Monday, September 26, 2016

It Is Heartbreaking to Bury Our Children

Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, his pitching dominance, his expressive face, and the wreckage of the boat.

Jose Fernandez, who came to the United States on a raft as a refugee from Cuba at age 15, who rose to become the ace of the Miami Marlins pitching staff and one of the most promising young baseball players of this generation, was killed along with two others in a boating accident on Sunday morning, September 25, 2016.

He was only 24 years old.

Lord, grant him and his friends eternal rest, and console loved ones, friends, Marlins fans, baseball lovers, everybody.

People have spoken of his ebullience and vitality on and off the field, his active presence in the community, his devotion to his mother and grandmother. He had grown up by the sea, and had risked his life three times to cross successfully the Florida Straits in order to take sanctuary in America. Not surprisingly, he was an avid deep sea fisherman who spent much time on the water.

But baseball was his greatest love, and he was an artist on the pitcher's mound. We just saw him on television last week pitch a masterpiece, shutting out our Washington Nationals, allowing only three base runners while striking out 12. We were tearing our hair out even as we were dazzled in admiration.

Who knew it would be his last game? I know that baseball seems utterly meaningless in the face of this terrible tragedy, but it was a human connection that brought us to know something of this young man.

I have reached the age where I look upon the younger generation with a father's concern (after all, this is my children's generation) and also a father's joy. We want young people to blossom, grow, flourish, do great things. We ourselves are full of memories which enable us to be mentors to the young and to rejoice in the continuation of the human adventure.

O God, it is heartbreaking to bury our children!

In these recent months we have seen the lives of young people with great talents and promising futures suddenly and ruthlessly broken off. Their particular abilities drew our attention to them, but these abilities were not the source of their value as persons.

Every young person is a fresh promise, a possibility for a unique unfolding of human life. And though we know that their future will be full of disappointments, we also know that it is a life worth living. And their freshness helps us to remember that in the present moment we too are young, we too are offered the possibility to be amazed once again, to awaken to something new, to love more deeply.

All the more shocking, then, to see the bright face of youth covered in a shroud. Vitality is turned to ashes by some seemingly capricious, random collusion of circumstances.

We weep for the fragility of life.

Life is made of wind, it seems. Everything is an evanescent mist. And yet this frail thing is the bearer of a boundless promise. We breathe each breath, take each step, risk everything because our hearts tell us that the promise of reality will be fulfilled.

I believe in the fulfillment of the promise. I believe in what you, O Lord, have done for us. But when a young man--only a few years older than my own son--is struck down in death, my faith passes through an abyss of sorrow. When a young woman--full of music and song, a role model for my daughters--disappears suddenly into silence, it's hard....

It's hard, Lord!

Faith must grow in these moments, because the shadows of the mystery of reality loom large. The frailty of everything we can see and hear and touch, and the smallness of everything we can do, become concrete in the experience of our own helplessness.

"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days come,
Because man goes to his lasting home,
and mourners go about the streets.
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities...all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 12:1,5,7,8).

All is vanity...all that we think we possess by our own power, all that we think we can make secure by our own cleverness or manipulation or avarice or violence. All is vanity...if we remain within our own limits.

And so we walk by faith, with hope that vanity does not have the final word. In that hope we entrust our departed young friends to the mercy of God.

Rest in peace Jose Fernandez (1992-2016). Rest in peace Christina Grimmie (1994-2016)