On Tuesday evening, September 11th, like many of you, I was watching TV. The backdrop on every bulletin was that horrific scene. One of the Twin Towers blazing and the plane crashing into the other; the horror in people’s faces. Stunned by what was happening before my eyes as if it were down the road, I felt our world had become a global village, and I was asking myself, is this real? And that empty feeling was filling with all kinds of emotions of shock and anxiety and fear, and I felt so totally vulnerable in a fragile world.
Around 6 o’clock, I got a call from a nephew of mine in London, just gone 17 years, got his A Levels and is preparing to do Law. We had a long chat about all that was going on, and then he said to me, gently but with enormous sincerity “Fr. Tony, where is God in all of this? Write and tell me.” And that is the question I’ve been grappling with over the last two days. And this is the reply I sent to him. Dear Stephen (He is called Stephen after my Father, God rest him)
Your question to me on the phone, has been hanging over everything that we have seen and heard over the last few days. I feel many young people of your generation are asking the same question. Indeed, I’m doing so myself. So, these few thoughts I offer is my own effort to try and make some sense of it all … Where is God in all of this?
It is at the heart of our Christian faith that God is perfectly good. Indeed, another name for God is goodness. And since God is perfectly good, He cannot be the direct cause of evil in our world. To do something evil would be a total contradiction.
But then we come to “problem of evil”. We see physical evil when there is an earthquake which God permits as a matter of course in our world, where the earth surface cracks and we saw what happened in San Francisco a few years ago. He does not cause it but He does permit it. We have seen what moral evil has caused on Tuesday afternoon where evil men caused such horrendous suffering and destruction. Now you could say to me, why didn’t God prevent that?
Here we come to “free will”. It is a mark of the unique dignity of the human person that we have free will. We can make choices — to do good or do evil. And the extraordinary thing about God – this great gift to us – is that He respects the way that you and I use our freedom.
I hope that you are still with me! The greatest moral evil that has ever happened – was on Calvary. Here on the Cross you had the murder of God’s Son caused by the sins of people – the clash on the Cross of the power of evil and the power of good. The greater power of goodness has won the victory over sin and evil in the death and resurrection of Jesus. You and I and every Christian share in that victory. It is his spirit that gives us the power to do good.
Now where do we go from here? Stephen – Nobody can condone the terrible deeds of those evil men or the people who put them up to it. Justice must be done but innocent people should not be afflicted with more suffering. Statesmen take time and take the long-term view.
You know that it is a core truth of our Christian faith – “that in everything God works for good for those who love Him”. Strange as it may seem to you, I believe that a power of good will come from this horrendous tragedy. I have never seen such an outpouring of concern and care, prayer and reﬂection amongst so many people. Here, God is at work. The Spirit is disturbing us to reﬂect on the choices that we make and how we use our freedom.
We had a packed church for a Memorial Mass here on Friday. It was a “still day” with everyplace closed down. People wanted to come close together for support and strength. And people are thinking deep thoughts and asking questions about what is happening in our world that causes such terrible evil.
Many people are questioning the way we act and see life and what values are important. There is a huge awakening taking place in the minds and hearts of people. Our attitudes and mind-set are under scrutiny. It is here that God’s Spirit is at work challenging us to look at our world and the implications of what we do.
Could I end with this? Let us turn the picture around. Stephen, what breeds a terrorist? If you were living in the Turkana Desert in Kenya with your camel, living on a bowl of rice a day and having a piece of goat-meat once a month, how would you or I look on those Twin Towers crumbling in New York – or if the same were to happen in the Canary Warf in London or in the Financial Services here in Dublin? Let’s face it! The contrast between luxury and poverty, hunger and waste, where millions of people have no voice, no hope for the future and feel they do not matter – that I believe is the breeding ground for the terrorist.
And the biggest divide of all is not between the Third World and the West, rich and poor – the biggest divide of all is in the human heart. When cornfields are set on fire, and fertile land is set aside, and the best of Irish beef is destroyed – how would we argue with our friend in Turkana if he accused you and me of being the terrorists of Mother Earth? “I was hungry and you did not give me food… “Jesus said. “As long as you did not give to these the least of my people, you did not give it to me”.
Think it over and write to me. Kindest regards – your favourite eldest uncle – Tony.
Canon T. King P.P.
Written by Tony King
Published here 24 May 2023
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