Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in æternum! Amen.
O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!
What timing for Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent), right? A day whose name means “rejoice” following a Friday where small children were systematically murdered along with some of their teachers. So many others who will suffer for a very long time to come from the effects of experiencing and witnessing this. There will be empty seats and returned Christmas presents this year. But most importantly, lives were lost.
How can we rejoice after such a terrible event?
Because, as Catholics/Christians, we are a people of hope. We don’t get bogged down in the darkness of this life in a fallen world because we know that when that happens, evil takes a stronger foothold in our hearts and our society. We don’t see death as the be-all and end-all. We believe in eternal life, in the immortal soul that while the body may be destroyed, lives on with the Lord.
There was one thing that I noted in discussions on Facebook about the tragedy: the value of life. I read comments of people saying that it was especially sad that there were small children killed. Well, of course. These children had their whole lives before them … so much hope for them and now that is gone. And, of course, we can’t forget the teachers who died defending their students in acts of heroic self-sacrifice. That too should give us hope that people are fundamentally good though it may not seem so obvious at times. When push comes to shove, people tend to take care of each other.
But then the typical thing starts developing: the, what I call, “hierarchy of value” assigned to a person’s life that is contingent on their age or health.
All life is sacred. From the child developing in the womb to the older adult with failing health. No matter what may be “wrong” with them or how old they are.
Another thing I noted was the anger directed at the person who committed the crime who may or may not have been mentally-ill. Many people hoping that he’s in Hell (he killed himself after shooting the people).
I don’t feel comfortable saying that. Ever. Who are we to condemn people to Hell? Who are we to judge the state of a person’s soul? Only God can do that. Only God is perfect. Imperfect people cannot pass such a judgment on other imperfect people. We have no right to even contemplate condemning someone to a state of being where they are completely cut off from the love of God by their own choosing. No matter how horrible the sin. That is the most severe punishment that a soul can experience and it should not be taken lightly.
Most of the time, I think this is a knee-jerk reaction. Other times, it’s a sincere desire. I can’t bring myself to think that.
Then people say, “When you have had someone taken from you in a violent way, then get back to me.”
While, thanks be to God, I haven’t had anyone close taken from me unexpectedly/violently (God knows there have been close calls … many close calls), I know of some people who have experienced it. I knew the person who was murdered.
I don’t know if I ever shared this here but my brother’s best friend from grade school and high school was brutally murdered with his friends by some punk teenagers (and that’s what they are … punk kids) about ten years ago. I was in high school when it happened. Actually, it was ten years ago on Candlemas (that’s how I remembered the date Michael was murdered).
He was killed by some punk kids who wanted to steal a car from him and his friends. They roughed up the kids and told them to get lost, thinking that would be it. Little did they know that while they were waiting for the tow truck to show up (the kids had messed up the starter or something), the punks came back with one or more weapons (I know a shotgun was involved). One friend was shot in the driver’s seat. Michael was shot in the passenger seat. Another friend, who was trying to run away, was tracked down, knocked over, and shot in the head or back.
I am sure the families of those who were murdered did think vengeful thoughts (maybe they still do) but that’s almost a human instinct. It’s a very raw emotion vengeful anger is because its source in itself is so sensitive. All I know is that in February (on or around the anniversary of his murder) and in September (his birth month … around Michælmas) a large group of his family is always at SJA for a Mass they have offered for him. I’ve still got his funeral card in my Breviary along with the funeral cards of persons I know at whose funerals I assisted.
All life has value. Intrinsic value. Value that cannot be determined because of one’s age or health status. I really think that the whole concept of a “hierarchy of value” pertaining to life is a product of our utilitarian society. A life is only “worthwhile” when it can “do something” or “contribute positively” to society. Value, from this perspective, isn’t intrinsic or ontological, it’s proven.
What lives does that mentality cut out? The preborn who have the potential to have a positive impact on society but if the child isn’t wanted for one reason or another, it’s seen as a valid “choice” to terminate. Add to that a birth “defect” and you totally have an excuse to terminate the pregnancy because that life would be too much of a burden and the child would not have a good “quality of life.” Who sets the standard for that and what are the criteria? Of course, then we could get into the whole concept of human suffering and what its purpose is, but we’ll save that for another time.
The mentally-disabled person whose illness keeps them from contributing in a “productive” way to society. Never mind that when I would train special needs students to be altar servers, they would always do smashing jobs and they were such gifts to get to know! I can’t stand it when people talk down to special needs students as if they didn’t know what was being said about them. Many times, they are not oblivious to other people treating them “differently.” Just because they may not fit one’s definition of “normal” doesn’t mean that they cease to be human or that they cease to be a child of God and thus deserving of the respect due thereto.
And we can’t forget the elderly person or the person with an illness that renders them dependent in one way or another on others for life support/sustenance. Here too does the concept of “quality of life” come into play.
Each human life is of inestimable value. Whenever I contemplate the value of a human life, I always think of this part of Psalm 49 that comes up in the Divine Office at Vespers of Tuesday II:
Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice,
that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit. (7-9)
And then this one, from Psalm 139, which comes up at Vespers of Wednesday IV:
For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;
my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (13-16)
Yes, I am using the RSV-CE instead of the NAB. It’s just how I roll. We all need a little bit of King’s English with its “thee’s,” “thy’s,” thou’s,” and “-est’s” and “-eth’s.”
I cited those selections from the psalms to show that all life has a value. A value that cannot be quantified by any temporal means. You can’t assign a finite value to an entity whose soul is eternal and who is made in the Image and Likeness of God. Each life is not just some coincidental result of a biological process. Each life is a unique creation of God that has an intrinsic value that cannot be measured nor can it be replaced.
Anytime a life is taken, humanity loses. Even if it’s a life that society may see as a “waste” or as a “burden.” That is why events like what happened in Connecticut on Friday are so tragic. That is why every abortion that takes place is such an egregious tragedy. That is why every “mercy killing” is horrible. That is why any taking of life (legal or otherwise) is terribly detrimental to the whole of humanity though he may not realize it then or ever.
So I ask, if we mourn the taking of life that took place on Friday, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to make life more respected and loved? Well, we can start with the unborn and how we treat our children. What do we let children be exposed to? When they are in need of psychological help, do we help them or do we just brush it off? How can we expect our society to respect life if it cannot even respect it in its very nascent stages?
Oh, and if you would like a very good analysis of why we need Gaudete Sunday (especially) in light of what happened on Friday, Imma direct you to a blog that y’all ought to be following anyway so y’all should have already read this or listened to the podcast but on the off chance that you have been so busy with your spiritual preparations for the Coming of the Lord, I’ll share it here.
All right. I am off to pray Vespers and Compline. Have you been to Confession yet this evening? Yes? Maybe you should go again. There is a lot of grace that comes from that sacrament and every time a soul makes an valid confession, angels rejoice and so does Our Lord. No? Go soon. Some parishes offer Communal Penance Services where it’s a prayer service with a theme pertaining to repentance and preparation and then you go to individual Confession and then receive individual penance and absolution. Some places, sadly, still do the old abuse of giving general absolution. Unless you’re in a war zone, there are not enough priests (not because of the laziness of not finding enough priests that are available), or are on death’s door and unable to confess, there should be no utilization of general absolution. That’s supposed to be used in dire circumstances.
</rant> Sorry about that. lol Have a nice night!