April 11, 2014

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Faith is a path to find meaning in Nathan Trapuzzano’s death

Sean GallagherThe murder of Nathan Trapuzzano reminds us that we who seek to follow Jesus in our daily lives live with feet in two worlds. One foot is in the world that God created as good but which now groans under the sad effects of original sin.

The other foot is in the kingdom of God, which is the beginning of the restoration of creation’s original goodness and its ultimate fulfillment in heaven.

Having a foot in one world and one in another can seem strange to people with both feet in this world alone. To some of them, the kingdom is absurd and doesn’t exist. Others might acknowledge its existence but would deny that it has anything to do with this world.

This is not what Christ taught, however. He wants us to be truly in this world but not of it. He wants us to be heralds of the beauty of his kingdom in a world that is so often marred by ugliness and filth.

That ugliness and filth were on full display on April 1 in Indianapolis when Nathan Trapuzzano was gunned down while on a morning walk. Married less than a year ago, Trapuzzano was looking forward to welcoming the birth of his first baby in a matter of weeks. He was a deeply faith-filled man who was a member, with his wife Jennifer, of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. (Related story: Faith, forgiveness marked life and death of young Catholic killed in shooting)

If I were to have both of my feet in this world, Trapuzzano’s death would have proved to me that this world is ultimately absurd. I can try to live well in it, but such attempts will always stand on shaky ground, ready to be tumbled over by anyone with more power than me, who resorts to violence to get their way and who ultimately believes that might makes right.

What a cold, sad world to stand in with both feet.

Nathan Trapuzzano, however, had one foot in the kingdom of God. In the world of the kingdom, Christ has eternally overcome the power of death. He has robbed violence of its power. In this world, goodness makes right, not might.

That’s why Trapuzzano valued Christ’s mercy, which his wife Jennifer said he received in the sacrament of confession the day before his death. That’s why Father Christopher Roberts, a priest of the Lafayette Diocese who knew Trapuzzano well, said in the homily at the young man’s funeral that he was convinced that Trapuzzano had forgiven his attackers.

Now everyone who seeks to follow Christ still has a foot in this world disfigured by the effects of original sin, where the ethic of might makes right so often holds sway. The fact that we still have a foot in this world can lead us to unspeakable heartbreak.

I heard that heartrending sadness and grief at Trapuzzano’s funeral when his widow Jennifer moaned loudly in agony.

Perhaps her cries were echoes of the heartbreak that Christ and his blessed Mother experienced in the depths of their souls on Good Friday during Christ’s passion and death, which we will solemnly recall this upcoming Holy Week.

As I heard those cries as I walked back to my pew after Communion, I was angry and said intensely within myself, “This is wrong. This shouldn’t be. A young wife and mother shouldn’t have to suffer like this.”

The same could have been said of Mary on Good Friday 2,000 years ago.

She bore within her heart the full weight of the evil of this world that her Son carried on his shoulder. Nathan experienced a heavy share of this evil in his death. Jennifer will continue to carry it into the future. And while the eternal effects of their pain died with Christ on Calvary, only Christ rose victorious from the tomb.

This is the gloriously Good News of the world of the kingdom of God, where one of our feet is planted on solid ground. Nonetheless, this Good News is still often little comfort in this world, where our other foot is planted. This can be especially true for people like Jennifer Trapuzzano and her family, friends and others who suffer so grievously the torments of the evil of this world.

As we enter into this most holy of weeks, where we come face-to-face with both the worst that this world can do and the victory of Christ over the world, let us pray for people who bear especially heavy crosses at this time, that their trust in Christ will be strengthened. †

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