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.