“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do…For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Matthew 16:21,27)
I guess there are two kinds of Sunday Masses: run-of-the-mill Sunday Masses and Masses on the Sunday after an earthquake. At the run-of-the-mill Sunday Masses, distractions can get in the way. We don’t always open our minds to the Word of God like we should.
The same thing can happen at Mass after an earthquake. But coming to church after facing the possibility of sudden death and destruction can sharpen our attention somewhat.
Things like earthquakes can leave us wondering about the Providence of God. Thanks be to God, we did not suffer any serious damage this week. No injury, no loss of life. But we know well that sudden and apparently senseless death can come. Innocent people die in accidents every day. Others suffer unjustly. Why? Isn’t God in charge?
Maybe a televangelist, out there somewhere, has declared that the people of the mid-Atlantic must be sinners—since the Lord sent us an earthquake—but not really bad sinners—since the earthquake was only 5.9 on the Richter scale.
God is God, after all. He can send earthquakes, hurricanes, and plagues on whomever He wants to send them for whatever reason He has for sending them. But it does not require too much investigation on our part for us to discover that, if the Lord meted out His justice upon sinners strictly in the form of earthquakes, then there would not be a city left standing on the face of the earth. Washington, D.C., would not be standing, but neither would Rocky Mount, or Martinsville, or any other town.
The Word of God helps us to focus the matter. In the end, the Son of Man will come in glory with His angels, and He will repay us justly for our deeds.
Any televangelist who would say a natural disaster comes as divine punishment does God the wrong of underestimating the power of His wrath. When the Lord condemns someone, He doesn’t just shake the pictures off the dresser or crack the foundations of the house. No, when the Lord condemns someone, He punishes the malefactor with unquenchable fire. H-E-double L. Earthquakes and tsunamis look like beach volleyball compared to the punishments God Almighty has at His disposal for the afterlife.
How about a question on the flip-side of, ‘Why does God allow natural disasters?’ How about: If each of us has done things which displease the Creator—which we have—then why does He keep us around? I don’t think the deep existential problem is, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ The even-more-mysterious question is: Why does the Lord persist in giving good things to us bad people?
The Lord Jesus implores us in the gospel: Do not think as human beings think. Think as God thinks.
And how do we know how God thinks? Christ has shown us. God thinks: I will endure the unjust and cruel death of my beloved Son so that my confused and misbegotten children all over the world may have life. My innocent Son will suffer the evil that my guilty children deserve. Then I will shake the earth with the power of my indestructible life, and my beloved Christ will rise from the tomb, never to die again.
Why does the Lord persist in giving good things to us sinners? Why does a mother persist in feeding her infant baby? Why does a husband care for a terminally ill wife? Why do children seek to please their parents? One reason. L-O-V-E.
It is not that God hates mankind, and that is why there are earthquakes, diseases, and hurricanes. It is that He loves us, and that’s why we are even here at all.
He began loving us the moment each of us was conceived in our mother’s wombs. He consummates His love for us by drawing us to Himself.
And it takes precisely as long as it should, for each of us to go from the womb to heaven. God allots the days. He knows how much earth-time is needed in each particular case.
Our job does not involve determining how long our lives on earth are going to last. No; the job God has given us is much easier. Our assignment from God is: Today, co-operate with Me. Today, do what you know I would have you do. Don’t do anything you know I forbid.
Today, pray. Today, love your neighbor. Today, tell the truth. Today, purify your heart. Today, let go of everything that the next earthquake could take from you anyway; hold onto the things that earthquakes can’t take away.
Today be faithful. Today, give thanks. Today, be a saint. When tomorrow comes, do it again.
I will let you know when you’re done.