
Even for the believer, there is no satisfactory answer for why the innocent suffer. Why do bad things happen to good people? It is the question that echoes throughout all of history but in our limited humanity we can never truly make sense of the senseless.
However we do have our faith. And our faith teaches us that in this Advent season as we must cry out for Emmanuel to come, He must be the one we long for with all our hearts. Certainly that cry is made all the more urgent given this terrible tragedy.
Where is God? God is right there with the people who are grieving and sorrowful in Newtown. God was in the teachers who pulled children to safety. God was in the first responders who got survivors safely reunited with their families.
God is right beside everyone, because he is the God who knows the pain we feel and shares the suffering we experience. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is God with us in the sorrow as well as the joy of this season.
The Babe of Bethlehem, who we prepare for in this season, is also the Christ of Golgotha. The wood of the manger would become the wood of the cross. God suffers along with us.
We believe that God became human and that God underwent all the things we do. Jesus on the cross cried out, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”Ours is not an impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer; a God who understands us even at our worst state, our lowest moment, and our deepest despair. Our faith tells us that He is here with us: with us in our confusion and anger; with us in our anguish and sorrow.
In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me and that I do not face my struggles alone. For it is often when we suffer in sorrow that God can break into our lives more easily, more profoundly. It’s not that God is closer; it’s that we’re more open.
And so brothers and sisters, what should we do?
First, we should and must pray. Pray for the victims, pray for the survivors, and pray for those families who now suffer such deep grief, pray also for those first responders who came to the aid of the victims and my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, pray even for the one who is responsible for this horrific evil.
What should we do?
Call someone we’ve been avoiding and listen to them.
Visit someone we’ve overlooked and who is waiting for us to stop and notice them.
Reach out to someone who is isolated and hurting, alone and afraid.
Invite someone who is left-out to join us.
Forgive someone who has hurt us.
Make peace with the enemy.
And let hope defeat all despair and anguish, let joy overcome all grief and sorrow, let love conquer all fear and doubt.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel, ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.”
May the innocent of Newtown rest in eternal peace and may the perpetual light shine upon them.