Although there are very few things that people would agree upon, it would seem safe to say that we would all agree that there is no shortage of evil acts in our world today. And although that statement could be said, literally, at any point in human history, televised wars, executions, and kidnappings bring these acts of horror into our daily lives and as such have an ability to make us more keenly aware of the atrocities that fill our world. However, for those of us with teenagers who play video and computer games and have been warned of the complacency this puts our children into, it would seem that this very same argument might be made for our own lives now inundated with global news and world events. We see violence and tragedy everyday on our televisions or we hear it on our radios or we read it in our newspapers.
Reading about the recent events surrounding the death of Chaldean Archbishop Rahho made me wonder if the scales are, indeed, tipping in favor of malevolence and evil. What struck me about the archbishop’s kidnapping and subsequent death was the lack of outrage, shock, and concern in the general population but even more specifically in the Catholic community. The very few articles that I came across even shared that same sentiment. “Where is the outcry?” one article bemoaned. Have we become so complacent that in the face of never-ending tragedies we have stopped making efforts to share and voice our concerns? Have we decided to believe that our small individual Christian acts of goodness don’t or can’t make a difference? In praying for Archbishop Rahho, I hope we realize that in this day and age Catholics are still dying for their faith.
If the scales are indeed tipping in favor of evil, though, it won’t be due to dictators, unfair economic conditions set in place by greed and avarice, or even senseless tragedies. No, if the scales are tipping it will be because we have forgotten the power, and responsibility, we have as Catholics. We even know we miss out on doing things that ought to be done and consequently ask forgiveness when we say in church, “and all that I have failed to do.” We may rightly assume that we will be forgiven by God but can we forgive ourselves for acts of kindness and compassion left unaccomplished? Will this be our final judgment?
My niece recently visited from Mississippi. She is now a beautiful young lady of fourteen and I was quite honored that she chose to spend her birthday with me in Michigan. Like so many youngsters today, Janna has had her share of hardships and teen difficulties, but most significant in her life was Hurricane Katrina. Janna lived through the fierceness of what Katrina delivered to the gulf coast of Mississippi, which meant that she spent too many hours in what is called the “eye wall” of the hurricane. Complete, total, and utter devastation was wrought upon the coast for miles and miles. It is difficult to comprehend that in a matter of hours hundreds of buildings, many of them dozens of stories tall, were washed to sea or that the hurricane had an effect of such magnitude that many people’s lives have yet to be returned to pre-Katrina days.
Certainly the coast itself will never be the same. Hundred-year-old trees stand motionless and whitewashed as they had been submerged, too long, in sea waters. Homes, big and small, are no more and to add insult to injury, people cannot get insurance coverage to rebuild or to relocate. Years later, the daily reminder of what “was” has to be such a burden that few people I know could carry it for this length of time. When I visit I feel as if I’m walking war-torn streets of some foreign country and not American neighborhoods where people live and kids play. And then I think of those war-torn streets of foreign countries where kids no longer play and cannot fathom the fear and despair of such a life.
And yet my sweet young niece told me, chided me really, that it was important to live life “out loud.” Katrina taught her that we ought to remember how precious life is, what is important, and how very small acts of kindness can make a difference. Out of the mouths of babes…
My sister and brother-in-law will tell you, with eyes rimmed in tears, of the gentleman who drove his pick-up from Washington, D.C. to Mississippi and cooked hot dogs off the back of the truck, on simple grills he also brought, and handed them out to the hurricane survivors as they walked the streets looking for food, water, and help. My brother-in-law tells of a group of Christians who just showed up early the second or third morning with chain saws, axes, and other tools to remove the huge tree that lay across his roof. They didn’t try to convert him or convince him of the need to accept Christ. They just spent the day removing the tree from his home. How did he know they were Christians? He asked where they were from and received their simple answer as they went about their work to help him. No words could ever be delivered to convey the depth of my brother-in-law’s gratitude. No words were expected, either. These people were doing what they knew God wanted them to do: help others.
If evil is taking a stronghold, it truly isn’t because of the evil-doers. It is because we have forgotten how critical we are in God’s plan for humankind. We aren’t meant to leave our small opportunities to help one another and be kind to our fellow man left alone but to embrace them, to respond to the needs of others: to care and cry out about Rahho’s kidnapping, to help without being asked, to bring food for the hungry, to live life “out loud” as Christians.