It would be disingenuous to say that there is an easy answer to these questions, because their isn't, but Scripture does give us an incredible piece of insight into God's way of dealing with human nature in giving us the free will choice between right and wrong (Deuteronomy 30:15-20):
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess."
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
This passage is a warning by the Lord (which the Deuteronomist tells us was given though Moses) to the children of Israel to obey his commandments or face the harsh consequences of their own disobedience. God was warning the Israelites not that he was going to "kill them off" if they went their own way, but that they would bring about their own destruction in view of their own bad choices. What this important Old Testament passage is telling us today is something similar but far more simple-God has given humanity the free will to choose right and wrong, good and evil. God has shown us what good is, having done so sending his Son, the Word Incarnate into the world. Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem humanity, but he didn't come to force anyone to follow him or force people to do good or right. That choice is ours alone, and the choice we make has consequences.
Knowing this helps us understand that people have the power to make choices, even the most terrible choices. We believe that people will be held to account for their choice to rebel against the laws of God and his command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We believe that God loves the humanity that he created so much that he sent his Son into the world-the second person of the Trinity and the Incarnate Word-to redeem us from our own sins, our decision to make choices that lead to what the Scripture passage above calls "death and evil," to give us the ability through the redemption of the Cross to reclaim for ourselves the side of "life and good." It is this desire on the part of God from the very beginning to be reconciled with mankind which he made in his image and likeness that is what Advent and Christmas (and, for that matter, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter) are really all about.
In Newtown, Connecticut yesterday, for reasons we do not know and have no power or authority to judge, a young man chose death and evil over life and good. As public figures on all sides begin a disgraceful attempt to politicize the massacre, virtually no one is blaming the root cause that brings about all such violence in our age: A Culture of Death in Western society which not only says that the unborn and the aged and the infirm and the helpless have only the value that we as individuals assign to them, but one which glorifies violence, demeans and objectifies the human person, and perverts liberty itself. Our present culture is saturated with the glorification of sin and the public promotion and encouragement-and even promotion by the state-of the worst forms of social and human depravity, and we wonder how someone could get it into their mind to do such a thing.
When society chooses "death and evil," it is telling individuals that death and evil and all of the sins that go with them are also an acceptable personal choice. We will not see peace in our culture until we begin to choose life and good anew.
Pray for the families and the people of Newtown, Connecticut.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the Faithful Departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.