He asked the President’s mother, Mrs. Rose Kennedy, how she managed to cope with the violent death of her two sons. She gently corrected him, “It was three sons. Joe died in the war.” The interviewer was Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., recently declared Venerable by Pope Francis. Mrs. Kennedy continued, “The only way I could get through the loss of President Kennedy, my son Jack, as his body was lying in state, in a flag-draped coffin, in the Rotunda of the capitol, was to place my hand on the coffin and recall that our Blessed Mother too lost her Son to a violent death.”
I was thinking of that interview and Mrs. Kennedy’s response as the news about another senseless attack on innocent school children and teachers took place again this week this time in Parkland, Florida. There are parents, especially mothers, who are grieving at the loss of their beautiful children or of a young teacher.
What do we do? We have tried introducing legislation in the congress and in state legislatures, we have tried public debates, media campaigns, political solutions, and the problem of gun violence only seems to get worse. Certainly we have to keep trying and to look at the causes of these outbursts of violence against anonymous, innocent victims. We cannot give up.
Consider this as perhaps the gift of Divine Providence this week. Right after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, he burst forth from the waters, the heavens were torn open, the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, the voice of His Father boomed, “You are my Beloved; in you I am well pleased.” Immediately, the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan.
That happens to be this Sunday’s Gospel. Is this providential. We are tempted to give up and give in to the senseless violence, to despair and feel powerless and hopeless. All are genuine responses that tempt us. In his struggle with the evil one Jesus does not back down. He confronts the Evil One at every turn.
Evil in our own day needs to be confronted and defeated, whether it comes from our own hearts, from neighbors, disturbed and sad individuals, senseless violence in our streets and schools, etc. How do we confront this epidemic of evil? We have to keep looking for solutions. However, the most powerful resource we have in our world is the God-given gift of prayer. As Jesus prayed in the desert for 40 days, he received all that he needed to overcome the powerful forces of evil.
Each Lent, we enter the school of Lent that draws us into the desert of our own lives. The Church has carefully learned from the experience of the Master in the desert and assembled for us in the school of Lent all that we need to overcome the evil within us and around us. Let’s not lose this opportunity to pray, fast and reach out in charity to all in our Lenten school.
Someone has said, “Joy is sadness overcome.” I believe Mrs. Kennedy’s remarkable faith and prayer life brought her joy amid so much tragic loss. Our country can recover its joy beyond the present sadness, but we can’t do it alone. We need each other and most of all we need to reach out in prayer to the Lord. He is waiting to hear from us and to renew our joy.
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Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.