July 27, 2012


Senseless violence in Colorado is painful and confusing for all

After praying the Angelus on Sunday, July 22, the Holy Father spoke of his profound shock at “the senseless disaster which took place in Aurora, Colo.":

“I share the distress of the families and friends of the victims and injured, especially the children,” Pope Benedict XVI said. “Assuring all of you of my closeness in prayer, I impart my blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the risen Lord.”

There can be no explanation, and no excuse, for the senseless violence that took place in Aurora, Colo, on July 20.

Violence—the unjustified use of physical force—is always senseless. It accomplishes no good. It only causes harm, often deadly, without serving any useful purpose.

But the kind of mindless violence that was inflicted on innocent people—especially children—in a movie theater during the early hours of a Friday morning goes beyond “senseless” to the horrifying actions of madmen who inflict crimes of genocide and holocaust on fellow human beings.

Nothing justifies actions such as these. They are pure evil, works inspired by malevolent spirits who hate all that is good and innocent, and who use poor twisted souls like the young man in Aurora, Colo., as instruments of their destructive hatred.

Harsh words? Absolutely. Anyone who doubts the presence or the effectiveness of the Evil One needs only to look around.

The same weekend that we mourned the fact that our friends and neighbors in Colorado lost their lives, more than 100 people were killed in Iraq by Al Qaeda terrorists. That same day, violence escalated in Syria, where another 100 people lost their lives. And the list goes on.

Violence begets violence. The inhumanity of human beings toward one another is as old as the biblical account of Cain and Abel. Left to our own devices, we can be unspeakably cruel to one another.

That’s why we need God—to show us how to live peacefully by observing his commandments out of justice and love.

We are right to turn our attention to Jesus Christ in times of terrible, senseless tragedy. His story is one of monstrous evil overcome by God’s love and goodness. He was abused, tortured and killed in spite of—or perhaps because of—his innocence. He was crucified for no good reason with no legal or moral justification. He was murdered by madmen who allowed themselves to be used by the powers of darkness in one of human history’s most shameful episodes.

Christ knows the pain and suffering of all victims, and their families and friends. He experienced the same kind of senseless violence. He saw firsthand the evil that we human beings are capable of, but he didn’t hold it against us.

He forgave us and promised to send us his Holy Spirit to help us live not as madmen, but as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to each other. Christ gave us his peace, and he challenged us to hope that senseless violence can be overcome by the transforming power of his love.

In the wake of the Aurora, Colo., massacre, we have two choices. We can become bitter and angry at the horrifying loss of life and meaningless violence inflicted on the safety and security of innocent people watching a movie. Or we can forgive those who have trespassed against us and pray for peace—in our own hearts and in the hearts of all who seek to harm others in any corner of the world.

Before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote, “Man is so made that God can enter into union with him. Man, who seems at first sight to be a kind of unfortunate monster produced by evolution, at the same time represents the highest possibility the created order can attain. And this possibility becomes a reality, even if it be amid the saddest kind of failure on the part of the human race.”

Last week, we witnessed monstrous inhuman behavior on the part of a fellow human being. We also witnessed in his intended victims courage and compassion and bravery—“the highest possibility the created order can attain.”

Why the two exist side by side in the human community is a mystery that none of us understands or can ever hope to solve.

We don’t understand the mystery of sin and evil. But we trust in God’s love and forgiveness, and we hope for a better world to come—both here on Earth and in our heavenly home.

—Daniel Conway

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