Saturday, November 26, 2016

Remembering Tables With Empty Chairs in This Holiday Season

We are approaching the end of this most unusual year. As Thanksgiving Weekend gives way to Advent's preparation for Christmas, we note that many people are enduring new depths of sorrow over the loss of loved ones during the course of 2016.

As always, families have said goodbye to parents, siblings, children, and friends. Some left suddenly, others more slowly, but all are missed in a poignant way. This year, however, there is a special pain that all of us feel.

The wave of violence from the past summer has shaken us all. It is not simply a matter of numbers; it is the ruthless, visceral, and at the same time obscure, virtual anonymity of the killings that force us to confront a disease long festering in our society whose symptoms can no longer be hidden.

Rather than become desensitized further to casual murder in our streets and public places, we must resolve to become more vigilant in finding and rooting out the ugliness and cruelty that infect our society and that have taken up spaces within our own hearts.

Perhaps we can begin to serve peace by remembering to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. The many who have lost loved ones to violence have been lacerated with dark wounds that remain open. God hears their cries. Let us find how we can stay close to them, if only by keeping their sorrows in our memory and our prayer, and by our determination to struggle against injustice and seek deeper conversion of our own hearts to the ways of God's peace.

Of course, we also very much want to remember people who are mourning the loss of family members and friends who died this year from illness, accidents, or other causes. Even when faith sustains and consoles their sorrow, people can't help missing the ones they love. Their absence from family festivities in this season changes the lives of those who remain, and no one will ever fill their empty chairs at the family table in this life.

Let us weep with those who weep, so that together we can grow in the hope of all of us being gathered, finally, at the glorious feast that will never end, when death will be no more and when every tear will be wiped away.