This week we saw death and destruction as well as miracles in Oklahoma. I once lived in tornado country but not near Oklahoma. I never experienced one while I was in the Midwest but I did when I moved out of tornado country into what should have been a safer, snowier climate. It was scary. I had no basement and took the dog and slid into the bathtub with him. After the tornado passed, the destruction was everywhere. Six people lost their lives in the trailer park at the edge of town but the house I rented in town was okay. Houses only several blocks away were not as lucky.
This event happened nearly twenty-five years ago. I was young, just out of school with only the responsibility of my beloved dog who has long ago been buried after dying of old age. He was very young and full of life. He was very disobedient yet he knew that day and did exactly what I asked him to do. Nature is very interesting. It communicates. One of my vivid memories is the beauty of the swirling oak tree outside my house minutes before I heard the “freight train” and before the hail storm began. The tree looked like it was wildly giving warning to us all – it’s coming, it’s bad.
I can and cannot imagine then what it was like and what the aftermath is like in Moore. I had no scratches. The town recovered. I didn’t know the families who were impacted. Their story is the story of Moore more than my story is. I’m sharing because I know that God was there twenty five years ago. We were spared. It could have been worse. God was also in Moore. Why some are taken and some aren’t is a mystery but the children taken I am sure are with the Lord. Their families are suffering. And here comes why I labelled this post – Hope. In their darkness, there is hope. In their suffering there is hope. In hope there is God.
This Sunday’s second reading is from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (here). Picking it up somewhat in the middle
…and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Benedict has written on hope! Here is an excerpt from Spe Salvi, his second encyclical.
“38. The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another’s suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie. In the end, even the “yes” to love is a source of suffering, because love always requires expropriations of my “I”, in which I allow myself to be pruned and wounded. Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love.”
And so tonight I am sure Benedict has been praying for all the suffering – those in Oklahoma and those throughout the world. The suffering is a shared one, an understood one. And, I pray too for the Lord to console all the suffering, especially those in Oklahoma. Let us thank the Lord for all those who loved and came to help, to console. I pray that when the time comes again, I might be a consoler and not just a witness. I hope that my prayer is an act of consolation too.