One thing was different. One small and perhaps insignificant detail was not quite the same, at least not for me. As I watched the video feed come in on my computer, I learned more of the terrible tragedy in Binghamton, N.Y. on Friday. I saw that no one could make sense of those senseless shootings that left 14 dead at a center for immigrants hoping to become US citizens. Tragically, that much was all too familiar and not fundamentally different from news reports of other similarly horrific tragedies.
The one small difference I noticed this time was that along with the news coverage there were now instant responses from viewers who were e-mailing or twittering their thoughts to the news outlet. I selected at random a half dozen or so of these instant responses. They were, of course, written by strangers. It was in these responses that I unexpectedly found the faintest glimmer of light. None of them spent a single word pouring out anger at the gunman, who took his own life. More than half of them mentioned prayer. One spoke of God and divine help. These messages reminded me of how universal prayer is. And of how instant its impact can be. When a person is at a distance from a tragedy and yearns to do something, prayer is the one game-changer, the one difference-maker that can reach a scene of tragedy at the speed of thought. It can provide comfort with powerful, wordless impact. Clearly, many, many people grasp this – and were praying and continue to pray.
I think of Christ Jesus and his original followers. He evidently was preparing them for the time when he'd no longer be with them. Were they, at least some of them, aching over the enormous void they sensed would be left at the center of their lives? Have countless others over the centuries, when overwhelmed with inconsolable grief through the loss of a loved one, also felt an enormous void at the center of their lives?
It is the comfort of the Christ that fills that void. It is the comfort of the Christ that pours in on even the darkest of days. It is the Christ – the message from God to human consciousness – that comes to those who may be wild with grief, and gives them hope, gives them assurance, gives them comfort, and even begins to mend their broken hearts. Jesus referred to the Christ-message, which was so inextricably linked to him. He said to his disciples, in anticipation of his departure after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:18).
Think of that. Christ did not leave them. Christ does not leave you. Christ comes to you. Christ still delivers a message of hope today. Christ still assures each one of us – each one in Binghamton – that we/they will not be left comfortless. The timeless Christ speaks today with a message that comes from God to you, and to each one in need.
It is a heavenly Father of pure love who conveys this Christ-message to each one of His children. It is a heavenly Father of unending life who forever cherishes the incorporeal identity of each and every one of His offspring. It is a heavenly Father of indestructible truth who sustains those who've lost loved ones and helps them to a glimpse, however faint, of what is indestructible in each of us.
Like most people, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy had her share of dark times. During one of the darkest she wrote, "My heavenly Father will never leave me comfortless, in the amplitude of His love; coming nearer in my need, more tenderly to save and bless" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 249). Those words are a prayer for today as much as for her own day. For people of any faith and those of no faith. The Christ-message, coming from the Father to all humanity, does comfort those who need it most. And it does help the rest of us make a positive difference in prayer.