Tsunami

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

January 27, 2005

 

††††††††††† The pictures of the Asian tsunami are still fresh in our minds.

††††††††††† The suffering we have seen there is beyond comprehension. The response to that suffering has been without precedent. So far the governmental and private pledges have exceeded three billion dollars. Even that huge amount of money is probably inadequate to make the wounded whole.

††††††††††† Like most parishes, our parish took up a collection for the victims about a week after the terrible wave hit the beaches. I hate to talk about money in church. We never take up second collections. So we made the tsunami collection part of the regular collection.

††††††††††† For once I did promote a cause. ďDig deep,Ē I told the faithful.

††††††††††† They did. I was overwhelmed at their response. Our little parish, with just over 1,000 families gave $21,700 to the tsunami relief. That is more than we have ever received for any ďspecialĒ collection.

††††††††††† I was very proud of our parishioners.

††††††††††† I think it is a human response. It is not just Americans who have been generous. I have read that Norwegians have given the most per capita of any nation. Even places like Saudi Arabia have had telethons that raised millions.

††††††††††† As tragic as this terrible disaster has been, it seems to me that there is an opening for Godís grace in all of this. It is an opportunity for us to come together in a common project for our common humanity.

††††††††††† I do not believe that God makes these disasters happen either to punish or to reward people. If God does do that, He uses a very blunt instrument.

Many innocent people suffer in all these tragedies, while many sinners never suffer. Any God who would use a disaster like the tsunami to punish people would not be a very just God.

††††††††††† These disasters are morally neutral. They are the result of natural phenomenon. In this case it is the movement of tectonic plates grinding against each other under the ocean. It reflects Godís will only in that it is part of nature and all of nature reflects Godís will.

††††††††††† But, while the disaster is morally neutral, our response is not.

Our response reveals whether or not we are open to Godís grace. How we respond is a mark of whether we use or refuse Godís grace.

††††††††††† There are times when we have miss the ďboat,Ē so to speak, on Godís grace. One has only to think if the man made disasters in Rwanda and Sudan. Or reflect on the continuing tragedy of war in Congo that has taken nearly three million lives. Or think of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, which nearly every month gives us a death toll equal to the tsunami.

††††††††††† But, thanks be to God, this time people have responded to the invitation of Godís grace. Iím not sure why.

Perhaps it was the dramatic pictures taken by so many tourist video cameras. Perhaps it was the anguishing stories broadcast so well by the worldís media. Perhaps it was the suddenness of the disaster, which recalls the scriptural images that Jesus gives us of the final judgment, when two are out on the field and one is taken and one is left.(Mt. 24:41).

Whatever the cause of this generousity, it is possible that this tsunami could prove to be a blessing to the wider world. It could awaken us to see that whether we are Christian or Moslem, Asian or Caucasian, rich or poor, we are all Godís children.

If we continue to our common humanity beyond the relief effort, then this incomprehensible sorrow could give way to a tsunami of grace.