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After the school shooting, how do we have a Joyful Sunday?

The tragic news of the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut has shocked and saddened us all. Events like this bring us face to face with two of the most difficult questions of human existence -- Why is there evil in the world? Why do people have to suffer? Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have been asked this question, and both have given similar answers: We don't fully understand why there is evil and suffering in the world, especially when innocent children suffer, but we do know one thing for sure: God is always on the side of the suffering. Jesus' incarnation, which we are preparing to celebrate these weeks of Advent, is proof of God's solidarity with humankind. God himself became human, and though innocent, suffered even to death. And so we can know that God feels our suffering and loves us through it. God himself was in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, at the side of every child and adult who was injured or killed, and at the side of every parent outside who was afraid for their children. God is with us now as we struggle to understand what has happened and how to move forward towards a society where this could never occur.

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is Gaudete, or Joyful Sunday. But how can we have a Joyful Sunday after tragedy like this latest school shooting? 

Because the light shines in the darkness. Because the darkness of Advent will give way to the brilliant light of Christmas. Because God is with us.

It is this hope that we celebrate, and this hope that we must remember as we mark this third Sunday of Advent. God is with us, and invites us to reflect the light of Christ this Christmas. As his children, we must say, with God's grace, this light will not be overcome. We must renew our resolve to work together with God to build a culture of life, a civilization of love where every life is respected, nourished, and protected.

The light of hope shines brightest against the darkness of sorrow. For it is at this time that we must depend most fully on hope in order to claim the joy that is ours. God is with us, and all darkness, all mourning, every sorrow will one day disappear in the light of Christ. 

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