Sandy Hook Christmas Hope
Dec 20, 2017
Father John describes the scene as he arrived at St. Rose of Lima: Easily a thousand people packed a church too small for such a crowd. And another thousand massed outside.
Although they could not get inside the church, people did not opt to leave, Father Cameron writes: “They stayed because they had to be there,” he recalls. “The atrocity had incited an instant Advent: the urgent need for God amidst the pain of human powerlessness. Together, we had become expectation.”
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
This is the point during Mass “where my tears flow steadily,” Jennifer Hubbard shares whose daughter, Catherine, was killed 5 years ago this week at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
She explains: “It is then that the pain becomes overwhelmingly raw. The wound that I think has started to heal is suddenly ripped open.
Lambs are innocent, exposed, and vulnerable, and yet they are always protected. My lamb is Catherine. I knew her cry before it came from her lungs. I knew it was Catherine calling “Mamma” even though she was in a room full of children calling out.
I knew where she was, even when I couldn’t see her. She is the lamb I knew had been called home before I truly understood what had happened.
Just knowing — it is a gift God gave me when he placed her next to my heart for nine months. A gift he gave me when he allowed the quiet beating of our hearts to find rhythm next to each other’s.
… “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1). It was Jesus who was waiting for her as he welcomed his flock. He led her to still waters, and she fears no evil. She is the lamb, innocent and vulnerable — naïve to what the world was capable of. She is sheltered under vigilant watch; she is whole and is resting peacefully at his feet.
And I too am his lamb. It is myself he has cradled across his shoulders. He knows my heart aches to feel the beating of hers against mine. He acknowledges my cry, even when it hasn’t yet left my lungs. He hears my quiet calling through all the voices and comes to me.
I know that he will guide me as I seek his guidance, and that he will answer my voice when I call out. He continues to scoop me up and carry me when the days seem too much. He shows his unending love in the simplest things that are undeniably Catherine. In doing so he reminds me that his promise has not been broken. He reminds me that one day he will gently lift me from his shoulders and place me beside her. When that day comes, I will close my eyes and relish the quiet rhythm of our beating hearts."
Not a month after Catherine died, she spoke to other parents, helping walk them through the grief that seemed now to be synonymous with Newtown. When Father Cameron asked her “where she found the strength to do what most people would consider impossible,” she told him simply: “There is a Presence that is so much better than ourselves, and we have to acknowledge it.”
Jenny Hubbard reminds us that those who bear the heaviest crosses can help save us from spiritual poverty.
Pope Francis talks a lot about weeping. He urges it, in fact to be who we really are: people living in communion (solidarity is a word he uses a lot), born of the same Creator, with responsibilities for the gifts we’ve been blessed with.
Since the Church is the Body of Christ, if one member is suffering, then we can’t help but reach out to those in pain if we are who we say we are.
Pope Francis says:
Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: “poor soul!”, and then go on our way.
It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured and vindicated. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others.
In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!
Today’s first reading from Isaiah is crucial. It is the exact passage that Jesus used when He entered His hometown Synagogue in Nazareth. By doing so, He was brazenly announcing that He was the Christ, the Messiah. Initially the people are shocked…then become angry…after all, they know who this Jesus is, an ordinary son of an ordinary carpenter named Joseph. How dare He! And in response to what should have been the greatest news they ever received, they seek to kill Him and toss Him over a cliff.
How sad that so little has changed, especially during this season of Advent when the culture seeks to crush and kill that Spirit of the coming Savior and with it all the peace, joy and healing He so desperately wants to give to us. Jesus not only becomes one of us…but He literally takes upon Himself all the sufferings, sins and deaths of the world.
The word Messiah means anointed one. Today John the Baptist is baptizing in a town called Bethany. This name is very significant since it is one of those rare Gospel stories where all Gospel include an account of a woman anointing Jesus, which according to Him is for His death and burial. However when one compares these passages it seems that there is a contradiction…in one passage his feet are anointed while in another his head is…so which is it…it is both:
Passover lambs were chosen six days in advance. At this point, they would take the anointing oil and rub it into the ankles and feet, prior to them being inspected for a further 5 days.
So six days before the Passover, Jesus is at someone’s house in Bethany and He is anointed for burial by having pure oil rubbed on His feet and ankles. That was His first anointing prior to His crucifixion.
The second anointing happens two days before Passover. The Passover lamb was anointed this second time on their head to announce that they were free from disease or blemish. The head of Jesus was anointed two days before He was crucified and was a sign that He was well, without sickness or defect.
Then the Passover lambs were sacrificed on Passover from the ninth hour.
We read that following His second anointing, Jesus and the twelve disciples return to Jerusalem from Bethany on the next day, to partake of the Passover meal. This was followed by His arrest, trial and crucifixion the following day when Jesus died around the ninth hour, about 3pm, which was the same afternoon that the Passover lambs were killed.
But lest we forget…that same Spirit of the Lord is upon us who receive it at Baptism…whose fullness we then receive in the Anointing of Confirmation. This same Spirit who anoints and sanctifies the sufferings of the sick in the Anointing of the Sick, allowing their sufferings to have the same redemptive value that Christ’s suffering had during His passion.
This is the solidarity that Pope Francis and Jenny Hubbard allude to. That we too enter as healers into the fullness of the human condition, not to make it worse by our sins but improve and strengthen the health, joy and holiness of the Body of Christ by way of our faith and unrelenting hope. That with Christ we too are anointed ones.
In the witness of her suffering and testimony to faith, Jenny Hubbard gives us the greatest gift.
Jenny Hubbard gives us something that no legislation can ever provide: a blessed expectation. We can rise above torment. She has the consoling peace of one who has real faith.
She isn’t a parent and wife and neighbor or friend only for her sake or even for the sake of the other, but because she desperately wants to see the face of God because she knows that’s what she was made for. In her witness, she helps the nominally faithful want what she has, desire what she desires, find the peace she has through a graceful union with her Catherine.
When we hear these words at Mass, after the consecration, just before we are invited to partake in the greatest feast on earth, do we drink these words in?
“Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world!” A lamb is a baby sheep.
“Before Mass the Sunday after the shooting,” Father Cameron recalls, “someone suggested that Christmas should be canceled that year.” He writes: “But what but Christmas could save us from such crushing sorrow and rescue us from evil? Only the tender presence of the Son of God become flesh as a baby in the Incarnation and in the host at Holy Communion.