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Risen Christ
Risen Lord,

we are bewildered
by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent.
Receive those who have died into your light and love.
Comfort their families and friends.
As we remember and mourn,
do not let our hearts be filled with bitterness,
but help us to respond to violence and hate
with peace, love, and compassion.
You are Lord for ever and ever.  Amen.

________________ 

On Friday, April 20, at 5:30 pm, St. James Cathedral offered a special Mass to pray for the victims and all whose lives have been touched by the tragic events at Virginia Tech University. Father Stephen Sundborg, SJ, President of Seattle University, preached at the Mass.  The following is the text from which he spoke.

________________ 

"A FUTURE FULL OF HOPE"
 
 
-         Memorial Mass for those killed at Virginia Tech
-         St James Cathedral
-         Rev. Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
-         April 20, 2007
 
 
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion; on the aspens of that land we hung up our harps; how could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?"
 
This week by the shores of Puget Sound we all have sat and wept when we remembered the students of Virginia Tech.  How could we sing the usual songs of our lives when their sudden and senseless deaths put us in a foreign land where we were stunned, stopped, sat and wept, were concerned for our own security, but more so hung up our harps, unable to comprehend this loss of life, this overwhelming grief, this mystery of a murderous rage, and of ordinary college students" promising lives snapped off in springtime flowering.
 
We sit and weep and hang up our usual activities for their sake.  That is why we gather in this cathedral in prayer, pleading and worship.  This moment and this memorial is for the sake of holding the mystery of the lives of those students and their professors up to God together in a strengthening community of faith on our shores, in our city, in our cathedral.  But we do so also for ourselves for the interruption of the song of our lives this week and recognizing our own fragility, being stopped wherever we were when we heard this news, remembering always where we were, and suddenly being dropped beneath the usual level of our living into our own mystery of life, of fear, of hope, of love, of what our lives will mean when they end.  We weep for them and we hang up our harps for ourselves.
 
In our first reading, addressed also to those who sat weeping in Babylon, God says:
 
"I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope."
 
College students today are at one and the same time more fearful than any have been before and more hopeful than any previous generation on our campuses.  The book about them is entitled When Hope and Fear Collide:  A Portrait of Today's College Students.  They are fearful because of what they have experienced in their young lives growing up in a particularly fearful and precarious world without the protections which we their elders only partially succeed in constructing.  Fear is the atmosphere of their lives.  As one student at Seattle University explained it to me:  "It is the sense that anything could happen" and probably will."  Think of those words in relationship to the "anything could happen" of this week that not only probably could but actually did happen.  Fear.
 
But fear collides with hope in college students" lives and hope wins out.  From their experience of service, and all of them are committed to and have experienced serving others:  the elderly, children, the hungry, the homeless, they know that they can and will make a difference in the world, even that their lives will change the world.  In spite of being surrounded by a world of fear, or perhaps because of it, they are the most hopeful generation of college students who have ever come to our campuses.  Service seeds hope in them and grows higher and stronger than fear.
 
These students of Virginia Tech who were killed were hopeful students.  Their hope and service comes flooding out more and more each day in the testimony of their classmates, professors, parents, brothers and sisters, and friends.  They knew well the plans God had in mind for them, plans for their welfare, not for their woe, plans to give them a future full of hope.  They lived with the fear all of their generation has but greater was their hope, grounded in the experience of service, to make a difference with their lives, even to change the world.  God's plans for their future were changed; God planned a future full of hope.  But their future of hope was changed when that abiding atmosphere of fear took shape in one fellow student in whom hope did not overcome fear, but fear overcame hope, and led to rage and rampage.  That's how it would seem to appear.
 
But we are here to say and to testify to two things, to say and to testify to them and to one another here in Seattle.  First, we are a people of hope and we believe and we testify that God's plans to give them a future full of hope is being fulfilled where it can only ultimately be fulfilled for them as also for us in God, in life in God, in being led out of our exile in this life from God, this foreign land, into life in God.  We "know this well" because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we share this hope with all peoples, especially with those hopeful students and with their classmates, professors, families and friends.  God's plans for them were changed not ended, as their futures, their lives, were changed not ended.  We have firm hope for them.
 
We also say and testify to one another that we will pick up on their hope and we will in their name, not let our fear overcome our hope.  It did briefly for those two disciples who walked sadly from Jerusalem to Emmaus after another shocking killing, the killing of Jesus.  Those two disciples did not recognize the alive one, Jesus risen and walking with them, because they had lost hope, as they said sadly to him "we had hoped."  For a moment fear and sadness, maybe what we are feeling, overcame their hope.  But then in a later moment, when they welcomed in the stranger, as we welcome into our hearts these students, their eyes were opened when Jesus broke bread, his sign, his ritual of who he really is, his sacrament of hope.
 
So as we learn of these students, and precisely of their hope, and learn from their families and friends all the ways each of them in her or his own way expressed and ritualized who they were and their hopes, our eyes are opened now to hope in the breaking of their lives.  That's what the breaking of their lives and our learning about their lives because of this breaking, really means as we remember them:  hope that our lives make a difference, hope that we in their name and in our own can change the world.
 
I believe that all in this cathedral remembers today and always will remember where they were when they heard on Monday the news of the killings of Virginia Tech.  Our lives were not ended but they were stopped in their tracks.  We remember where we were because for an intense moment we were dropped below the level of life on which we usually walk or float.  For a moment we were dropped into the mystery of our own life, its depths, its truth, its preciousness, its precariousness.  When you drop into that level of life you remember where you are.  You don"t forget what life in its true depth and mystery feels like.
 
From that depth we gather tonight to hang up our harps and weep by our rivers and shores for lives snapped in springtime on the campus of Virginia Tech.  From that depth where we were stopped for a moment we experience that in spite of all fear, hope does win out, that the name for the depth mystery in us is not fear but hope, not hate but love, not darkness but God, and that we are called by God and can pick up on the plans for a future full of hope that God has for those students and for all people.  It is written into the very depth of each of us and known in our stopping and remembering.  From that same depth of what we experienced on Monday morning we gather tonight to break bread with the Risen Jesus so that our eyes might be opened in his breaking from our sadness and fear to hope and to love" and might remain open as we continue on our journey from the mysterious place where we were stopped so abruptly.
 
May they rest in peace and may we walk in hope.

 
 

 

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