January 1, 2013
This past week, a few of the brothers and I visited the St. Rose of Lima Youth Group in Newtown, CT. The parish will have 8 funerals this next week due to the tragic shooting that happened the Friday before at the local elementary school.
At times like this, no words can really do justice to provide the comfort and consolation that so many long to receive. Our goal at the youth gathering was just to be there. We prayed, comforted, and tried to bring hope in such a desperate situation. I experienced the intensity of the situation as we arrived and were greeted by police officers in the parking lot as well as the Knights of Columbus providing security at the front door. As soon as the Holy Hour started, I remember being moved by how many of the youth were there but also by the spirit of fear that was in the room. This gathering was supposed to be the night before, but due to a threat during the Sunday masses the day before, the event was cancelled. Needless to say, many hearts were afraid.
Thank God no press was allowed in the gathering. Large signs in the parking lot and on the building made it very apparent that the press was not welcome. The shooting has certainly been the story for days now, and even though we don’t have TV, I am aware of what those in the media world are talking about. Of course everyone is looking for answers and asking all the questions of how something like this could happen, and there are legitimate conversations that must happen about guns and violence. But being there with the young people that night, I couldn’t help but wish for one moment that a news camera could be recording live so the whole nation could experience for one moment what I did that night.
The Lord came. And everyone in the room reached out to Him. My heart was filled with the realization and wanted to exclaim: “This is the answer!” The young people, full of fear and carrying the burdens of so much violence and despair, reached out to Jesus. He is the answer, and they hungered for Him in this moment. As the Holy Hour continued, I couldn’t help but experience the fear being lifted as many experienced the comfort of Jesus who comes to bring consolation and peace to those who mourn. As Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was processing around the room, the young people literally had their hands raised and extended in the direction of our Lord. They reached out to Him. And He comforted them. In the room that night, so many young people, including their parents, experienced the true message of Advent and the brilliance of Christianity. Our God comes to us, in the joys of life but even more so in the trials and the times where nothing makes sense. Jesus comes to us, and He brings us the peace and consolation that we need and also gives meaning and purpose to our suffering. Words cannot explain what happened last week, but the presence of Jesus gives us hope. We don’t know the reasons why things happened the way they did, but we do know that Jesus is Lord of our lives, and he was that Lord of those in that room that night. Experiencing this, I know in my heart that these young people will be OK. Through the fear and the tears and the questions they encountered Jesus, who broke into their suffering and proclaimed, “I am here.”
Leaving the gathering that night, I experienced so many emotions, but more than anything, a hope-filled conviction that Jesus is with us. Our Father in Heaven is watching over us and leading us despite the horror-filled situations and tragedies of life. The truly moving encounter of the evening for me was to experience the hunger and longing these young people had for Jesus. It is like they were tired of all the things in life that haven’t worked. Tired of the media who couldn’t give them answers to their questions and tired of the endless updates on Facebook and Twitter that just reminded them of the horror. They were afraid and they went in search to find meaning and purpose to what they were feeling, and in their search they found our God who had come in search of them. Kneeling down, with their hands raised and extended to the real and true presence of Jesus, they cried out for Him.
For the first time in my whole life, I feel like I sincerely experienced the true meaning of Advent. Jesus comes to those who seek Him and comes every moment we turn our hearts to Him. He is the hope that our hearts long for, and He is the answer to all our questions. I myself was renewed in my desire to cry out to the Lord to come in a more powerful way into my life. This is the cry of Advent. This is the cry of our hearts when nothing else makes sense or satisfies us.
For weeks to come we will hear many opinions about how to recover and how to prevent something like this from happening again. There is no question that many bright and qualified people will take part in the conversation and propose a way for the future. But what gives me hope are the young people and the choice they made that night. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn from them. In the end, Jesus is the answer. Jesus is our hope, He is our victory, and He is our peace. And truly blessed are those who mourn and reach out to Him and hunger for Him in this time, for they will truly be satisfied.
Come Lord, do not delay.
Br. Angelus Immaculata Montgomery, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary