Reacting to Disaster with Faith

God permits them so that we remember what is most important in life, so that we remember what he suffered out of love for us.
by Amelie Torre | Source:

There have been quite a few natural disasters in the past few years that have made us all realize that there are just some things that we cannot control. The tsunami in Asia, or Hurricane Katrina, or the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile…it makes us feel helpless. There is only so much we can do to alleviate the huge toll of human suffering, or to foresee enough to prevent the worst damage. All we can do afterwards is to rebuild as best we can. Many times the tragedy is that we were so careless, so unmindful, that more people die than necessary. I am thinking specifically of Katrina, because I am a New Orleans native. I will never forget the pictures of all those empty yellow school buses drowning in the floodwaters. Those buses were supposed to bring people to safety, and they were never used. I don’t know whose fault it really was. But I do know that something could have been done, and it wasn’t. I also know that the levee was never properly reinforced or maintained. And all this happened in the United States, where there are so many more resources than in Haiti. Do we really understand the nightmare that is taking place there? 

 It doesn’t do any good now to go after those who were negligent. The widespread devastation is a fact, and they will need to live with their consciences, which I think is torment enough, if they have a living conscience still. Somehow I think the conscience stays alive no matter how much sin, evil and indifference you pile on top of it to squelch its voice. All we can do is forgive and start picking up the pieces. The exterior damage pales in the face of the interior damage that takes place inside these people who could have done something but didn’t, for whatever reason. They need mercy instead of someone just finishing them off for good. This kind of reconstruction is also much more difficult to achieve, but it can be done.  

Fortunately there is another side to these uncontrollable tragedies, these incidents which just rip through people’s lives and destroy everything they ever knew. There is the overwhelming response that all people of good will give; they give everything they can to help those who are suffering. There is an outpouring of donations, or of practical help of all kinds: medical care, rebuilding homes, everything you can think of. There is real solidarity, generosity; the miracle of charity is at work. I know of someone who decided to pack off to Haiti to rescue around eighty orphans and find homes for them in Florida. This is someone who saw a huge need and responded with everything he could give. There is a single mother as well who decided to adopt four of these children. That is simply heroic; it is the great mystery of God drawing such good out of evil. He permits these disasters so that we are reminded of what we are capable of. He permits them so that we remember what is most important in life, so that we remember what he suffered out of love for us.

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