What Happened in Las Vegas – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Source: David Becker/Getty Images

I woke up early last Monday and prepared for my day.  Then I checked social media sites and saw the sad but all-too-familiar news. This time coming out of Las Vegas. Another mass murder.

The number of dead and wounded rose steadily as the day passed. My mind tried to comprehend this as further information emerged through the day and on subsequent days.  [As of Wednesday, October 4th – 59 dead, over 500 wounded.]

Source:David Becker/Getty Images

This tragic event unfolded with the by-now-usual patterns that accompany a mass killing:

– the astounding bravery of so many official and spontaneous first responders,

– demands for political action (such as tighter gun control),

– constant analysis of the perpetrator and his mind and background,

– the makeshift memorial of flowers assembled at the scene,

– overwhelmed hospitals,

– social media reminders that we are all Las Vegas,

– the acts of heroism in Las Vegas,

– and social media reminders not to pray for Las Vegas, but to do something.

Source: Chase Stephens/ Associated Press.

I’m not sure what I can contribute to this story. I’ll just offer a few unrelated reflections, knowing that each of us will have our own points and memories.

My experience as a spiritual director tells me that it’s less important the actual words we use, as what the words reveal about us and what is going on in our hearts and heads.

The spiritual director in me could listen for a long time to someone involved in the Las Vegas story and still come away with many questions.

Is it possible for me to grow in knowledge of where God is in this? If not in this, is there anything that God seeks from me at a time like this? How can I be an instrument of peace?

  1. How do I react to events such as Las Vegas?

– Here we go again.

– A kind of numbness, almost a coldness, can set in.

– Unless I have a direct connection (such as a friend or relative who was there), it is easy to be tempted to change the channel or look for Facebook posts of cats or dogs,

– or bury myself in music on my phone.

After a while, it becomes too painful and depressing to follow the constant flow of sad news. I may not like what this is telling me about the world, or, if not the world, then the gun obsession of certain people.

But, of course, once I have seen or experienced something, I cannot un-see it. We don’t live under rocks. We must have an opinion, or, at least, a visceral reaction.

Source: abdcnews.com

Is there anything in the experience that can be used as a teaching moment? How would I refer to Las Vegas if I were a parent or teacher? Is there anything whatsoever to be garnered from this experience?

Even acts of absolute evil, such as the Holocaust, become significant touchstones for our world. Can Las Vegas teach me anything?

  1. I like to think that things like this don’t happen in Canada.

But that is arrogant and naive. The USA isn’t the only nation with sick people who can snap at any time. They have not cornered the market on people with hatred towards other people, whether it is hatred towards certain kinds of people (based on gender, colour, language or religion) or a generic anger at the world.

Where the USA differs in this regard is its lax gun control (though I’d be laughed at by many in the USA for even hinting that the laws are lax).

Canada has our own ghosts and experiences. Just think of the École Polytechnique massacre of December 6, 1989. Most of those targeted were women.

Violent acts continue to take place on a regular basis. They are rarely spectacular enough to make the news south of the border.

  1. Gun control:

I saw a Facebook post that stated that the National Rifle Association (NRA) could have written the remarks from many political figures, including the President of the USA.

Source: abcnews.com

Who’s in charge? You and I may know with absolute certainty that the USA has a big problem with gun control. It’s not easy to convince people otherwise when they believe that they need a gun.

I have learned to be circumspect around USA Jesuits or my American relatives.

I appreciate what Rosie DiManno wrote in the Toronto Star: “America’s gun obsession is killing them.” Some of the wisest and strongest commentary came from the monologues on late night television.

They are right on! But I must avoid smugness and casting a stone at others.

  1. Killing children:

I read a Tweet on Twitter which said, “In retrospect Sandy Hook [Elementary School In Newtown, Connecticut, where the victims of a December 14, 2012 shooting were predominantly children] marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

I’m not sure who the first one was to Tweet this, but it’s a sad truth. Can we really expect things to change this time?

  1. What goes on in the mind of a mass murderer?

What causes someone to snap? We don’t have the data at this point. But I have read enough about other mass killings to know that there are no predictables.

I think that I saw a newspaper article where a law enforcement official was quoted as saying that he has no idea what goes on in the mind of a psychopath. Do any of us?

I’m afraid that I am skeptical about listening to the theories of an “expert.” I’d rather listen to a parent.

I was quite taken with the thoughts of Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the students behind the famous 1999 Columbine High School massacre. I recall writing about her at least twice in this blog.

She was mystified by her son and his scary role in mass murder. I’m afraid that we are not going to really know what was the mental composition of the Las Vegas gunman.

Source: AP Photo/Ronda Churchill

  1. I thought of the huge number of people who are effected when something like this happens:

– those who lose their lives,

– those who are injured and likely have had their lives changed forever,

– countless families and friends,

– the first responders who deal  with tragedy on a daily basis.

No part of our world or sector of the population is safe these days:

– young children,

– adolescents at a high school or university,

– attendees at a rock concert,

– patrons of a gay night club,

– people of certain colours or races, and so on.

Is there anything in the scripture for the 27th Sunday that offers a word of wisdom? I’m afraid that I cannot find anything from today’s scripture.

However, there is plenty available in the Gospel about finding hope, bringing peace, and being a means of compassion.

Source: whatchristianswanttoknow.com

We have to carry on living, hopefully in a manner that is marked by peace. Events such as Las Vegas wake me up to increasing gratitude for my life.

I am always humbled by my own petty concerns. Let’s take comfort in what we have. But, let’s do what we can to bring about change.

 

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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