The tragic news of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has shocked and saddened us all. Events like this bring us face to face with two of the most difficult questions of human existence — Why is there evil in the world? Why do people have to suffer? 

All of us must renew our resolve to work together with God to build a culture of life, a civilization of love where every life is respected, nourished and protected.

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been asked this question, and both have given similar answers: We don’t fully understand why there is evil and suffering in the world, especially when innocent children suffer, but we do know one thing for sure: God is always on the side of the suffering. 

Jesus’ incarnation, which we celebrate every Christmas season, is proof of God’s solidarity with humankind. God himself became human, and though innocent, suffered even to death. We may not know the reason for evil and suffering, but we do know that God feels our suffering and loves us through it. 

God himself was in Sandy Hook Elementary School. God was at the side of every child and adult who was injured or killed, and at the side of every parent outside who was afraid for their children.  

God is with us now as we struggle to understand what happened and how we as a society and a believing community are to move forward. 

Family members of victims grieve near Sandy Hook Elementary School. CNS/Reuters photo

Our wish is to find a society where this will never occur again, and yet we have seen how many times in just this past year such wicked events have occurred. It might be easy to despair: Despair of any political solutions. Despair that there will ever be the mental health resources to walk with the mentally ill. Despair that tomorrow could be better than today. 

Yet as Catholics we are not called to despair but to hope: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven,” we have prayed repeatedly. We know that ours is a God of love, and that we believe in eternal life. Most of all we believe that the arrival of the Infant heralded a new age, if we only respond to his invitation. 

God was with us in the manger of the newborn Babe. God was with us on the cross. God is with us now. It is this hope that we celebrate, and this hope that we must remember. Emmanuel: God is with us. He invites us to reflect the light of Christ this Christmas. 

As children of God, we know, with God’s grace, that this light will not be overcome by darkness. Some of us are called, like the brave teachers at Sandy Hook, to lay down our lives for others. Most of us are called to witness our faith in the risen Lord in the ordinary days of our lives, and in the midst of our communities. All of us must renew our resolve to work together with God to build a culture of life, a civilization of love where every life is respected, nourished and protected. We must build a civilization of love where those most in need — in our parishes, our communities, our nation — can find support and comfort. 

The light of hope shines brightest against the darkness of sorrow: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). It is at this time that we come to depend most fully on hope in order to claim the joy that is ours.  

In innocence and in innocence lost, God is with us. And there is one message that we can count on amid all the bloodshed and all the tears: All darkness, all mourning, every sorrow will one day disappear in the light of Christ.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor