Once again last week we were stunned with the news of two incidents (two days in a row) of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. I believe a total of 48 people were killed and many more wounded as result of these acts of gun violence. One can certainly understand how people would be afraid for their safety nowadays. These incidents can happen anywhere, anytime and in any place. There is a paradox in how we prepare for these things. Some believe we need to allow people in places with concealed weapon permits, others think we need to ban certain kinds of weapons from being put in the hands of people who don’t really need them nor should have them. Another popular option is having various groups receive active shooter training (schools, churches, hotels, etc.)
But whatever you do to prepare, there seems to be a paradox. We try and prepare for an unpredictable event, and how is that possible? We do pray at all of our services “for a Christian ending to our lives, painless, blameless, and peaceful and for a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.” But, I don’t get up each day expecting to be shot or to have a heart attack or get in a life ending car accident. But those things could very well happen. We also pray at Vespers with the seven prayers said by the priest that we “may rise in joyousness of soul to glorify Your goodness.” The 12 prayers of Matins also offer similar requests. So how do we hold these two tensions together as both true?
I would encourage you to read chapters 13 to 17 of the gospel of John, which is read at Holy Friday Matins (12 gospel service). I believe you will find some answers there. John 16:33-I find to be particularly poignant: “I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We can live out this paradox by understanding that we don’t have to figure this out. Our Lord tells us to be of good cheer for he has overcome and defeated what is wrong and twisted in this world. He overcame this by His Crucifixion and defeated evil by voluntarily laying down His life. He became the curse and took upon Him the evil of this world. He conquered it and by doing so, He rose from the dead. The only hope we have is to submit our lives to Him, and live in His victory over evil and not seek to conquer evil by our own limited means and resources. May we hold these conflicting realities in our lives together and still “rise” each day “in joyousness of soul.”
The blessing of the Lord be upon You,
The unworthy +Paul