“Faith, hope, & love, but the greatest of these of these is love.” I Cor. 13:13
Sometimes there are just no answers to the conundrum of sorrow that sweeps the world. Hurricanes crush the lives and property of tens of thousands in Florida alone. A father kills his two teenage kids and then takes his own life. Refugees abound throughout the world. In some places, genocide not only happens, but happens while the world watches. Massive fires on the West Coast and tornados sweeping through the Midwest seem to have all the earmarks of apocalyptic foreshadowing.
These tragedies can feel confusing when we have certainties about God’s love, yet struggle with how to participate in a weary, hurting world. During my weekly young men’s dinner, I asked them: “Historically what was the ‘war to end all wars?’” None of the 10 young men got the right answer. Some cited Vietnam, or Afghanistan. The answer has generally been World War I, meaning at the time WWI was so devastating that no one believed there could be another war like it. But of course, wars have continued; and so we ask, where is that loving God in the midst of such suffering and grief, and in times of natural devastation? Here we are 18 years into the 21st century, and nothing seems to have changed.
What should be our response to the apocalyptic sorrow that has overshadowed our planet? When asked about the suffering in the world, Mother Teresa said “we ourselves [meaning nuns in her order] feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” She also said, “If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.”
In our own awareness of people’s grief, we can hope, with the Lord’s help, to act as the hands and feet of Christ with kindness, love, and joy. A simple act of grace might make a difference in at least one person’s life.
As I continue to live and serve in NYC, I am deeply aware that a changed life can make a huge difference in a neighborhood, on a street, or even in a whole city. One of the guys in my Monday group, motivated by frustrations with bureaucracy, started a program where he drives a van to local supermarkets and collects their outdated but still usable food, and then distributes the goods to local homeless shelters. Does it change the world? Not in the larger sense, but it might change one person’s world. Honestly, it is hard to sort out the big picture of sorrow—yet on an individual level, it comes down to loving one another. Is our heart inclined with a desire to love? As we seek Jesus in the mystery of a broken-hearted world, and as we desire to “Abide in Him as He abides with the Father,” we discover that human love is transformed into divine love. As our hearts draw closer to the Lord’s, we become more certain that are we loved and cared for by a merciful God who in the end makes all things new. As the Apostle Paul puts in I Corinthians. “Love never fails.”
Praying for the grace to receive the love of God during difficult times, even when mystery and ambiguity remind us that we don’t have all the answers.
Gratefully yours in Christ’s service,