A woman stands in the front hall of her house. Crying, she says to her son who is on his way out the door that he is the best son one could ever want and that she will always love him. And he turns back to her and says, “Mom, I’m just going to school.”
Mike Luckovich’s editorial cartoon in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”
Truly, a darkness covers our land. Seventeen people killed on Valentine’s Day. On top of Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech. And more. Orlando, San Bernardino, Las Vegas. And more.
Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness, spurned Satan’s temptations, lived with wild beasts and was tended to by angels. Darkness hung over Jesus’ land then, too: Women were considered inferior and carved out marginalized lives; the Pharisees and Sadducees had a stronghold on the people’s religious lives, promoting loyalty and adherence to the law rather than living lives of love. And people were sick: lame, blind, deaf and possessed by demons.
We know that our time is dark, too: Men and women continue to struggle to achieve a power balance. We still at times allow ourselves to be constrained by rules rather than letting love determine our decisions and actions. And, of course, people are still sick. And beyond all this, a festering plague of mass shootings that infests our country uniquely. What is to be done?
As Christians, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism, and she has driven us into the wilderness, just as she propelled Jesus into that period of intentional prayer and fasting. And we are challenged, commanded by God to find the way to peace, to find the way to love, to justice. Just as Jesus was tended to by the angels, we have angels among us now, teenager angels, teen angels. Enraged, defiant and determined angels.
Student survivors of the Florida Valentine’s Day massacre are organizing Marches for Our Lives – they are literally marching for their very lives — in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere on March 24, 2018. They aim to talk to politicians; they intend to see that what needs to be changed is changed so that our children do not keep dying at school.
On Ash Wednesday, the celebrant stands and invites the people to the observance of a Holy Lent. Let us commit this Lent to invite the angels to tend to us and show us the way. As people of faith, we can lovingly disagree about what needs to be done, what should be done first, second, third. What we cannot disagree on is that this cannot stand.
I invite you to join me this Lent in praying about this chronic heartbreak in our midst and asking God for guidance about what we can do to beat back the scourge. Let us together stand with God until, with God’s grace and help and mercy, light once again illumines our land.
Photograph © Nathaniel Elberfeld