An Act of God

The recent disaster in Japan has caused a lot of people to start talking about God again.  And many of the conversationalists are agnostics and atheists.  Apparently, God has become a source of conversation again now that natural disasters are back in the news.  It’s amusing, really, that our Godless friends somehow don’t see the need to bring up God in the good times, but have a healthy contempt and scorn for Him whenever bad things happen.  How can there be a “good” God when evil things happen like Genocide or Natural Disasters?  The answer, of course, is the same for both tragedies. 

Sin.

We Christians are accustomed to arguing that human evil is the result of free will gone bad.   Turning away from God has consequences.  It is the result of “freedom” without truth which is, in fact, no freedom at all, but rather licence.  And licence, of course, is deadly.  God respects His human creatures  – who have been created in His image – so much that He will allow the exercise of their free will – even if it means incredible destruction.  War, genocide, and other atrocities are not born from mere politics or philosophies. This is the secular and facile explanation offered by atheists.  In point of fact, it is sin which builds up and then, when it cannot be contained any longer, releases its torrent and hatred in physical violence on humanity.  Thus has it always been. Thus it will always be.

On the law books and in contract law, you will some times hear the phrase an “Act of God”, but for some strange reason, when one of those acts actually happen, liberals shriek at the idea that God is somehow involved.  They shriek louder when such a disaster is tagged as some sort of “punishment” for the sin which they have committed (and even celebrated) during their lives.

But for a Christian, and indeed, even for a mere Theist, God is at least permitting such destruction to occur –  even if He has the power to prevent it.  This is a difficult truth. But it is a truth just the same.   The original sin and all personal sin since our first parents’ Fall has brought death and destruction into the world. Or as St. Paul says, 

” Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)

And it is not just personal sin that causes death, but personal sin also causes the world to react violently.   Readers will recall The Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah where the physical world reacted to the sin which abounded in it.

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  The LORD said, ”  I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them….”Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” (Gen.6:5-7,17)

Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it”…. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (Genesis 19:12-13, 24-25; Cf. Luke 17:28-30)

In the New Testament, St. Peter also hints of the violent revolution that will occur to the earth brought about by the ungodly…

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)

And so, it’s quite clear that despite all the browbeating by liberals that sin does not cause natural disasters, our Faith teaches quite the opposite. It teaches it in Sacred Scripture. And Our Lady has reminded us of that truth too.  She also remind us how sacrifice and suffering saves souls and saves us from wars and persecutions as well.

But what about Japan? What can we say of the recent disaster there?  We can say what Our Faith teaches.  Sin caused it.  Not just Japanese sin, but the whole world’s sin.  Did all the people who died deserve death? No.  There were undoubtedly many innocent people who died, but the consequence of sin rarely acts in a way that conforms to justice.  Or, in other words, the destruction of sin does not discriminate when it pours out its fury.   Innocent people die in war.  Innocent people die in natural disasters. But both are the result of the mystery of sin.

Niigata, Japan, Mar 12, 2011 / 07:17 am (CNA).- The epicenter of the earthquake that caused a deadly March 11 tsunami is located near the site of an apparition in which Mary warned about a worldwide disaster that could afflict humanity. Japanese church officials have confirmed that the Diocese of Sendai, in the north of the country, was hit hardest by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake – the worst in Japanese history – and the resulting 23-foot waves. Hundreds of people have already been confirmed dead in the city of Sendai, located less than 90 miles away from the apparition site of Our Lady of Akita in the town of Yuzawa. The city of Akita, which experienced fire damage and flooding along with many parts of northern Japan, is a place of veneration for Catholics. In 1973, the Virgin Mary was said to have predicted a number of future events – including natural disasters even more serious than Friday’s earthquake and tsunami – during three appearances to a Japanese religious sister, Sr. Agnes Sasagawa. The purported appearances of the Virgin Mary in Japan were reviewed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1988. During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI, he let stand the local bishop’s judgment that the apparitions and the messages were acceptable for the faithful. The messages warned of chaos within the Church, and disasters which could afflict the world. “If men do not repent and better themselves, God the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity,” Mary reportedly told Sr. Agnes. “It will be a punishment greater than the (biblical) flood, such as never seen before.” “Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful,” she said. “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church, in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops.” “Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.” “Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary,” she told Sr. Agnes. “With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”Two years after the last message, the statue of the Virgin Mary in the chapel where the apparitions had occurred began to emit tears and drops of blood. The occurrence continued for more than six years. Reports from Akita following Friday’s earthquake indicate that the city received significantly less damage than other parts of northern Japan, despite its proximity to the epicenter. However, residents did report power outages, burst pipes, and fires. Bishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi of Niigata, whose territory includes the Akita apparition.

This Lent, I have undertaken to read the Scriptures regularly. I was struck last night as I was meditating on the story of Israel crossing the Jordan river, and in particular, God’s intervention in holding back the water:

 So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest),  the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho.  And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. (Joshua 3:14-17)

When I read this passage, I thought of the tsunami in Japan.  If we really believe what this passage is trying to teach us, then we must admit the truth concerning faith and obedience to God’s will.  If, as this passage teaches, the natural world can bend in the case of a Faithful people, then it is equally true that an abandonment of God’s precepts and commandments to the point of contempt and scorn will weaken the natural order and cause convulsions through earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other major destructive forces.  We cannot naively believe that sin only affects our relationship with God without it affecting our “relationship” with all of creation as well.  All of creation is bound together. 

Attacking or even ignoring God has physical consequences.

One thought on “An Act of God

  1. God is Love. It is a perfect love in that it is totally self-giving and faithful. He willed to make Himself vulnerable to us his creatures by desiring at the very moment of the creation of the universe an intimate relationship of love with us. Because of this, when he gave us free will it was to make us in His own image. When he gave us “dominion over all the earth” he warned us that if we did not conform to His law which is the law of the universe, Death would enter the world. And so it has. But by the same token, because His Love relationship with us is real, he proved it by condemning Himself to death as well. This is His proof that it is all worth it. “Come back to Me with all your heart. My plans for you are Peace and not disaster.”

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