Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 19, 2003
Massacre witnesses teen's joyful faith
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
She (Cassie Bernall)was also an outsider, lonely, "a loser without a date for the prom."
And that she was! Cassie Bernall was an exceptional soul and her story speaks of something more important than technical martyrdom.
More important than her affirmative answer to her killers' question, was her struggle and eventual victory over some of the worst forces of darkness that exist on the planet, loneliness and rejection. She said yes to God and to love on the day of her death because she had already, after a monumental struggle, said that yes in the months and weeks before.
There's a powerful irony in her story that shouldn't be missed. The two young students who killed her had cause for their bitterness. They were unpopular outcasts, lonely rejects, considered "losers" by their peers. This experience drove them to an anger and hatred so deep that it eventually led to mass murder and suicide.
Cassie Bernall, by her own description of herself, wasn't much different. She was also an outsider, lonely, "a loser without a date for the prom." And. indeed, at a point, she was strongly tempted to the same kind of anger, hatred and bitterness as her killers.
Yet, how different her life ended from theirs. Her killers died angry, hysterical, mad with rage. She died, not unlike Jesus, praying, refusing bitterness, loving, even as she could taste the exact same loneliness as her killers. In describing the death of Jesus the Gospels don't emphasize his physical sufferings, but instead focus on his loneliness, his rejection, his being the outcast, unanimity-minus-one.
Both Cassie Bernall and her killers knew the taste of being unanimity-minus-one and the temptation to bitterness that this brings. But in Cassie's case the good won out, she died in a fashion remarkably similar to Jesus. Like Jesus she died refusing bitterness in the midst of rejection.
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