We pray for the repose of the souls of the victims.
We pray for the survivors.
Years ago, Italian journalist Vittorio Messori interviewed Blessed John Paul II for what would eventually become Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Vittorio, enfant terrible that he was, asked the pain filled question about where God was to be found in the midst of all human tragedy. In my paraphrase: Is God mocking us, playing Hide and Go Seek with us? Is God merely some abstract figment of our imagination out in outer space somewhere? Did He just kick-start the universe and then take off? Where is God? Doesn’t God care? Isn’t this a scandal?
Blessed John Paul answered. In my paraphrase: Oh yes! What a scandal! The Lord does in fact hide from us in this most hidden place, not hidden because it is hidden, but because we ourselves don’t look in the most obvious of places. He is in view of all, for everyone to see, stripped down, nailed to the cross, arms wide open, in such plain sight that we, not expecting to see the Divine Son of the Living God tortured and in total agony and put to death, just cannot see how this could be God. We would sometimes like for God to remain abstract and out in the outer-space of our own cowardly imaginations.
But there He is, nonetheless.
Yes, God does know what it means to suffer.
And He does have the power to prevent such tragedies.
And we can see Him in the help that others provide in the aftermath.
But why doesn’t He prevent this from the get-go?
Our Lord didn’t come to save us in this world from the effects of original sin freely chosen with that sin, effects of weakness of mind, of will, of emotions, of sickness and death. He respects the consequences of what was chosen with sin, effects that all of us suffer even though it is Adam alone who sinned so terribly that the rest of us suffer with him, the unity of humanity being just that close.
Rather, in taking on the worst of that sin, death, He had the right in justice to have mercy on us.
That mercy is seen in the opportunity we have to live His love despite the consequences of original sin raging away within us. And that grace, His life and friendship within us, turns to glory in heaven, where all the consequences of sin will fall away. No more suffering. No more death. Life for ever. Our time on this earth being so very short, it hardly making a difference if we die young or old in the face of all eternity. Our home is in heaven, not here.
Without original sin, mankind would have so worked together, not seeking profit, but the common good with full respect for each individual. We would have dominated the earth, easily being able to escape such things until we should also be able to dominate such forces in nature. But we sinned. We don’t work together.
This mayhem is what our Lord stepped into on purpose, knowing what would happen. When we are faced with such goodness and such kindness, we can’t but, in our weakness, hold that to be an incrimination of us, and we have to put that goodness and kindness to death. We, in our sin, had to kill our Lord to get Him out of the way. He knew that. That’s why He came. In taking on the worst we had to give out, what we ourselves deserve, He had, again, the right in all justice to have mercy on us.
And now it is our turn to do the same. With His love, we go out with full love of God and love of neighbor, whatever the cost. For instance, should the Westboro “Baptist” Marxist front group show up to say that all the kids should have been killed by the tornado instead of just a few, it would be an act of goodness and kindness to shut such loudmouths up, even vigilante style, inasmuch as they interfering with rescue operations, endangering the lives of others in this way, using even a bit of force, whatever force is necessary. Sure, you might risk prison for forcibly keeping such people away, but — hey — it’s worth it, right? Yep. And I don’t think a judge would convict anyone for helping to keep law and order.
Just to say: Those who would say that someone deserves to die rather than us because we’re better than them are risking going straight to hell for their arrogant pride. Anyway…
We can see God, we can see Jesus in all of this. We can see with a bit more reality the mayhem Jesus stepped into. We can see why we need to be saved from this world to be brought to our home in heaven. We can see His love in the heroic actions and exhaustion of those who survived and helped others. We can see His love in the growth of perspective, in the revising of priorities, in the recognition of shortness of this life, in the love that we bear toward one another.
Yes, also and especially in the midst of such tragedy we can exclaim that Jesus is just so very good, just so very kind.
Now then, a prayer for the repose of the souls of the departed:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…