Metropolitan Stefan Soroka
Our hearts and minds are filled with emotions surrounding the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School where twenty children and six staff lost their lives. We, like that community, are in shock at how such an awful thing could occur. It is heartwarming to see many turn to prayer in their desire to seek comfort for those who were painfully struck by loss. The media have consistently shown how many people have turned to God in prayer, and have gathered in their various Churches in the community to offer mutual support.
We will shortly proclaim that God is with us at Christmas! God is with us through the immense care and concern being shown to the many people who are hurting. God is with us through the heartfelt prayers offered for the families. God is with us through the testimony of admiration and appreciation being shown for the teachers and staff who showed such bravery in a very difficult time. God is with us through the many professional people who have been involved throughout the time of dealing with the tragedy, and who will continue to journey with the families and with the community. God is with us in the sharing of grief and anguish on a national scale.
God is with us through the inspiring example given to us by people such as the school principal who lost her life. She offered daily reminders to the children of her school to express kindness to others. This speaks loudly of who she was. Her words of advice are a living testimony of her and a call for our understanding and goodness to be celebrated with others daily. Reporters shared how many people spoke of going home and giving extra special hugs to their children and to their loved ones upon hearing of the tragedy. They spoke of their intentions to express their love for their children and for others who serve with dedication in the schools and in the community. So many signs of “hug a teacher today”.
God is with us, my brothers and sisters in Christ. God is speaking to us through the vivid expression of feelings, the heartfelt expression of gratitude, and the wisdom of advising everyone to cherish every minute of life with loved ones and with others God grants us to journey with throughout life. The best testimony you and I can give to the lives so tragically lost is to live fully, expressing kindness, gratitude, and love. It conquers evil. It overcomes anger. It helps to prevent more such sadness in life. God helps us to deal with such tragedies and to do our part in helping to prevent other such tragedies. God is with us to listen to our grief. He enables us to offer mutual support and love. He encourages us to choose to live more fully with others He gives us to love and to care for in life.
The media reports shared how the people of Sandy Hook are committed to not let the tragedy take away from their celebration of Jesus’ birth. It has become an even more special invitation to be with Jesus and to be with others whom they love, to celebrate Christmas together. They are showing us how to turn a tragedy into an opportunity to listen to the whispers of God to them, to you and to me. They are choosing to listen and to realize God’s presence. God is with us! Let us join with them in holy prayer. Let us also choose to celebrate at the banquet of life – the abundant life in Jesus Christ in our celebration of Christmas.
Choose to live life fully in celebrating Christmas in your holy Church. Choose to express your appreciation for the gift of life, the gift of love shared by God with you and with me in Jesus, and the gift of life and love shared with our loved ones. A Blessed Christmas!