September 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 2
Thorton Wilder in 1927 wrote a novel called "The Bridge Of San Luis Rey". It is the story of five people who came together to cross a bridge, five people from different walks of life. While they were going over the bridge the bridge collapsed and all five died. That book has been analyzed and dissected from a psychological point of view, theological point of view, sociological point of view. Were these people destined to die on this day? Did God know they were going to die on that day? Why is it all five came together never knowing each other up until that time and all five died together? Those are the questions that have been asked about that novel since 1927.
Last month in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a bridge of about 40 years of age plummeted into the water below. Over 9 have been killed, over 100 injured and those same questions can be asked. Why is it that those particular 10 have been killed? Why have those particular 100 been injured? Questions like this always surface whenever a tragedy, a calamity or a catastrophe takes place. If you go back to the Middle Ages you might recall that from the years 1347 to 1351 one third of the European population, into the millions, died because of the "bubonic plaque" or what is called the "black plague". A person who was touched by the virus generally died within 30 hours. The plague came into Europe mysteriously and left Europe mysteriously without any one ever finding what the causes of the plague were all about.
Tragedy hits every decade in every civilization. Last month in Cheshire, Connecticut, an ordinary family by the name of Petit experienced tragedy that none of us could ever dream of. Three were killed, the father was savagely beaten, the house was set afire and the two men who were arrested have a long tack record of burglary and violence. In my own life many years ago I spent six months studying in a prison called Fairview Home for the Criminally Insane in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. You would interview young men, good looking men, who were arrested for killing or strangling an eight year old girl or nine year old boy and when you asked them why they did it they give you superficial answers - I was bored, I was looking for something different to do.
Tragedies like this hit every culture and almost every family. They were talked about and discussed about in the time of Plato and Socrates. They have been referred to as the problem of evil, the problem of suffering and all sorts of theories have been brought forth. But when you analyze all of them, especially if you are a victim the answers are not complete; the answers seem quite inadequate why violence should impact this particular individual or this particular family.
In order to get a partial understanding of these tragedies that hit every civilization during every century, if you go back to the bible you soon learn that God never said we were going to have an answer to every question or a solution for every problem. When God allowed us to come into this world he allowed us to become part of a legacy of a person who paid a great price for us. That person was Jesus Christ. If you analyze the life of Jesus Christ, having gone through an agony, scourging, a crowning and crucifixion, you might recall that during that process He said, "Father, if it is possible, let this suffering pass from me". That was the price He paid so that each one of us would have the opportunity of living in the kingdom of heaven for which His Son died.
If you study Christ and His Blessed Mother during that time, they were never given the answers to the questions that they had in their minds. They were never given solutions to the problems that confronted them. They were expected to show a deep personal faith and a deep person sense of hope that no matter how big the tragedy was God would never abandon them. When you look at the words of Christ when he said, "I will not leave you orphans I will be with you until the consummation of the world", He was reminding us over and over again it is only through a deep personal sense of faith and hope in God can we ever come through some of the tragedies and calamities that hit so many families.
God did not give answers to His Son on the Cross. God did not give answers to His mother beneath the cross, He does not give answers to each one of us faith and hope means we have to live with the answers and the unresolved. Many of the questions we have in life, many of the problems we have in life will only be answered when we met God face to face. Oftentimes parents do not give total answers to their children. God does not give us, His children, total answers.
Complete answers, complete solutions to every problem are not going to be experienced by us. We often profess in our culture that we live in the age of information. But the mind of God works differently. We will be given the information or the answers to our problems when God so decides and not one nanosecond earlier. When you analyze it, why do we expect God to give us answers or solutions to every problem for thousands of years, people have lived without the cure for cancer, without the cure for Alzheimer's. The calamities of other sorts that we experience are part of the mystery of God keeping the answers to Himself and will only be answered when we meet him face to face. Yes we can rebel, we can scream, we can murmur when tragedy takes place, but if we have the common sense God wants us to cultivate in place of that we will develop a personal faith and personal hope that will enable us to experience the joys of the kingdom of God after our tour of life on this earth is over.
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