Sandy Hook and the Pink Advent Candle Homily
Dec 17, 2018
Jennifer Hubbard’s life took a drastic turn the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. She and her husband, Matthew, had two children in the school — 6-year-old Catherine and 8-year-old Frederick. Catherine was one of 20 first-graders and six adults who lost their lives that tragic day.
And yet we have lit today the Pink Candle…the Joy Candle…with this anniversary each year around this same week of Advent…how is it possible to have that candle lit let alone remain lit…perhaps that is a response best left to the words, faith and example of Jenny Hubbard:
“In retrospect, faith is this transformative process where we grow closer to God. For me, that moment of truth was when we hit rock bottom as a family, as a mother, as people having lost a person that we loved so very, very dearly. In that rock-bottomness, that quiet reflective time is where your faith begins to grow — if you allow it.”
Advent is the season of growth. What after all is occurring in the silence and darkness of Mary’s womb if not the growth of God as the tiniest of babies…must not our hearts be like Mary’s womb…there is the darkness of course…but where is the silence that is every bit as important to the spiritual life as sunlight is to the life of earth?
As Jenny continues: “Over the past five years, I found that transformation comes not at dark moments, but in that quiet and stillness.
In the days after Catherine died, I went back to teaching Catherine’s religious-education class. I was really teaching myself about the beauty of God’s love: “Jesus loves you, this I know,” over and over again. Going back to the classroom once a week, I had to get dressed, leave the house and prepare for the class.
I think I was reminding myself and reinforcing what I knew and might have been questioning — God loves me, and there’s more to it.
At that point, I started writing in Magnificat.”
Now the word Magnificat is very significant for today’s celebration of Joy Sunday…the very word implies joy…in fact the greatest kind…the without limit kind…but not the kind to be confused with the feeling of happiness…as you know, feelings come and go…and nothing is more frustrating that being deliriously happy only to have life force its way back into our hearts and minds and bring with it more dominant and seemingly longer lasting feelings like impatience, tension, anxiety, fear, doubt, depression, rage, fatigue…the so called modern virtues…
The word Magnificat is taken from Mary’s Advent journey when bringing the hidden Christ to her Cousin Elizabeth’s house who through the prompting of the Holy Spirit exclaimed…blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb…and how is it possible that the mother of my Lord should come to me…to which Mary responds not in words spoken…but overcome with Heavenly joy erupts into a song called the Magnificat, singing these verses first:
My soul magnifies the greatness of the Lord…my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior…it’s where we get the word magnify from…meaning to enhance greatly like looking through a magnifying glass or more appropriately the word Magnanimous which means having an excessively generous, kind, and noble soul…
But she knows...the greatness of her soul is because of the greatness of God’s love…the greatest in fact…first preparing as the Immaculate Conception…so that at the Annunciation…the Angel Gabriel with world record shattering joy for all the Angelic Beings appears to their Queen, Mary and calls her not by the name Mary but by the very essence of who that name represents…Hail Full of Grace…though we of course say Hail Mary…so that being the fullness of God’s grace which is infinite…she can conceive and bear in her womb the author of all Grace…her author and creator…Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior…Her Savior in fact…
Anticipating His Son’s crucifixion and death on the Cross…the anticipated and fulfillment of all graces from Adam to the very end of existence…preserved her…saved her from the corruption of original sin and all sin…as He saves us from the corruption of all sin, suffering and death…same method just a different application of His saving grace.
Mary is least thinking about her joy and more so the joy this means for all who God loves beginning with her own family…her cousins Elizabeth, Zechariah and the baby John the Baptist who recognizing the presence of that same Savior…His Savior Cousin in the womb of Mary, though himself still in the womb of Elizabeth…leaps for joy…for joy…salvation has come…
but as they will all find out and discover…it is a process…a very demanding one and often a heart breaking and heart wrenching one…as Jenny Hubbard and all Sandy Hook Families know…but despite all the feelings of misery…one can still remain in a condition of joy…be led by that joy as though holding a candle in the darkness…despite all the torment Christ suffered on the Cross…no one was ever more filled with joy on this earth than He was on that Cross because He knew what it was all for…who it was all for…you and me…and how the labor pains had first to be experienced before never ending joy would be brought forth: and like a baby placed in his mothers arm…that joy would be placed in our souls…shaped like a Bethlehem Crib…where Christ could grow if we allow Him…if we tend to that growth…as any Parent knows…it’s one thing to birth a child…but that child must be raised…and that requires every day mountainous sacrifices…and despite the fatigue, the worry, the demands, disappointments and set-backs…the feelings of inadequacy and burn-out…the joy never leaves that parent’s soul because they love that child with every ounce of their being…
As Jenny shared:
The healing we’ve gone through is not a romantic version of something seen on HBO. It’s real and raw and ugly at times. I remember sitting at a stoplight and specifically exhausted in keeping it all together. And I let out a scream that to this day I don’t recognize who or where it came from. As soon as I did it, I realized — probably for the first time in my life —
I was real and authentic with God. At the end of my tirade and ranting and raving, I expected it to be over and that he would be done with me.
The opposite happened. There was a peace and stillness I will never be able to convey, but I realized I wanted more of that. And that would come through an authenticity with a God who loved me.
There are times still where I ask myself: What did I do to deserve this? Why is this the fabric of who I am? I think it’s okay as long as you don’t stay there. But in that space and quiet, you allow God to take that disappointment and anger and replace it.
How easily we forget and don’t want to realize we’re God’s children.
I know the reason that we could get up and do what we did in the days, weeks and months after Catherine died is because we had prayer armies behind us.
People who didn’t know my husband or me or Catherine said, “We’re praying for peace and comfort and blessing in your mourning.
Now, thankfully, I’m one of those people who can offer prayers on their behalf. My prayer is the same as prayers offered for me. There are so many times when I say to someone, “I’m praying for you.” As a Catholic community, that needs to be our response. There’s nothing that we can do or say to change how this story ends, but we can pray. And there’s power in that.”
She continues: Watching the news, an FBI director said something I thought about for a very long time. He said we need to think about the family and moral values. It has to do with who we are as people, our character as a people who call themselves sons and daughters of God. We really need to do some soul searching and take a good, hard look at who we are and the moral compass of who we are becoming. We need to come to an understanding that we’ve gone wrong.
At the heart of what’s happening is the lack of attention to our own moral fiber. What do we put importance on in our lives? If we’re going to claim the title of God’s children, then we need to start acting like we are. It takes the willingness to look in the mirror and want to change. What better time than Advent?”
We can’t truly rejoice in our salvation unless we face up to the horrors and filth of sin that requires that we be saved…How often being snatched from the precipice of death…near death experience people experience a euphoria recognizing the seriousness of what they have been saved from?
Or finding out that you are in an extended remission from a more than usually bad cancer…we must be bold, honest and humble and dare to look at Christ upon that Cross who adoringly gazes down on us…despite our ignoring him or like those soldiers entertaining, distracting themselves by playing dice unconcerned about the drama taking place in their midst that is for them…we must open our eyes and with compassion see His sufferings in all people, especially the Adam Lanzas…open our ears that we may hear Christ say loud and clear…I thirst…to which with our open hearts we must respond…You thirst lord…how can I satisfy your thirst…what can I give you Lord…to which He will say…your Sins, your faith, your trust, your love! As Jenny so courageously did and does.
I do not think there is anyone who teaches us the value of a daily Christ centered life more than Jenny Hubbard…especially in an age and culture where if someone so much as looks at you funny you cease going to Church…and yet…she loses her baby girl in the most horrific of ways and no sooner is teaching CCD and still attending Mass each week…praying faithfully each day even if at times with clenched fists…screaming…
that the joy of Christ…authentic soul saving joy is not the joy of every so often going to Church…but every week…and then every day living what you celebrate…being that sacrifice…being like Mary who carrying the Christ child in her womb to the hill country of Judea to her Cousin, her parents her husband…so in receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist we become authentic Christ bearers and Christ Givers...just like Mary or dare I say more than the Advent Mary because she bore a Savior who had yet paid the ultimate sacrifice…whereas we receive the Resurrected Christ in the Holy Eucharist so that wherever during the week we happen to go…wherever our feet happen to fall or to whoever we happen to go…we have Christ…we bring Christ…please God…we give Christ…
This is the faith and every day Joy that Jenny Hubbard…both a Mary and Christ bearer brings to us each Advent…each terrible anniversary of Sandy Hook….and the part we must play every day…not every so often or just when tragedy strikes…like a married couples vows we must be about our love of the faith in good times and in bad, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health…for better or worse till death do us part and God reunite us again forever in the joys of Heaven…