But, you see, she isn't angry. God is. And she knows this because she sees what's been happening in 'Murica. No, we can't know the mind of God but we have two eyes in our head, she said. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around, she said.
I mean, what's wrong with you, she asked? Wake up, she said.
When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and there is at least one thing that should never be said. The night after Alex died I was sitting in the living room of my sister's house outside of Boston, when the front door opened and in came a nice-looking, middle-aged woman, carrying about eighteen quiches.
When she saw me, she shook her head, then headed for the kitchen, saying sadly over her shoulder, "I just don't understand the will of God."
Instantly I was up and in hot pursuit, swarming all over her. "I'll say you don't, lady!" I said.
For some reason, nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that
God doesn't go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths. And Jesus spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy, and muteness.Which is not to say that there are no nature-caused deaths--I can think of many right here in this parish in the five years I've been here--deaths that are untimely and slow and pain-ridden, which for that reason raise unanswerable questions, and even the specter of a Cosmic Sadist--….
The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is "It is the will of God." Never do we know enough to say that. My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God's heart was the first of all our hearts to break.
That's why immediately after such a tragedy people must come to your rescue, people who only want to hold your hand, not to quote anybody or even say anything, people who simply bring food and flowers--the basics of beauty and life--people who sign letters simply, "Your brokenhearted sister."
But like God herself, Scripture is not around for anyone's protection, just for everyone's unending support.
I swear to you, I wouldn't be standing here were I not upheld.
Try not to engage them in theological conversation. Instead, try being kind as a response, even if that means you simply share a gentle smile, wish the person God's peace, and move on with the rest of your day. As St. Francis allegedly taught his brothers, you may be the only Gospel anyone ever reads.
I know. It's hard. It's really hard. I'm obvsiously still working out the encounter I had with that person in the market. I walked away but she's clearly been following me around for days.
I urge you to take consolation in the words of this grieving father and caring, sensitive pastor.
How else would they be standing there, talking with the POTUS who got into office in part because of a $30 million contribution to his campaign from the NRA and who still thinks arming and training teachers - more guns - is the answer to the gun problem.
May the scar that is forming in the broken places of the soul of our nation become strong enough to overcome the evils of power and greed.