Reprinted from monthly parish bulletin, Oct. 2009
Every day we hear on the news about terrible things happening in the world. It all sounds so distant, so far removed from us that we continue with our own lives, tackling our own problems and forgetting soon what that terrible event was about. Then, another one comes along, and then another, but we go about our own business. “What can I do anyway?” we ask, shrugging our shoulders.
TV, Internet, Radio and newspapers are flooding our minds, our eyes and our ears with news from around the world — mostly bad news — from near and far; it makes no difference. We have become so saturated with information that we are unable to react. We have finally become desensitized and indifferent to the world around us. One can even say that we seem callous in front of the tragedies of others. . . . Until we become the news!! When war has affected us, sickness has visited us, the hurricane hit our town, the flood waters are rising outside our home – then time stops for us. All other worries take a back seat. We are the ones in a terrible situation. We look around us for consolation. We look to others for comfort. We soon raise the question, “why doesn’t anybody care? Why are people so callous? What have we come to? Is this the end of the world?”
It seems that life is cyclical. Today is your turn, tomorrow will be mine. No one is safe from tragedy. No one can boast that they are beyond pain or suffering. No one can guarantee for himself/herself a perfect life. No insurance company can sell assurance of bliss on this earth. There is no such thing. We live in a fallen and tragic world where humanity stands helpless in the face of tragedy.
It is at moments like this that most people will throw up their hands and ask for mercy — mercy from God, or whatever power is out there. Such moments of human distress are also moments of spiritual awakening. The earth and its joys are so mixed with suffering that the soul wants to escape to a better place. It is at such moments that most of us will turn to God and ask for help, wisdom, guidance and patience. It is also at such moments that we turn to Theology and the revelation of God as given in His Scriptures seeking answers to our difficult predicaments.
Humanity has struggled forever with such questions: Why is evil present in the world? Why sickness and suffering? Why such horrific events that bring destruction to life?
From ancient times, the Church has prayed for wisdom and guidance on these issues. Christian holy men and women have searched the Scriptures looking for answers and we can benefit from studying them. They speak of human sin, the separation of man from God and the tragedy which comes from that. They speak of human pride and arrogance that rules the earth and the dire consequences of that. They speak of human greed which blinds men to the dangers of nature. Many have perished over the years looking for that treasure, which they could never find. Even more people suffer and perish today, as greedy men want that treasure only for themselves.
As we lose our harmony with our Creator, the discord with His Creation increases. Nature, fallen and unstable is further thrown into disarray as men ignore their own responsibility toward her. Our own home will soon fall upon our heads if we neglect it. Nature needs our attention and care. We need to recover our harmony with God’s Creation.
The saints of the Church have also seen tragedy as an opportunity for men, as a time to surrender to God and trust in His care alone. They point to the opportunity to do good for others, to exercise philanthropy, to share in love. Even evil can be turned around by man, with God’s help, because man has been created in the image of God and has the potential to become like God in all his attributes.
This is our challenge, but also the opportunity to advance ourselves.