Blessed to Be Her Father

Just finished updating myself on the recent tragedy at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT last Friday. This story is very close to me not only as a parent, but also as a teacher. I want to know what I can do now to prevent such a future tragedy from occurring again. What powerful posture of defense can I take to ensure the safety of my own children and of the innocents given over to my care during the school day?

Combing the excellent coverage given to the event by the New York Times, I was most struck by the courageous and quick response given voluntarily by one of the fathers of the many young victims:

This very Christian man gave a most shockingly compassionate wish to the family of the shooter:

“This includes the family of the shooter,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you. And I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well.”

How a man in his position, just hours after his young daughter’s death, can extend such love for an enemy staggers the mind and heart. But part of the clue to understanding his capacity to forgive his child’s murderer and the murderer’s family is the verb tense he uses to describe his relationship with his daughter.

What struck me the most in his speech were his last words. He did not say, “I am blessed to have been her father,” but rather, “…to be her father” present infinitive. In other words, as a Christian, Robert Parker must believe that death no longer separates us finally and irrevocably from those we love. As we sing in the great Paschal (Easter) hymn, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life. We do not sing Christ has risen (past perfect) or Christ is rising (present progressive), but we must in the wake of such an earth shattering miracle as the resurrection invent a whole new tense. We say Christ is risen, because his resurrection like the fatherhood of this child and all good things created by our good and loving Heavenly Father happens in the eternal present.

May the prayers of these new innocents be joined with the 14,000 Holy Innocents slain shortly after the birth of the Lord Emmanuel, so that death and destruction may not have the final word, but that all may hear the message of the Lord God who by his death trampled down death and bestows on all eternal life.

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