It is very hard to know how to react to such evil as was visited on a school in Connecticut.
Clearly our first reaction is prayer: prayers for those killed, and for those left bereft; prayers too for the troubled young man at the centre of it all.
But beyond that, I was interested in my own instinctive reaction: which was to distance myself from the tragedy. Oh, it's Americans,... it's their crazy gun laws,... it is, in some sense, other.
However, that is not true. It is evil, and evil I know is very close to home.
So rather than create a reassuring distance, perhaps we should look in the mirror.
I do not know, and do not care to guess, the state of mind of a young man who commits such an action.
But what I do know is that I repeatedly choose evil over good; and I have no excuses. I have the Faith, the availability of Grace through the sacraments; I am surrounded by people who love me, and suffer no serious disadvantage of any kind. Yet still I sin. And every time I sin, I put myself on the side of the one behind this latest outrage.
And that is the other key to our reaction, perhaps. To recognise that behind this, and every evil, there is a malign intent. From the Devil's point of view, in fact, the slaughter of the innocents may be inherently satisfying, given his hatred of life and innocence. But it does not win him souls: by their very innocence they are surely safe now. So perhaps we should consider what his real goals are in such manifestations of evil, and respond accordingly.
It seems to me that the fruits he would like to reap from a tragedy such as this are an increase of despair, of hatred, of human misery leading to sin. So our response, surely must be to pray for and share hope, to love more, and to comfort and sustain those tempted to hate, to despair or in misery.
Of course, we may be in no position to do that with regard to the people directly affected, but if we look around us, we may well find others who will benefit from such an approach.
It is indeed tempting to despair of the modern world: how have we come to this? But as the title of this post reminds us, we have always had evil with us, and the Devil has always claimed innocent blood when he can.
So our response must be the one that he does not want; the response of love, infused with hope, inspired by faith.
For the Cross is meaningless without the Resurrection, and human suffering likewise is meaningless unless seen through a perspective of Faith, Hope and Charity.
A Collect for Asparagus - Kelvin Holdsworth has already done most of the jokes about Worcester Cathedral's service of blessing asparagus. So instead I shall just offer up this Colle...
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