At the height of the storm the Church spire stood while the construction crane toppled amidst other modern-day towers in down-town Miami. “Let us pray, pray for everybody,” said the governor of Florida, words echoed by the millions in the path of Hurricane Irma that caused such massive devastation in the Caribbean, Cuba and parts of the US. “May God calm the storms of our heart.” This was the prayer of the Diocese of Orlando. “May we remember to check on one another as the storms arrive. May we take care of ourselves, our loved ones and those God puts in our path.”
Could these have been the prayers of the ancient people of Babel, and the those who watched the waters rising as Noah, his family and the animals sailed away in the ark? Are these signs of the end times?
All these may have been questions going through the minds of millions in immediate danger while millions of others around the world watched in morbid fascination. But these events massively depicted on our media were not the only “natural” disasters that have hit our world recently. Monsoon rains and floods in the East, India and Nepal, a mudslide in Sierra Leone have resulted in hundreds and thousands of deaths in poorer countries. More devastating but less universally depicted.
While some of us watch TV reports in morbid fascination others remain unperturbed. Until tragedy touches one personally.
Pope Francis speaks constantly of “The World our Common Home.” in Laudato Si, he teases out many of the factors that can contribute to these massive natural disasters i.e. climate change, global warming and notes the concern of some and unconcern or denial of others. Rising ocean temperature is given as the reason for the powerful hurricanes and typhoons. Human action is playing a role in this.
One can’t help but think back to the Biblical accounts in Genesis. In these origin myths of the Flood and the Tower of Babel God, observing the evil and wickedness that had grown in his creatures, decides to punish them. Is this just punishment or is there not also God’s merciful approach in calling on people to turn from their evil ways? Is God not able to use this catastrophes for the ultimate good?
Some prophets of doom will say these are the signs of the end times. But in reality we have been living in “end times” since the coming of Jesus. Laudato Si, while it lists the serious challenges is ultimately a message of hope, a call to care for our mother earth, and our sisters and brothers who are wounded and suffering. And as he writes in Evangelii Gaudium even though we may be prostrate at the foot of the cross, even our own, with Jesus, “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelisation (EG 83), of hope! (EG 86) of community!” (EG 92)
“The World Our Home”, is the family theme for the month of September. It is also Heritage month in South Africa. Wherever we are there is much to be done as we reflect, build, rebuild and celebrate in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 12 September 2017