On Friday 15th March, 2019, an armed man opened fire on two of New Zealand’s Islamic mosques.
Up to fifty people have been confirmed dead and a further forty-eight people are still being treated for injuries sustained in the shooting.
It is the country’s worst every mass shooting.
The grief felt by such an event is wide spread. It isn’t contained to the victims or their families. It isn’t contained to their local community. It isn’t even contained to the country in which it took place. The grief is felt worldwide. We grieve for those who have lost their lives. We grieve for those who are still battling their injuries. We grieve for the witnesses, whose lives will never be the same. We grieve for the victim’s’ families and friends. We grieve for those who belonged to the community who was targeted. We grieve for humanity.
How do we, as Catholics, understand this grief and process it so that we can move on, stronger than ever in our faith?
Grieving is a process of healing and recovery which is deeply personal and unique to each person experiencing loss.
– Understanding Faith Secondary, Title 27
For every person, the experience will be different.
Human life is a gift from God. It has been created out of God’s love and generosity. When a life is lost, those left behind can be changed by that loss for ever. Grief is our response to loss. It can take many forms. Most commonly, a grieving person will cry and feel sad. But grief can also be expressed through anger, irritability, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, confusion, disorientation, despondency or depression.
– Understanding Faith, Title 27
As Catholics, we believe that death is not the end for us. We profess a firm and constant belief in an afterlife. Although we do not know what this life after death will be like, we do know what this life will be. If we choose the path of righteousness in our lives, we will arrive in heaven in our afterlife. Heaven is timeless. It is our final destination.
So death ends our human life. Each individual will be judged immediately after death, according to their faith and moral choices. A person who has made good moral choices, will receive their reward in heaven.
You may wonder exactly what heaven is?
Heaven is life in union with God in heaven. It is being with God. Heaven is for those who love God. In heaven, all of our fears and worries are gone. Heaven is where we want to be.
God gave us the most amazing gift. He gave us the gift of life. But he also gave us the freedom to choose what do with our lives. To reach heaven, we must choose life and choose love.
So for all of those who lost their lives, may they be receiving their eternal rewards in heaven. And for those of us who are still here on earth, experiencing profound grief and loss, may we find comfort in the knowledge that death is not the end for us. There is something far greater awaiting us all.