Sadly, and tragically, this past Wednesday, our nation was once again plunged into a deluge of grief and seeming hopelessness as we witnessed yet another mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We have almost become numb to the now dark routine of senselessness that these mass shootings inevitably bring. Parents in frantic desperation trying to reach their sons and daughters on mobile phones; first responders doing their very best to shepherd survivors to safety as they hunt down the shooter who invariably is armed with an automatic assault weapon; politicians mouthing their meaningless platitudes about ‘sympathy and prayers’ while they refuse to jeopardize the support they receive from lobbyist groups with their specious interpretation of the untouchable 2nd amendment. When will this madness end?
The growing perception of helplessness that many feel in the face of the litany of these ever-increasing tragedies, is not unlike the feelings of helplessness by those victimized by natural disasters that have recently up-ended the lives of so many in our country and world. Hurricanes and floods, earthquakes and devastating fires, leave us terrifyingly vulnerable to forces that we perceive are beyond our control.
God’s word in our first reading from Genesis, on this first Sunday of our Lenten spiritual journey, presents us with the familiar tectonic tragedy of the great flood that devastated the whole earth. Noah and his family, together with all the animals and creatures of creation that he gathered for survival, are at the end of this mythic crisis. And now, they hear the promise and its sign from the Lord, the covenant or bond of faithfulness between creator and created and the beautiful multicolored rainbow. Never again shall humankind experience the ultimate helplessness and hopelessness of such devastation – for the Lord will hold humanity in his loving embrace and this love will prove to be stronger than the forces of darkness, death and destruction.
My friends, the Season of Lent provides us each year to enter once again into a time of great remembrance of God’s faithful and loving promise to his people. It is a Season for us to be empowered once again to face the world with its temptations, armed now with the inner courage of knowing that we never face the darkness of this world alone or abandoned to be victimized by fate. Though the mystery of human evil can seductively challenge us to question the goodness of a loving God, we are called to set our eyes on Jesus, who in his own journey to the victimization of the cross, transformed that moment into a triumph over death through his resurrection to new life.
A harbinger of promise for Noah and his family as the flood waters receded, was the dove that he released to ascertain if the promise of a new beginning after devastation had begun. Eventually, the dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak, a sign that dry land was appearing and the beginning of new life.
Amid the heart rending stories told by the young people touched by this week’s tragedy in Florida, it was their passion for action and change, spoken courageously, boldly and loudly, to the present political and moral malaise, that is like the dove for Noah that held the sign of a new beginning. As Christians, we too are called to be that bold and courageous sign of God’s promise to a world that can so easily succumb to the pessimism and hopelessness that victims feel. Our hope now is in Christ, who, through his cross and resurrection, has redeemed the world.