"We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed.”
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: "Do not close your ears to my cry for relief." You came near when I called you, and you said, "Do not fear." Lamentations 3:47-48, 55-57
It often seems as if our world is becoming overwhelmed by disasters of every sort: natural disasters such as fires and floods that sweep away man’s livelihood; disasters resulting from human errors, wars, terror attacks, domestic violence, social unrest and poverty; mass trauma caused by epidemics or other events that cause a general sense of fear and anxiety.
There is no question that when disaster hits, we are so deeply shaken and bewildered that we cry “have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am afflicted; sorrow afflicts my eyes, my soul, my whole body. My life is spent with grief, and my years with groaning. My strength has been sapped in misery and my bones are greatly troubled” (Psalm 30: 9-10).
During these difficult times, there arises a desire to find meaning in what has happened. In an effort to satisfy this desire, many religious leaders are quick to speak about the disaster as an expression of the God’s wrath against all ungodliness and wickedness. It is without a doubt that such a superficial interpretation contributes to a great deal of misunderstanding and is spiritually damaging.
God’s command is that we live in physical and spiritual harmony with His creation. When we ignore this command, we will provoke God’s creation, physical and human nature, to disrupt often in a fierce way. It is essential that we gain knowledge from these disruptions so as to cultivate a more qualitative way of existence. Such knowledge can only be achieved when we come to “know” God through prayer and fasting and by understanding the dynamics of nature itself. Being that this can only be done over a long period of time, initially focusing only on this aspect of a disaster will not provide the necessary comfort needed for its victims.
Whether we are laymen or clergy, in the midst of affliction, our pastoral responsibility is to lead the faithful into a community of loving support and solidarity. There we will discover our philanthropic and merciful God, the true comforter who is surrounded by His Saints and we will shout: “Awesome is God in His sanctuary”. His presence is found in the bond of peace, formed by those that come together in His name. For “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthews 18:20). It is for this reason that in difficult times our People have always come together to offer supplications, have litanies and vigils. There they form a Eucharistic community of persons whereby they find and express philanthropy. In such a Eucharistic community, they will hear God’s philanthropic voice that will tell them “do not fear”. Then, after the storm, they will find peace.