Photo of Jacinda Adern in a black veil in March 2019, mourning the tragedy of the mosque massacre in Christchurch NZ. Text in white reads: "we are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. Reflection by Brian Gallagher msc"

Image: Jacinda Adern, then Prime Minister of NZ visits the mosque less than 24 hours after the tragedy. Christchurch City Council Newsline/Kirk Hargreaves via WikiCommons

Editor’s Note: Continuing with our 40th Anniversary celebrations, we present Brian’s Reflections, a series of observations from Heart of Life co-founder, Fr Brian Gallagher msc.

I was in New Zealand early in 2019 at the time of the massacre of Muslim people in their mosque in Christchurch.  Though in a different town, I went to the local mosque to offer support, only to find hundreds of people already there, standing in silence outside a see-through fence adorned with bouquets of flowers in mourning.  Apparently the same was happening in many towns around the country.

In Christchurch itself, the leader of the Muslim community, the Imam, spoke to the crowd there.  His strongest words were: ‘we are broken-hearted, but we are not broken.’ These words have never left me.

Christian faith identifies with this.  Jesus died of a broken heart: the lance thrust into his side to make sure he was dead went right through to his heart – the Gospel tells us that what came out was blood and water.  The blood and water, symbols of life, assure us that in Jesus’ death, life emerges.  We are not broken.

Much of our daily news is heart-breaking: sexual abuse, family violence, famine, homelessness, refugees rejected by governments. Indeed, the church is not exempt.  Our spirituality, our quest for meaning cannot ignore the heart-breaking reality of everyday life.  Reality invites acceptance, but how can we say we are not broken, that life emerges from death?

For many people, meaning in life is found in their very living in the reality of our world.  For others, the group I fall into, much of life’s meaning comes from our faith perspective on the reality of our lives.  My lived faith takes its inspiration from the experience of Jesus.  Jesus did not try to make sense of the brutality of his torture and death, he accepted the reality in silence. Though he felt abandoned, even by God, he was not broken.  Jesus trusted to the end: ‘into your hands I commend my spirit.’  It seems that we discover we are not broken only in the acceptance of our broken hearts: then, life emerges from death.