Nearly a month after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a national movement encouraged students to “walk out” of their schools last Wednesday for seventeen minutes, one minute for each of the seventeen people killed in the massacre. According to CNN, “the nationwide protest is both a memorial and protest action . . . to pass stricter gun control laws.”
At Saint Brendan School, we honored the lives of the fallen students and faculty members with a safety day, prayers for their eternal rest, and a moment of silence at our morning school Mass. It is entirely fitting that a Catholic community pray for those who have died and for prudent legislation that would prevent such tragedies in the future.
I write this article a few days before Wednesday. I pray for the safety of all students around the country and hope that their courage will produce both a moving tribute to the victims and an enduring witness of the power of solidarity, especially in the face of such an outrageous act of violence.
Today we hear in the gospel Jesus’ own reaction to the death of his close friend, Lazarus. Jesus wept for the tragedy, and the heartbreak, and the outrage of death itself. He was deeply troubled by the loss that comes with death. The word “perturbed” used in the passage comes from the Greek word embrimaomai, which connotes anger. Indeed, death is an outrage because it is fundamentally opposed to God’s plan. The loss that comes with death is real, the sense of abandonment by those left behind palpable.
Yet, our most fundamental belief is that God himself experienced the outrage of death. All the terror and suffering of this fallen world has been felt by the Creator. We believe in a God who does not absolve himself from the conditions of this world or stand by idly, watching from a distance. We believe in a God who enters into our pain and into the fullness of the human experience. Through the Cross of Jesus Christ, God takes responsibility for the fallen world we have established. Christ’s death is nothing short of radical solidarity with the darkest parts of the human condition.
This week, we explore the meaning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, as we continue our message series, Mass Communication. The bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ are a tangible declaration of his voluntary death for our sake. What is loss of life for Christ becomes nourishment and food for us all. What is his sacrifice re-presented on the altar each Sunday becomes a feast. What is his resurrection from the dead as we receive the Risen Christ in communion is God’s pledge that, amid the suffering and sorrow of this life, one day we also will rise, every tear will be wiped away, and, like Lazarus, Christ will call us forth from our graves.
Death is an outrage but Christ has conquered it and the victory is ours. This is what we remember each Sunday, as we receive the Lord and say, “Amen,” which means “I believe.”
Father Roger Gustafson