You never get used to it, or at least you never should. For the taking of even one life ought always to be a tragedy, and the kind of murder marathons that have marked so many of our cities in recent years has only multiplied the equation. But when a mass shooting involves children, such as what happened on Tuesday in Uvalde, there is nothing left to call it other than pure evil.
To be certain, even with no clue yet as to a motive, it has been said that the shooter must have been mentally ill, and that may indeed have been the case. And other voices instantly pinned the blame on those who manufacture and sell automatic weapons and other guns in this country, a sentiment I can share at least in part, though strict gun laws in several states don’t seem to have curtailed their misuse in those places either.
We could likewise lament a culture that has downgraded the critical importance of families, particularly in-the-home fathers, pushed religious or moral beliefs out of the public square almost entirely, and that daily celebrates character assassination in a cyber universe that looks more like the old Wild West than any brave new world. For coupled with an almost complete loss of civility elsewhere, the result has been a society that is increasingly both sad and even sociopathic, a world that clearly remains in rebellion against the One who made it.
Still, what we saw in Uvalde was something far worse, I think. For this was a manifestation of the same de-animating force that arose long ago in Egypt when a ruthless pharaoh decreed that all the male babies of their Hebrew slaves be thrown into the Nile and drowned. It’s likewise the same satanic spirit that appeared when a jealous king in Jerusalem ordered the slaughter of the babies of Bethlehem, one of whom was said to have been born the new King of the Jews.
And it manifests the same murderous impulse that led to the intentional extermination of six million Jewish men, women, and children eighty years ago in Europe, as well as the shooting in cold blood of civilian women and children in Ukraine right now.
For in the end, evil doesn’t care about the age or innocence of its victims. It only seeks to serve itself and its master. Indeed, whether or not the shooter in Uvalde was “possessed” by the father of lies, it’s clear that he was one of his agents or recruits in the spiritual war that is raging all around us, even if we don’t quite see it.
All of which is why in our baptismal vows we intentionally ask if converts to the faith will renounce evil in whatever form that it may present itself, resisting the devil and all his vainglory. For unfortunately, the road to spiritual ruin is one that all too many seem obliviously happy to walk upon this day. Deciding to go in the other direction is thus a constant conscious choice each of us must make.
Our hearts are broken today as we think of the children whose lives were so prematurely snuffed out, as well as their classmates who will forever bear the scar of having been at Robb Elementary on Tuesday and witnessed their own massacre of the innocents. And we similarly grieve for the parents and families of those who died, knowing there is nothing harder on this earth than for a mother or father to have to bury their child. We can’t begin to absorb the hurt that will now live in their hearts. But we can cry alongside them and commend them to an eternal Father who knows exactly what it is to have lost His Only Son to the evils of this world.
And we can continue to pray: “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” For His really is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Even on sad days such as these.