Monday, December 31, 2012

When suffering causes us to ask God if he exists.

The world has seen a whole slew of terrible violence reported in the media lately.  The word ‘mindless’ had often been used in these reports, and one can understand why.  After all, there is no mind that can wrap itself around an act of entering an Elementary School with a semi-automatic assault rifle and spraying bullets randomly, killing innocent children and teachers.  There is no mind that can fathom how one can plan to ambush volunteer firemen by setting a house on fire and shooting the firemen down like some hapless animals when they arrive on the scene to give help.  And there is no way a mind can even consider how a young 23 year old woman can be so brutally raped and attacked by a group of men and left to die.  These stories are just some of the many of awful and insane violence that has taken place in the past month alone on this planet we call earth, where human beings call home.  It is strange to call us human beings when from what appears in these stories, there are beings that are scarcely human. 

But my vocation as priest always seems to ask a more fundamental question – a question, which I am sure many atheists out there have asked at some point of time in their lives.  Where was God when these acts occurred?  The atheists have long come to a conclusion that because God had not acted to intervene directly when these massacres occurred, it is proof that God doesn’t exist.  Their premise is that a benevolent being cannot but show up and stop anything that doesn’t fit at all into the plan of goodness and life – like a holy Superman or Ironman.  But I wonder if they have ever considered that this view of God is flawed because it means that this God does not give us the freedom of our wills in giving us our lives, even when our wills are willfully against his.  While atheists claim to not believe in God, the God that they may want to have is actually a control-freak despot who can easily be upset and outraged.

But then, you may question why I am questioning as well, and whether it is a fair question to ask.  My question is not one of ‘where were you, God?’ but more of a ‘what is this teaching us?’.  Mindless violence and attacks are common occurrences.  But if nothing is learnt from them, they will continue and may even increase in intensity and mindlessness.  What we need is a new grace to be able to look not outside at these happenings, but inside where each of us becomes aware that we have a possibility to make a change and to cooperate with the grace of God to respond adequately to each challenge and invitation to live a godly life.  In the wake of the death of the Indian girl, there have been calls for a similar violent treatment to all of her murderers, and some have been pretty violent and graphic, to say the least.  But won’t reacting this way merely perpetuate violence, and put us on the same level as these depraved men who seemed to love violence?  It was Mahatma Ghandi, the sage from their own land who was famously quoted “an eye for an eye makes the world blind”.  Violence will never end violence.  Besides, which of us in conjuring up these torturous responses of revenge can claim to be without sin ourselves?  While it is noble and true that many have empathized with the victim and called her ‘sister’ or ‘daughter’, and indeed she is, we cannot have double standards to say that the rapists are not our ‘brothers’ and our ‘sons’.  If we are really true to our Christian calling, they are.  This is really the heart of the true Christmas message that we may have missed that Jesus underwent the incarnation to make ALL of us (sinners and saints) his brothers and sisters.  He did not just come for the good.  Psalm 85:10 speaks of a time when righteousness and peace will kiss, and steadfast love and faithfulness will meet.  What does this mean but that there is a new kind of justice in Christ when he comes – a justice that no longer screams for blood in return for blood, and revenge for a hurt caused.  As long as we want revenge, suffering, torture, blood and lives in return for lives, the spiral of violence continues and we are not at all ready for Christ’s coming and Christmas was a mere day off work.

Another thing that comes out of these stories is that there is an inevitable willingness for our God to wait.  He is in no hurry, or at least he seems not to be.  The fact that he doesn’t move much out of his holy throne to augment and turn things around doesn’t even seem to bother him that this ‘lackadaisical’ approach can end up making more and more atheists.  Apparently, it was a Czech writer named Thomas Halik who said that an atheist is someone who is not patient enough with God.

Perhaps he was right ‘on the money’, as some would say.  People of faith are people who display a lot of patience with God though I am certain that most of us struggle too when it comes to sufferings of our own.  Even the best of us is not without our heartache and crushing experiences in life where we would rather have had God intervene swiftly to resolve anxiety, tension and pain.  Which of us would not prefer a God who rescues us from dangers, who is the stalwart upholder of justice and righteousness, and who doesn’t permit us to suffer, grow feeble and finally die?  The difference between the Atheist and believing Christians is that we are still committedly in the waiting 'game'. 

Yes, I know we are on the cusp of the New Year, and many will make these things called New Year resolutions.  It’s fashionable, I suppose.  In some ways, to have resolutions gives the impression that you are still interested in life, and that you are not giving up on goodness and hope, and that there is the possibility of change for the better. 

So this is my two-cents’ worth of anything that may connect a resolution with faith.  Make that resolution to stay waiting, and to do it with a deep sense of joy.  Things can turn worse, and they probably will.  It’s not a waiting game that God is playing.  If Jesus came down from the Cross at his crucifixion, it would have changed so much they way we see God now.  God did let Jesus die even though he was being challenged and taunted.  And that saved us!  We will be challenged and perhaps even taunted in our sufferings this year.  We need to stay in the waiting and have our minds turned toward the resurrection, and in our thoughts and actions, try to let steadfast love and faithfulness meet, and righteousness and peace kiss.

Blessed 2013, everyone.


  1. Faith-filled and Blessed New Year Fr Luke!!!:)
    Thank you for the guidance,it is so true 'An eye for an eye makes the world blind.'

  2. When these mindless acts of violence erupt, they never fail to evoke questions like, ‘’Is there a God?’’ or “How could an omnipotent God, a good God allow this to happen?..............unless He is really not so powerful after all?’’ Or perhaps ( what is more dreadful) - ‘’He doesn't really care, one way or another, what or how we mess up our lives!’’- and I feel that, it is this seeming indifference which is the most hurtful, most challenging to our faith.

    Nevertheless, we will still ask ‘’Where was God when these acts occurred?’’

    I believe that He was right there in the midst of it all...........perhaps equally shocked and appalled,( like the rest of us ) as to how His gift of ‘’free will’ - could be so mis-used/abused, and yet never giving up on us for the darkness or evil that we seem to choose.............

    Perhaps, even now as we are learning to come to terms with this horror, He is using this evil (that humans wreaked upon humans) for His redemptive purpose that will ultimately produce the ‘’complex good”. For many a time, we have seen that out of the heart of darkness, pain and suffering..............sprout acts of mercy, kindness and compassion –and we see a glimmering of Hope......and or a partially redeemed world!

    Happy and blessed New Year , Fr.


  3. Dear GOD,
    Help this fallen world. To those that are already on the road to salvation, guard them with Your Jealous Zeal: strengthen Your Power in them so that even pagan men may see Your Jealous Hand; at work in Your friends and come to yearn to know the GOD who gave His Breath to each and every man.

  4. It left me somewhat sad, disappointed and disillusioned (with God) if what you wrote is true.
    If God loves each and every one of us so much, will He not do anything and everything to protect and ensure we are safe? Your blog suggested not - His desire to give us a free will takes priority to the extent that He will let us do what we want, including destroying others. Is that the way He came to bless us? I suddenly feel so alone and unsafe!

    If you view wanting justice done as an eye for an eye only, then you are looking at it only from a very narrow viewpoint. Law and justice are way more than that, thankfully! It is a huge and essential deterrent to say the least which will save millions, like what our law minister said of the death penalty being a necessary evil. You will retort with ‘two wrongs do not make one right’. But let's go back to basics- spare the rod and spoil the child. I will say if you really want to save the child and the rod is the only way, use it! You said yourself that God did let Jesus die ... And that saved us! Does that not make the crucifixion the biggest necessary evil ever, unbeatable to this day?
    I am sure all who wants justice, myself included of course, are not claiming to be without sin as what you said and I think it is unfair and insensitive to even suggest that it puts us on the same level as these depraved men or that we are having double standards by accepting the injured party as our sister and rejecting the accused as our brother. It is precisely because we are not having double standards that we will not allow six beast-beings to attack one human being and yet go free! If a sin as grievous as this is not punished severely, how many more women out there will be raped and violated with a rusty iron rod with intestines ripped besides losing their innocence? This is the result of the lunacy of men! Do we stand in patience in the waiting and accept that this is also the will of God since we are often told that nothing happens without God allowing it?
    There was very little left to die physically given the state she was in and yet the Indian girl hanged on for so many days. Perhaps towards the end she died from loss of dignity which is what drove many to suicides as studies show. She could not stop crying. We do not know who she is but I am sure it pains many hearts thinking of her crying on that death bed. Imagine the hell her loved ones went through and are still experiencing. Death was not the greatest loss but a huge saving grace to her and her family; it saved them the social stigma, which may be far worse if she lives on, for the rest of their lives. So the one thing I can see for now that God did right in this whole tragic episode is ….. He let her die!

    I applaud the lawyers standing united and refusing to defend the attackers as it would be immoral to do so. The law profession has never looked so good before!


  5. Dearest Fr Luke,

    Yes, it had indeed been a turbulent close to year 2012 with all the violence that surrounds us, and it is not surprising many preachers, youself included, are using these episodes to talk about God. Below is an url link to Fr Robert Barron’s comment on the Tragedy at Newtown in the US.

    But the main news that hit home in Singapore that caused massive uproar of disbelief was that of the brutal death of the Indian girl. I first heard about the news when overseas, and to say I was horrified was an understatement. As I prayed for the girl and her family, I felt prompted to also pray for the attackers, for their repentance, before death. Repentance, I figured will be their biggest suffering, (in true realisation of the great evil they had committed) and only salvation. Back home, while I had also wavered, in the emotionally charged conversations, to call for justice, I realise; we are actually calling out for vengeance, which belongs to God alone. We may be allowing sin of anger to manifest in our conversations, in our thoughts and actions, unknowingly allowing the evil of anger to continue. We must pray for a call of justice in a non-violent way, likewise to that of Mahatma Ghandi's life motto of 'Ahimsa' (non-violence).

    As Fr Robert Barron said in his comment from the url link, “There is no power, no tragedy, nothing so horrific that the love of God does not envelop, conquer it; prove greater… We do so (confronting violence) with a peace of all understanding that God’s love is more powerful than anything in the world.
    Indeed, God can write straight with any crooked line. He is still the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His love will never end. We must stay in joyful hope and faith always while waiting for His Will to unfold. To be still and know … HE IS GOD.

    A joyful and blessed year 2013 to you too Fr. Luke.
    God be with you always.