But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality. (Wis 3:1-4)
Julian of Norwich wrote of the "many evil deeds done in our sight and such great harms suffered, that it seems to us that it would be impossible that it ever could come to a good end." Yet in deep contemplation, she also experienced being "led down into the sea ground, "and there she saw "green hills and dales, seeming as it were overgrown with moss, with debris and gravel. Then I understood thus: that if a man or woman were there, under the broad water, and he might have sight of God—since God is with a man continually—he should be safe in soul and body, and take no harm. And even more, he should have more solace and comfort than all this world may or can tell." In other words, Julian understood that even in a threatening situation (such as drowning), God keeps us safe in soul and body.
If Julian were alive right now, I wonder what she would say to those who incite others to buy and carry weapons? Most likely, she would point out that they are deluding themselves into thinking that firearms mean freedom from harm. Will they slip them into church? Sling them over their shoulders at the mall while shopping? Set them down on the table when they go out to eat? Keep them on their laps in a movie theatre? Hold them in one hand at a sports or music event? Place them next to their computer at work? Have them at the ready beside the kids’ car seats? Carry them in their backpacks at college? The whole idea that anything physical can keep us safe -- especially a weapon destined to inflict grave harm on others -- is in itself preposterous. Only Divine Love can keep us truly safe. Even when there is "great harm" done, as to the victims of the recent shooting rampages in Paris, Colorado, and San Bernadino, God takes the victims as martyrs to heaven and comforts the wounded and bereaved with divine grace and mercy. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” That’s a promise, not wishful thinking!
I think Julian would tell us us that the way to make our communities safer is not to shun or ostracize those whom we may consider “different” in some way from ourselves, whether racially, culturally, or religiously. That kind of fear and isolation only breed mistrust and anger, a volatile mix that inevitably lead to violence. The way to protect ourselves is to reach out in loving efforts, however small, to protect the other person. Get to know your neighbors, talk to strangers on line at the supermarket, go out of your way to help someone in need. Fear is dispelled when we say a kind word or make someone smile. Reaching out to the other is like buying grace-filled insurance that the other will not harm you. Practice that day after day and you will begin to feel safer in every environment. And you will make the world a safer place for those you love. Guns won’t keep us safe. Grace-filled actions will.
For more information on how to counteract gun violence with grace-filled actions, please visit: www.onethousandactsofpeace.org and share it during this holy season with family and friends!