Praying for Victims of Yet Another Mass Shooting

by Christine Sine

Love not fear.001

There are only two feelings
Love and fear.
There are only two languages
Love and fear.
There are only two activities
Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results
Love and fear, love and fear.

This poem by Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig  is what comes to my mind as I read the reports of yet another mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino California. It is only a few weeks since I wrote this prayer for the victims of the bombings in Paris. Now I am grieving for more victims of violence and their families. I grieve for those who respond with the desire for more violence and with overwhelming fear and hate. I grieve for all of our society as we grapple with how to respond.

The rhythm of violent death is one that cuts across all our lives like a bolt of lightning. The shockwaves reverberate through our society. Hate, anger, intolerance rise to the surface. We take sides. We lash out at those who want to respond in ways we find unacceptable – more guns, less guns, more restriction, less control, the arguments will never be resolved. And our own anger and violent responses can easily rise to the surface.

Let Us Respond With Love Not Fear.

My mind goes back to the shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June by a young man who first spent an hour in Bible study and prayer with his victims. Friends and relatives did not responded with hate but with love and forgiveness.

The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons Sr., one of the victims,  said,

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof—everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win. . . .

And its true. The shooter hoped to start a race war, with hatred at its center. The victims’s families created a wave of love instead that I think could ignite a movement.

We all have the choice to respond to the brutalities of our world with despair, anger and bitterness or with hope, love and compassion. If we respond in anger and bitterness the violence and atrocities grow and multiply. If we respond in love and with compassion, God’s presence is able to shine through and transform the horrors into hope. This does not belittle the horror of atrocities such as this but it does make us aware that our God, who is scarred and disfigured by all our sins, our God who suffers with us in the midst of pain, will one day make all things new.

Lets Drive Out Fear and hate With Love.

Advent reminds us that in the coming of Christ we also look forward to the advent of a new heaven and a new earth in which all suffering and pain and death will be done away with. At the centre of our faith is the hope that through Christ all that is distorted by evil can be transformed into the goodness and glory of God.

In meditating on Leunig’s prayer I wrote the following reflection based on 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.”

Fear is of this world, love is from God
Fear closes us in, love opens us up
Fear builds walls, love constructs bridges
With fear nothing is possible, with love all things are possible
Fear destroys, love creates
Fear kills, love gives life.

God may we live by the love that flows from your spirit, the love that casts out fear and evil. May we reach out with care and compassion to all those who are hurting and in need. May we drive out the world’s fear with your perfect love. Amen

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