As I sat down to write today’s post, the tornado sirens went off and everyone here at the Pastoral Center made a beeline to the basement.
As a youth in Southern California in the 1960s and 70s, I became accustomed to the occasional earthquake. We always managed to escape serious harm, though it was always unnerving, to say the least, to see the chandeliers begin to sway.
While I’m relatively new to Eastern Kansas, it seems that we’ve had more than our fair share of tornadic activity this year. The devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Reading, and other Midwestern communities have made national news.
I’ve also been impressed with the way Kansas City-area residents have risen to the occasion as they’ve generously reached out to the many tornado victims in the region, even as new storms make their way to the area.
In reflecting on these natural disasters in our midst, it seems to me that the Lord is calling us to three things.
First, He’s calling us to grow in solidarity, a term popularized by Blessed John Paul II. Solidarity is charity on a societal level. It’s a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1939-42). Solidarity leads us to embrace our interdependence, that we’re all in this together and must identify with our brothers and sisters in need.
Closely related to solidarity is the call to mercy. When we think of mercy, we think primarily of God’s mercy to us, and also our forgiving and being forgiven by others. Yet “mercy” is not some sort of abstract head game. It must take on flesh and be reflected in concrete action. One calls to mind how the Good Samaritan went out of his way to be “neighbor” to the man in need (Luke 10:29-36). In particular, the Church calls us to practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Reaching out to our neighboring communities through myriad relief efforts affords us the awesome opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Most importantly, our Lord is calling us to readiness, as these natural disasters remind us that we truly do not know the day or the hour that the Lord will call us to give an account for our lives. Just as we don’t want to be caught unprepared when the storms hit, we don’t want to be caught off guard should Our Lord call us to Himself unexpectedly. We must have our spiritual house in order.
This reflection reminds me of Our Lord’s words in Matthew 7:24-27:
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
As we’ve tragically witnessed in Joplin and elsewhere in recent days, no house is able to physically withstand the violent assaults of a powerful tornado. But the question for us is: On what–or rather, on Whom–is our spiritual house built? If we build our “house” on the Word of God, we can withstand anything the devil, the flesh, and the world could possibly throw at us.
Have we built wisely?
Archbishop Naumann has asked all parishes in the Archdiocese to take up a special collection to assist the victims of the tornadoes in Reading, KS, Joplin, MO, and neighboring areas. You may also donate online right now. Please be generous!