Making Sense of the Connecticut Shootings
As we all stuggle to comprehend and to cope with the shooting of all the innocents in Connecticut, including not only the innocent children, but also the innocent adults, the best perspective I have seen came from Madison’s Bishop Robert C. Morlino, in his homily on Gaudete Sunday, December 16, 2012.
Bishop Morlino’s Homily Audio (click here).
Text of Bishop Morlino’s Homily:
Homily for Gaudete Sunday (12/16/2012)
-Bishop Robert C. Morlino
It seems like forever ago that I saw the movie The Exorcist. And it was forever ago in the sense that it was in the late 70’s, early 80’s – before some of the great young people here were even born.
But there was one line and one scene that stuck with me. And it was not any of the overblown portrayals of the devil’s presence. They did go overboard in that movie in certain instances and attributed to the devil certain things that the devil should not do. Just to make it more sensational. But there was also a lot of wisdom in that movie, I have to say. The scene that I remember so clearly, was when the old man, the saintly old exorcist, Fr. Merrin, arrived at the house where the little girl was possessed by the devil. And the younger priest/psychologist was briefing Fr. Merrin on the situation of the possession. And after much conversation, much study, much reflection, much conversation with the child’s mother, he said to Fr. Merrin: “there are at least three spirits possessing this little girl.” Fr. Merrin hadn’t even laid eyes on this little girl yet, hadn’t talked to anybody, and he said with great serenity: “no, Fr. Damien, there is only one.” There is only one.
It is Gaudete Sunday. The Lord calls us to rejoice. And all morning I’ve been wondering what the priests in Newtown, Connecticut are going to say to the people about “rejoice.” They may even pass over it. But there is no question that on a unique Sunday when we are called to rejoice, a cloud has been cast over these United States. A cloud of tragedy, and sadness, and sorrow – in the extreme. In the extreme. And people are looking for all kinds of solutions or explanations. People are coming forward and asking policemen, they’re asking psychiatrists, they’re asking news commentators, the same question that was asked of St. John the Baptist in this morning’s Gospel: “What should we do?”
And there are all kinds of answers being offered. A lot of legislative solutions. “Let’s make some new laws about guns – that’ll stop it.” “Let’s turn the elementary school into a fortress with armed guards – that’ll stop it.” As if somebody could legislate Satan out of existence. What can we do? There’s only one explanation for this, and the explanation is Satan. And the only one who can expel Satan is Jesus Christ, and the power of Faith. It’s hurtful to see many people now who have pushed and pushed and pushed to expel God from the government schools, now stand around and say “well, how could God allow this?” Maybe if you hadn’t kicked Him out, it wouldn’t have happened.
As Fr. Merrin says, there’s only one – one explanation. Satan himself. Because our country more and more is being delivered over to Satan. It happens in so many ways. But in order to clear the way for Satan, we’ve got to get God out of the way. So out of the government schools, put the nativity scenes out of sight, call the Christmas Tree a holiday bush – do whatever you can. Let’s build a culture that forgets God. And people forget the first sin of all time (after the sin of Adam and Eve): once Adam and Eve pushed God aside and wanted to take his place, the next sin was Cain killing Able. Murder. The moment the human person turns against God, that human person turns against his fellow human beings. It can’t be any other way.
President Obama even said there’s a pattern of this violent killing behavior developing in our country in recent years. That’s true. But the explanation is not a lack of more legislation. It’s not a lack of more psychiatrists and psychologists in the school, to keep an eye on every child because evidently, because of this pattern, the parents fail in this regard. There’s no solution there. The solution is in allowing the true beauty of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in so many beautiful things and in so many
beautiful ways, to calm the spirit of the human being. Beauty: the beauty of the Father, of the Son, of the Spirit.
Why is this happening? Jesus tells us according to St. John that the Holy Spirit wants to convince the world of three things:
1. The Holy Spirit wants to convince the world about sin, because they refuse to believe in Him.
2. The Holy Spirit wants to convince the world about justice, because Jesus is returning to the
Father, and the Kingdom of Justice will then be restored.
3. And the Holy Spirit wants to convince the world about judgment, because the Prince of This
World is condemned.
Who is up to the task of condemning the Prince of This World? Can that be done in legislation? Can we put three thousand psychiatrists on the Prince of This World? The Prince of This World is condemned by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And so, when the question is asked “What should we do?” The answer is “Turn back to God. Turn back to beauty. Turn back to truth. Turn back to what is good.” The problem underlying all of this is relativism. Everybody has his or her own beauty, his or her own goodness, his or her own truth. There is no real beauty, goodness, and truth. That in so many ways is the theme song of our own city here. And God help anybody who gets up and says “There is real beauty, goodness, and truth.” But that’s what we should do, because there’s only one explanation.
Bill Hemmer put it so beautifully at the end of the day on Friday when he said that “these beautiful children were waiting for Santa Claus. They were waiting for Santa’s visit. But instead the devil visited Newtown.” Makes me all the more convinced that his mother, who still thinks that he should be a priest, is right after all.
To say what the answer is, is not to take away the pain. Doesn’t affect that. God will use human love, human understanding, human generosity to heal over many years. Saying that it’s the devil doesn’t necessarily make those who are so deeply grieved feel better. I would never say that. But pointing to the devil as the one cause of this, Satan who is having his way with our World in so many ways, is the answer to the question “What should we do?” We should live out our baptism. We should renounce Satan, and all of his empty show, and all of his phony promises.
Our culture glories in Satan and his empty show, and his phony promises. John the Baptist’s theme during Advent is “repent”. That’s the solution, that’s where it starts. Not with more laws and regulations, not with three thousand new psychiatrists brooding over the public schools. It starts with repentance. And that’s why I’m afraid the solution might not start at all. Because along with God, that approach will be left in the dust, and everything else under heaven will be tried. As though we, by our legislation and our efforts, could cast out the Prince of This World. The Prince of This World is condemned by the Holy Spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we peel back all the layers of suffering, sorrow, and shock, for what has happened, as we peel that back, on Gaudete Sunday we can still rejoice. Because while so many have been deprived by our country and our culture of beauty, we have the beauty of the nativity scene.
We have the beauty of the shedding of Christ’s blood out of love. We have the beauty of the glorious resurrection and of Mary’s
glorious assumption into Heaven. We have all of that beauty, and that beauty causes us to celebrate here on Gaudete Sunday and to rejoice way down deep, behind all of those feelings we share with every other decent human being in the United States of America, we peel that back – underneath all of that there is still joy, because we have beauty in which to rejoice, beauty in which to celebrate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
One concrete note, here at the end: the Holy Father said recently: “What are the symptoms of deep joy and beauty in a person?” What are the symptoms? And he said one of the main symptoms is a sense of humor. Because a deep and abiding joy will express itself that way, humanly. It’s natural. The country and culture in which we live have lost the sense of humor. You joke about certain things, you go to jail – or worse.
Certainly the tragedy of Newtown is no joking matter. But among ourselves, smiles should be common. Laughter should be regular. A sense of humor should be alive and well. We should be happy. Not because we overlook Newtown, or because we’re hardened, so we don’t even allow ourselves to be struck by it. Not because of that, but because when we look to our deepest self, there is nothing other there than the glory and the beauty of the Holy Spirit, who will convince the world that the Spirit of This World has been condemned.
And if the Holy Spirit doesn’t do that in our lifetime, in the spirit of Advent we wait for something that will be as real as you sitting there this morning. And as we wait for the Prince of This World to be condemned, we do everything we can to give him a bad rap, and to reject his temptations. But even if we don’t see it in our lifetime, we rejoice because the Holy Spirit, not Satan, will have the last word.
And Satan will be condemned by the only final judge of the world – Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Praised be Jesus Christ!