Archbishop Gomez after Thousand Oaks shooting: Jesus cries with us

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Archbishop José Gomez offered prayers for victims of a shooting at a country dance hall this week, telling those present at a prayer vigil Thursday that even when we cannot understand senseless violence, we can trust in God’s love.

“God does not want any of his children to suffer evil. Why these tragedies happen — we will never know, on this side of eternity,” the Los Angeles archbishop reflected at a Nov. 8 prayer vigil at Saint Paschal Baylon Parish in Thousand Oaks.

“What we do know,” he continued, “is that God’s love for every one of us is stronger than any evil, stronger even than death.”

And Christ never abandons us in our suffering and grief, the archbishop said.

“Jesus never asks us to carry our burdens alone. Where we walk, Jesus goes with us — even through the dark valleys of sorrow, suffering and doubt,” he said.

“And he cries with us. Just like he wept for Lazarus in the Gospels.”

On the night of Nov. 7, a gunman opened fire at Borderline Bar & Grill, a country dance club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., during college night. He shot and killed 12 people in the packed bar before apparently killing himself, according to police. About a dozen other people were injured in the shooting. Police are still investigating a motive for the attack.

In the face of senseless violence, it can be difficult to know how to respond, the archbishop reflected.

“We open our hearts to the families and friends of those who were killed, and we try as best we can to share their grief with them.”

“The hurt they are suffering, we can never really know. What they have lost, we cannot return to them,” he said. “But we can walk with them. We can help them to find healing and hope. We can help them to discover the love of Jesus, even in this dark time.”

Recognizing that Jesus is near amid the sadness and disbelief, we turn to him, Archbishop Gomez said.

“He will turn our mourning into joy. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will give us gladness in the place of sorrow.”

The archbishop encouraged those present to “ask our Lord for the faith and strength — to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are suffering. Let us honor the memory of those who have fallen — by living our lives with greater intensity and purpose and with greater love for one another.”

Archbishop Gomez concluded his reflection by praying for the souls of those who had died in the shooting, and for comfort and peace for those who survived.

“We pray for peace in our communities and for peace in the hearts of all those who are troubled and disturbed,” he said.

“May our Blessed Mother Mary, who knows the sorrow of losing her only Son, help us to find light in this darkness and bring new life out of this death.”

On the morning of Nov. 9, Archbishop Gomez said he received a note of condolence from Pope Francis. The note said the Holy Father “was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting that took place in Thousand Oaks, California.” Francis assured his spiritual closeness and prayed for peace, strength, and consolation for those affected by the shooting.

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