In times of tragedy, the world needs Christian hope

varisco    Bombings, explosions, earthquakes, tornadoes – it seems as though it’s one thing after the next these days, no matter what part of the world you’re in. When not a day goes by where some sort of tragedy doesn’t strike, sometimes one must wonder how much worse it could really get.  
    It is one thing when tragedies such as natural disasters strike. Indeed, their damage can be truly devastating; however, the forces of nature are not under our control. On the other hand, there are spiritual forces under our rein that can damage the human heart in more greatly devastating ways.
    Such was the recent bombing of the Boston Marathon. When we watch footage of a young man of only 19 years of age drop off a backpack with explosive devices near innocent children and families, our hearts should not simply tremble out of fear but also out of  sadness.
    The twisted desires of our hearts are a sad thing. Perhaps not all of our twisted desires can compare to acts of terrorism in the physical sense, but not one of us is perfectly righteous. Our hearts are in constant need of conversion and a savior. Our hearts are in constant need of Christ.
My sixth graders teach me
    It has been a blessing and my humble privilege to be working with a sixth grade religion class at a Catholic school in Metairie for the past few months. During one of our morning prayer sessions, several of my students began to pray for the young man who set off explosive devices at the marathon.
    They prayed for the renewal and conversion of his heart. They prayed that he might experience sorrow for what he did, but mostly that he would find Jesus. They prayed that his life might change, and that he might somehow find a way to start anew. What a pure, beautiful desire! What an example of prayer and an inspiration for us all!
    This beautiful prayer so greatly contrasts several messages and status updates I saw posted on social media like Facebook and Twitter within days after the incident in Boston. I was constantly blown away by the things I saw, such as: “I hope he rots in hell for this.”
    Rotting in hell? Does our God ever wish this upon a single soul?
    The first thing we read in the beautiful treasury of our faith – “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” – says, “God … in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family.”
    If God calls all men to himself and wishes for all of us to be united in our love for him, should we wish for anything different? We cannot promote peace and unity by perpetuating hate; it is simply not possible. Leaders of both our faith and secular society have shown us this time and time again.
Connected to each other
    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to tell us, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
    I believe she is right. When I see tragic things in our news such as this bombing or ongoing teen suicides or the seemingly innumerable amount of shootings in our own city, I can’t help but wonder how much of it ultimately comes down to love, or the lack thereof.
    It is true that we do not have complete control over human tragedies, but perhaps the biggest tragedy of all is a heart that feels no love.
    When we perpetuate comments and points of view that breed hatred of any kind, there is no room for love.
    We don’t always have control over the tragedies that befall us, but we do have control over how we respond to them.
    My sixth graders have proved it to me on more than one occasion. More than ever, in times of trial such as these, the world will need our witness. It is of the utmost importance that we allow ourselves to become a witness to love, hope and joy.
    Especially when times seem dark, people will continue to ask the question how we can believe in a God who allows his people to suffer so much. Yet, we know that our God does not sit by and idly watch his children in their aches and pains.
    Our God is a God who suffers with us. He sent his only son into this world to enter into our suffering with us. He took it up a notch and redeemed our suffering.
    Because of this, we can separate our suffering from ourselves. We can say, “Suffering is in me, but I am not in it.” What an example this can be to the rest of the world!
Mercy is required
    If we who believe in Christ lose our hope for this world, where will the rest of the world ever find it? We can share our hope by loving our families, neighbors, friends and even strangers and enemies. We can share our hope by becoming people of mercy and forgiveness.
    Our God is a God of justice, yes … and it is important that we know this. However, he is simultaneously a God of perfect mercy. Without his mercy, we have no hope for heaven.  
    I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not hope for any soul to “rot in hell.” I hope that even terrorists, murderers, abortionists and every other kind of person who exists in this world are able to join you and me in heaven. Heaven is what we were made for, and that is where we belong.
    Maybe the world will call us crazy for expressing this desire. How could we possibly wish for a man who killed innocent people to go to heaven? But we cannot be afraid of what people will think of us for our beliefs. We cannot be afraid of name-calling or rude stares.  
    We should be more afraid of what will happen when the world no longer knows God’s love. It is up to us to keep sharing it.
    We know that no soul is too far from God’s reach. How we should hope that his touch turns our hardened hearts into hearts that beat after his own – every single one of us, with no exception!
    Rachel Varisco can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
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