This week … okay let’s face it, this summer in Canada has seen its fair share of catastrophe, calamity, tragedy and horror. Lives have been decimated by a train that has become an explosive weapon tearing a community from its mooring. From west to east rain and water have overflowed lives, homes and businesses – and with each new development, as a country we are having to face some serious questions about our public infrastructure and investments or – perhaps more importantly – lack thereof in respect to the things that are often the backbone for the social good.
The range of emotions for friends and families, Christian Brothers & Sisters and faith communities throughout the country probably falls into a continuum from shock and awe to rage and anger. Tears are falling, fists are raised in frustration and contempt and – as is our species’ wont – it quickly becomes politicised. This person did that; that organisation should have done this; and those who are affected are too often forced to confront their own powerlessness as compassion and care seem lacking in the sound bites and clips that inundate our waking hours. And for those of us who have not experienced such loss, grief and ire, we stand tempted to be simply numbed.
Where does this leave faith communities? Groups of women and men who attempt to navigate the places where human frailty and failing meets that which is larger, purer, perhaps even Holy and Divine? As questions arise, we might want to ask, lament and rage “Why did the Creator allow this?” “Why would God choose my house, my loved one, my business?”
The questions are likely only limited by those who are (in)directly affected and yet the murmur is only amplified by a culture too often distracted by questions of causality. If only this had been done, then this would not have happened … and those who grieve and suffer are silenced.
I do not and will not claim to have any answers to these appropriate emotions or questions. I cannot patronise to understand such experiences as I sit in a place of protected privilege removed from the burden of surviving such events. I would be disingenuous to ‘preach’ or ‘pontificate:’ in fact such a response would only be condescending and hurtful.
So where does that leave me, you and others who are safe and well and who are motivated by compassion and care, where the social good is recognised as a goal toward which to aspire and to take action?
I think, as I leave that question above hanging, that the word ‘action’ points beyond itself. God – the one to which I owe allegiance – does not capriciously cause pain or harm. The Holy Mystery, which embraces life, is present in the places not of cause, but the effect that occurs from the choices that follow. And in those places it is my sincere belief that the Creator becomes manifest through the actions of those who respond.
There will be an appropriate time and place to seek how to make things safer and better. To examine human processes and protocols, in order to – if not fix – endeavour to be better prepared for the inevitable surprises that are part of the mortal journey. But for now, where tears rise and hands beseech, the gift of action through prayer and compassion, gentle touch and sharing of resources seems profoundly fitting.