Dear Friends in Christ:
One of the minor trials of recuperating after surgery has been the total lack of energy to do anything. It is difficult to move and it is hard to concentrate or think. As with last year’s recovery period, I find myself unwittingly taking lots of naps. Between naps the TV has been on, and the news has been exceedingly sad. As though it was not enough for us here locally to be going through the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the floods, every day brings more sadness and tragedy. Hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico, earthquakes in Mexico, craziness in North Korea, social unrest and divisiveness concerning the national anthem, terrorist attacks in France and Canada, and the horrible shooting rampage in Las Vegas. One can rightly ask, “What is going on?”
Our Catholic faith helps us in our understanding and coping with these terrible events. While all are tragic we need to distinguish between the suffering which is the consequence of evil and the suffering which is the result of nature (hurricanes, earthquakes, and illness). The terrorist attacks, the shooting rampage, threats of nuclear hostilities and civil discord, are the results of human actions. The actions were freely committed by individual human beings and caused pain and suffering for other human beings. These evil actions which were all totally avoidable are sinful and an affront to God, who is infinitely good. The suffering caused by natural events were not in themselves sinful and were not caused by a free action of any human person. No individual caused the earthquake in Mexico or a hurricane in the Caribbean. Yet the suffering was just as real and painful and even more massive in its effects. What should not be lost in either of these types of suffering (from evil or from nature) is that human persons have a choice in how to respond when confronted by suffering. We have all witnessed the heroic actions of first responders and ordinary people who risked their own lives to help others. We have seen, and many of us have experienced, the kindness, generosity, love and selfless, of friends, neighbors and strangers. At the same time, we have seen those who would compound the suffering by perpetuating evil through their actions. Those who would loot, price gouge, refuse to help those in need, put themselves before others, use only words of anger, escalate situations rather help solve them, or be indifferent to the pain of those suffering through their own evil actions and decisions, increased the pain and suffering of these horrible situations. This is not just unfortunate but sinful.
Our Christian faith bears witness to the fact that in times of pain and suffering, no matter what the cause, that God is with us. He not only walks with us in our suffering, but he aids us with his love and grace. Just as God’s love was with every person in Hurricane Harvey it is with every person suffering from the earthquake in Mexico and the hurricanes in Florida and the Caribbean. Likewise, God’s love is with the victims of the terrorist attacks and the Las Vegas shooting. Some people naively and arrogantly attempt to claim that the presence of suffering and evil is argument against God’s existence or his perfect and infinite goodness. On the contrary, only by faith in God and in his goodness can we come to see that the problem of evil and suffering is not our sole lot. Faith in Jesus reveals to us God’s divine love and the superabundance of his grace which exceed all suffering and all evil. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!” (Rm 5:20) During these trying times, each of us has the opportunity to grow in faith and to grow in grace. We have the choice to grow in our love of God and one another or to turn in ourselves and away from God. Cursing the darkness does not make the day brighter. Jesus tells us what to do in times like these…
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 5:14-16)
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately