Where is God in the earthquakes and typhoons? Where is God in the ash fall and floods? Where is God in the eruption of volcanoes? Where is God in these calamities of nature?
Are these punishments? Are these acts of vengeance from a displeased God? Are these signs that God is no longer with us like He used to stay with us in generations past? Why does God allow calamities to happen? Is God angry with us?
Is suffering a punishment for sin? Is God fed up with our blasphemies and sacrilege? Has our Lady left us because we have been stubborn and hard of heart?
Suffering can indeed be a consequence of our sin and fault but it is not true that all suffering is always a consequence of the wrong we have done. Remember Job. Remember Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod. Remember the Lord’s crucifixion. The innocent suffer too.
The innocent can also suffer. Suffering is a mystery. The Lord told us in the Gospel of Saint Luke Those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!” (Lk 13:4-5)
The lesson is clear that those who suffer are not necessarily more guilty than those who do not suffer.
Calamities may sometimes be sent by God as punishment for sins but not always. Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17-18).
The nature created by God was good and beautiful; but when sin entered nature, that original beauty and goodness was harmed. Sin is also a mystery. Original sin is not just a stain in the soul. Original sin has also harmed the whole of creation. We cannot imagine the harm that sin can do; neither can we imagine the power of God’s love.
Earthquakes and typhoons and ash falls do not come from God but rather are signs that we are still living in an imperfect natural world. They are natural disasters. They are not acts of God.
God is a mystery. Suffering is a mystery. Sin is a mystery. Love is also a mystery. God is present in the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and floods and storms not as a Great Punisher but as the Great Loving One to whom we can turn assured that He will never forsake the people who call on His name.
These calamities can be opportunities for grace and blessings. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him. (Rom 8:28).”
In the midst of these calamities, we are reminded of our helplessness. We learn humility. That is grace.
These calamities of nature remind us that life is fragile and uncertain. These calamities pull us back to reset our upside down priorities. We can gain back the lost value of family life and friendship because of calamities.
The ash falls and earthquakes shake us to remember our sins and repent. They lead to pray and offer penance. To be sorry for sins is a grace.
The sufferings we see among the people we have never even met have made us more charitable and moved us to help one another. Calamities have brought out much love and compassion from within us. Where love is overflowing, God is surely there.
In our sufferings, we remember Christ again. We can unite our sufferings to his sufferings and death for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. What a blessing calamities can bring.
If we allow God to work in our lives, He will make all creation new. In the new heavens and new earth the He promises, natural disasters will be no more.
Behold He makes all things new. (cfr. Rev.21:5) This is the time to strengthen our love, to increase our faith and embolden our hope. God is not the Great Punisher. He is the Lord who walks among His people in distress. God is love.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan