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Lost innocents

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The past several days have been marked by unfathomable sorrow and inconsolable grief. As we have listened to the stories, watched the photos of deceased children flash across our screens, and witnessed families grapple with the depth of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy, most of us have floundered beneath waves of unanswerable questions. How did this happen? Why would anyone do something like this? Where was God?

But everything about this most recent and terrible act of violence makes clear why our God "pitched his tent" with us, and became one of us in everything except sin. He did so to show us how to love, to make God visible to us, and more -- to make us visible to one another. God entered our world as it is, full of exploited and invisible souls. He came into the darkness to lead us into the light of his face.

It is no coincidence that the coming of the Infant Jesus was heralded not only by angels and a new star, but also by King Herod's slaughter of the innocents. Victims of a tyrant's vanity, the other babies of Bethlehem prefigured the long procession of Christian martyrs. Their short lives testify to the truth that darkness does not recede without a fight.

But if we ask where was God then, the answer is that he was there. God, too, was a child of Bethlehem. He, too, was threatened. And he, too, would eventually be executed by decree.

It is both heart-wrenching and infuriating to see human life end so abruptly. I think that is because deep inside, every one of us knows that death is always wrong. No matter if the one who dies is 6 or 96. No matter if someone succumbs to illness, or accident, or a deliberate act of violence. The fact is that we were not created with death in mind. It was never intended to be part of the plan.

We were created for love, a love that gives life. We were not made to be used or disregarded. And when we reach for some morsel of understanding to help us think through what is unthinkable, we ought to begin by acknowledging the disconnect between our purpose and our world.

For some time, our society has defended a "right" to count some people valuable and others disposable. Capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, all these are assaults on human dignity. While legally sanctioned, they are no less violent than the events that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Poor, sick, disabled, young, old, inconvenient: none of us is safe in a culture of death.

I've decided not to tell our kids that they are safe in school or anywhere else. Evil does exist. While I hope with all my being that things like what happened in Newtown just don't happen, or can't happen, or won't happen to us, there are no guarantees. Well, perhaps there is one: God will be with us. In darkness and in day, in grief and gratitude, in courage and in fear, God is with us. There is no place he will not run to meet us, no situation he will not enter. Indeed, wherever we go, God is already there, surrounding us with love, and waiting with open arms. May he be gracious to the Newtown innocents, and bless all who mourn them with peace.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.

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