The past few years have not been easy. We have been inundated with the pandemic, hate crimes, hate speeches, senseless shootings, unprovoked wars, unbridled acts of violence, injustices, and one group oppressing another group. I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear about all these things, I cringe and feel sick to my stomach. Yet, I feel helpless to do anything about it. Sometimes, I ask myself, “How can God allow these awful tragedies to happen? If He is a loving God, why does He not intervene and save His people?
It is comforting to see Habakkuk, the prophet, ask the same question in the first reading of this 27th Sunday in ordinary times, year C (Habakkuk 1:2, 2:2-3) “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘violence!’ and you will not save?” Apparently, Habakkuk was concerned, as we are today, with the injustices in his world. The social order was badly broken, the justice structure was slack for some groups and hard on others, and justice, for all intends and purposes, was not being served. Yet, God was seemingly silent. How does one make sense of this?
Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” points out that God does not cause our misfortunes. Some, he said, are caused by bad luck, some by bad people, and some are simply “inevitable consequences of being humans living in a world of inflexible natural laws”. What he is basically saying is that we do not need to feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes because it is not His will. We truly can say that God is as outraged by all these violence as we are. So asking God “why” about every injustice, tragedy and senseless act of evil that we witness does not help. What we truly need to ask is “What can I do to make things better, to correct the injustices that exist, to be an advocate and to help someone who needs to overcome oppression and injustice?” In other words, we need to become part of God’s vision for a more just and equitable society.
I am reminded of the seventeen-year old girl who videoed the killing of George Floyd by law enforcement officers. While she could not stop them from committing such a heinous act, she did what she could by capturing the crime on video; a video that became a testimony that brought them to justice. My mind also remembers the story about a boy who loved to play violin but who was very small in stature due to health challenges. He had a small “toyish” violin that he could play with. One day the bridge on the violin broke and his parents had difficulty finding the part. They eventually found it in a music store and went there to buy it. With the part replaced, the boy started playing on the violin. The daughter of the store owner, a gifted violinist herself, who lived in Germany but was home visiting with her parents, came out to listen and was amazed at how this little handicapped boy could play so capably with a “Toyish” violin. When she got back to Germany, she sent a rare violin, small enough for the boy to play, through her father, who contacted the boy’s parents and gave them the violin for their son.
The truth is that many people of good faith try, on daily basis, to make a difference and by so doing better our world. So, instead of being upset and asking God “why”, let us ask “what can I do, no matter how small, to make this world a better place for all of us to live”.