Can we make sense of the thousands of people killed in earthquakes, typhoons and Tsunami. What about the hundreds of thousands of people being displaced from their homes? Some of us, in fact I am not surprise to hear that many of us would be wondering, why does God not stop a Tsunami or an earthquake from happening? Before we so easily put the blame on God let us briefly reflect on the facts of our planet earth for a moment.
I remember a Jesuit Ecology scientist many years ago remarked that we can no longer speak of floods, earthquakes or Tsunami as a “natural calamity.” Whether directly or indirectly, we human beings have not only disrupted but destroyed the God given balance in Ecology the He has created. That is why I prefer to use the term “environmental calamity” instead of “natural calamity” because a Tsunami and earthquake is NOT natural, but directly or indirectly caused by us human beings.
Nuclear weapons testing above ground, underwater and underground not only cost billions and billions of dollars, but clearly have very serious adverse effects to our planet earth rock structures and pollution let alone the thousands who have suffered so much from the nuclear fallouts of such testing and now “new” threats of fallouts in countries who have nuclear plants.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2 million premature deaths are caused each year due to air pollution in cities across the world. A recent study has revealed that exposure to fine particle matter in polluted air increases the risk of hospitalization due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Every day about 2 million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s water system; and this is equivalent to the weight of 6.8 billion people. UN too estimates that the amount such wastewater produced annually is about six times the amount of water in the rivers of the world.
We have no time during this homily to go into the details of how we are destroying the originally perfect and beautiful planet earth that God has created for us. More specifically, we have to realise and take responsibility for all these toxic air that we breathe in and the contaminated sea food that we consume, the serious and deadly effects of global warming are all part of our human making; not God.
The basic question all world leaders and also ourselves as we live our daily lives is “God created a beautiful world, but what have we done with it?” We have to take responsibility for our sins of having destroyed and continuing to destroy God’s creation. As to our daily living, we have to ask ourselves, is it a wonder that sea food is contaminated, is it a wonder that millions of people are dying of lungs and heart diseases, and that cancer the number one killer disease is caused by so many factors that we cannot clearly point to?
The suffering in our world is so immense and widespread that we as human beings are at a lost of how we are to respond to such painful and tragic facts of life. It is very difficult to handle suffering as none of us want pain and nobody wants suffering.
Being fully human, Jesus too did not want suffering. At the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He knew what He would be suffering, He prayed, “Father, if possible remove this cup of suffering from me, but not My Will, but Your Will be done.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is ONLY IN CHRIST that we eventually can begin to make sense of our pains and sufferings in life. Our consolation is to know that Jesus Himself who suffered so much for our sake, is WITH US, in our suffering; HE FEELS OUR PAIN; and HE WILL GIVE US THE STRENGTH TO SUSTAIN OUR SUFFERING. This is our only hope and consolation.
We have heard of so many sad stories of people who have given up their faith in God because of their pains and sufferings in their lives. That’s really tragic because without God’s strength it would be impossible for us to bear our pain and suffering in our lives.
When Jesus told His apostles that He would soon be heading for Jerusalem where He will suffer and die, and eventually rise from His death on the third day, the apostles, could not accept that Jesus should suffer and die. In the Transfiguration, Jesus allowed the apostles, Peter, James and John to witness and experience the scene of the Transfiguration where He revealed His divinity and the Glory that is to come when He will rise from His death. In that experience, Peter, James and John could see that amidst the pain and suffering that Jesus is going to bear, there will surely be the divine glory; that there will be triumph through the humiliation of the Cross; and indeed that there is the Crown beyond the Cross; not all pain and suffering are negative an in vain.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us not forget that at the core of all these suffering of Christ and His Cross is the Father’s Will that has to be fulfilled. At the scene of the Transfiguration on Mt Hermon, Moses, the greatest law-givers, together with Prophet Elijah the greatest of all Prophets were present; to show Jesus, that all of the history of Israel is assuring Him that His path of His Suffering and death on the Cross is very much in line with the Father’s Will in the Plan of Salvation. Then, Jesus heard the voice from the cloud that enveloped them; “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Hearing the voice of His Father affirming Him, Jesus found the assurance that His path of suffering that He was to bear was all part of His Mission to save all of humankind.
My brothers and sister in Christ, let me conclude by saying, first, while we would find it very difficult to make much sense of our pain and suffering in this world, we should first not blame God, but take responsibility of the destruction that we are causing to our planet earth through the excessive focus on our materialism and consumerism; an addiction of our secular society that is primarily causing all that is happening in the world. Second, let us draw strength from God in our pain and suffering as we are so very blessed to have a Compassionate God who truly cares for us; and who will surely not abandon us in our pain. He FEELS our pain; He is WITH US in our pains, and He will always be there to EMBRACE US when we are in pain. Thus, we should NEVER LOSE HEART when we encounter the pains and sufferings of life – whatever they may be because we have God on our side. He is out true HOPE.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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