The God Squad: A prayer for victims of Arizona shootings

Dear God, we pray that you might receive in love the souls of those dear innocent people whom fate and fury took from their families and from our grieving country in Tucson, Ariz. We pray for Gabe Zimmerman, Phyllis Schneck, Christina Green, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and John Roll. We do not pray for "six people." We pray for one person at a time. In your mercy. O Lord, shelter their souls in the world to come and take them close to you forever in heavenly peace. May their memories be for a blessing.

We pray for a full and complete healing for those wounded on that terrible day. We pray for George Morris, Mavy Stoddard, Gabrielle Giffords, Pamela Simon, Ron Barber and all those wounded in body and soul. We do not pray for "all 14 people." We pray for one person at a time.

We also pray that we might inherit a generosity of spirit in not perverting the victims' injuries and their deaths into crude and heartless polemics against those with whom we disagree politically. The result of this manipulation of grief is that we say without saying that our political opponents bear responsibility for this tragedy, when they do not. Only the killer was guilty, and may we still any words on our lips that convey any other message.

We also pray for the alleged gunman. Help us understand the sickness of the mind that becomes a sickness of soul, as well. Some among us are so severely broken that they can't distinguish real from imagined attacks. Help us help them before their brokenness breaks our civic calm and shatters our hopeful land. They cannot find their way to what is real. They need help but often do not seek help. Let us all try to reach out to them in careful but caring ways, so that, at the very least, they know they're not alone. Asking them to share a meal, or offering to help them find assistance just might be enough to still their rage.

An old legend tells that you chose Moses because one day, while shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, Moses went to retrieve one goat that had wandered off into dangerous territory. You said, "If that man cares so much about a single one, he will certainly care for all who need to leave Egypt and find freedom."

Let us resolve to try to be like Moses and care not only for the large masses but also for the individual broken and lost ones in our national journey.

We struggle to restrain our grief and keep it about those who were killed and injured. We also want it to be about great national issues, and in truth, our laws about firearms and our capacity for the treatment of the mentally ill are implicated in the tragic events of that day in that desert.

The spiritually towering truth is that this time and this prayer are about the victims. They were each made in your image, they were each present on that day to celebrate democracy, and they are with you now. That is what this tragedy is truly about.

We pray for them. Neither their rank nor their ages matter so much as our firm belief that they were holy persons made in the image of a loving God. We pray for them, and that is all we can do. That is all we should do. Anything else hardens our hearts and makes us look beyond the victims. What we must do is look through the victims to you.

Amen.

Send only questions to The God Squad, c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or e-mail them to godsquadquestion@aol.com.

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