When a gunman killed nine fellow students and a teacher in September at the College of Hospitality in Kauhajoki, Finland, and then took his own life, he sparked a national debate over gun ownership. This was the second school massacre in less than a year.
Finland has a tradition of hunting, and, out of roughly 5 million residents, there are 1.6 million guns. But a Finnish journalist cited alcohol abuse, isolation, and family breakdown – not hunting – as some of the reasons for this violence ("Finland school shooting sparks debate over gun ownership," The Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24).
These issues and the people affected by the shootings deserve our prayers. Jesus' comment to his disciples on the night before he was to face a violent death in the form of crucifixion is helpful: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
The peace that Jesus spoke of doesn't make excuses, but it does affirm the presence of divine Life, even in the face of death. Jesus spoke of his continuity and, by extension, the continuity of all life under the care of our divine Father. Human events may seem to interrupt our contact with those we love, but the spiritual reality is that they continue to be in God's care – and so do we.
But the peace that God gives us goes further. Those who have struggled with reliance on alcohol or who have resorted to violence often engage in these acts because inside they feel hopeless, unloved, and powerless to change their circumstances. Jesus' ministry brought to people of his time – and ours – the means to transform one's life. To do tangible good and to experience God's love in practical and healing ways.
He taught that each individual is known to God and loved by God. Each of us has talents and qualities that are spiritual – intelligence, patience, love, joy, strength, and beauty, to mention a few. These are the real substance of everyone's identity, in God's sight, including the people who were massacred and the man who fired the gun. They can never be lost. They are qualities that all of us have, no matter how hopeless our situation.
Right now, you can take a few moments to think about the qualities you have that are spiritual. Even if you can think of only one, that is a sign of your spirituality and the goodness with which God has created you. If you are grieving over the loss of a loved one, consider the spiritual qualities that individual expressed. Look for them expressed in other parts of your life; strive to express them yourself. These show the permanence of everyone's spiritual nature, which is indestructible.
In the wake of these two shooting incidents, it's also good to pray for an end to violence. This can only bless all of us, no matter where we may be. Psalm 140 in the Bible offers some helpful thoughts. One petition says, "Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings."
As we pray for our own and others' safety, we can claim the spiritual intuition to discern God's direction during each moment of our day. Listening to God's guidance can be so helpful – and even life saving.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, identified these intuitions from God as "angels" in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," writing that they represent "God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality" (p. 581).
These angels can be our guides, counteracting fear, deadly motives, whatever would argue that God's love is absent. They can even turn aside the willful desire to harm others. As we pray for those who are still struggling with the events in Finland and also embrace our own communities in God's love, we can expect to receive more of His angels, guiding us every step of the way.