Addressing the nation – and indeed, the world – after news broke out that 26 people – twenty of them children – had been killed in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama concluded his sombre speech with the words: “Heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds”. He appropriately attributed the words to scripture.
The scripture he quoted is Psalm 147:3 which reads: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
In Hebrew the Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah, translated into English as Praise the Lord. Verse 2 says: “The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers in the exiles of Israel” and verse 4 reads: “He reckoned the number of the stars; to each He gave its name”. There is a picture of brokenness when you think of these words, and there is also a picture of infinite power and knowledge and compassion.
Sixteen 6 year old and four 7 year old children were tragically gunned down along with six adults between 27 and 56 years. It is shocking when any innocent life is cut down without reason – not that there is even enough reason to cut short anybody’s life. No human society can fathom senseless killing of children.
The main question that is in everybody’s mind is: how do we explain this tragedy to children? Indeed, how do we understand it before we can explain it to our children?
The truth is that we may not have all the answers. We need to admit to ourselves, that our knowledge is limited and so some questions may not have answers. It is alright when we do not know everything.
We see in the Psalm that God rebuilds and gathers. That is because there is already that which is broken and needs rebuilding; there is that which is already scattered and needs to be gathered. Brokenness and disarray are conditions of our imperfections, as individuals and as communities and a society.
It is futile to try to figure out why God allowed the brokenness – the violence, or the accident. We are connected as a society and each individual affects the welfare of the whole. That is why, now in our heart-break we seek to heal one another and bind the wounds of one another. We have the capacity for brokenness and we also have the capacity to heal.
That is how God, according to Psalm 147:3, heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. We are not only agents of the healing and bandaging, but we are also participants. Actually it is when we participate that we become agents. When we are healed, we heal others and the world, just as the opposite is true.
It has been repeated over and over again; and it cannot be repeated often enough: Let us embrace our children and reassure them of love. Let us embrace and reassure one another of love. Let us be intentional about loving and embracing the next person.