Friday, 24 April 2009

Through a Messy Business

Most of the congregation had departed after the weekday Mass - leaving just a few of us to say our prayers. The luxury of peace and quiet. I was jolted out of my pious reverie by a sharp exclamation that described precisely what had fallen on a devout head. My mind became feverish with speculation. Why was he of all people the target of this misadventure? Why not I? Why not one of the others in the building? Had he quite literally ‘brought it upon his own head’ as a fitting punishment for his sins?

I reflected that no creature on earth, in the sea, or in the air, could do a single thing - not even a messy thing – except when and where God allows it. By a happy coincidence, a particular verse of Scripture mentions not only God’s responsible awareness of every individual small bird, but also, and here I tremble with awe, of every single hair on every single head. [Luke 12:6] “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted.”

What do I now say about this particular pigeon, about this unfortunate man? And most of all, what do I say about God who, knowing all, controlling all in His Divine Providence, could have prevented this episode but did not?’ That’s what now bewilders and confuses me. I ponder on what threshold of morality this man must have crossed for him to have been treated in this way… while deep in prayer in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Barbados!

I wonder if I myself have already crossed this threshold. Is it now only a matter of time before sinful I get my own visitation? I wonder whether I am touching on some weighty truth or whether I am becoming rather silly. Am I entitled to apply this jumble of thoughts about a small-scale messy business to a much larger scenario – the landfall of hurricanes in the Caribbean?

What conclusions would I then reach about those whose homes have been destroyed by storms? Or earthquakes? That they must have been massive sinners? And what must I say about those who suffered no damage? That they were living saints? I just can’t go in this direction. It is too absurd, too cruel, too judgmental! What is more, I and two others where in The Rosary Priory that suffered from the destructive force of hurricane ‘Ivan.’ What does that say about us?

No way am I able to assess the virtues and vices of other people…nor their just deserts. Of one thing I am quite certain… nothing escapes God’s knowledge. Well then! Am I to conclude that His ‘inside information’ causes Him to allow some people to be messed about by birds and others not? Some to suffer from storms and others not?

In all conscience, I can’t go along with this. These things I do know: God is merciful and compassionate. He is neither vicious nor vindictive. Also, not one of us is totally innocent; not one is totally wicked. I am an idiot when it comes to explaining the movements of the bowels of birds, the paths of hurricanes, and much else besides. All this is God’s business and is a mystery to me.

MY WAY, GOD’S WAY…this day is to conclude that at best I am endowed with what is known as ‘enlightened ignorance’ about what is going on in my own life and in the lives of other people.

Next week Isidore will reflect on “These Foolish Things…”


  1. It seems to me that God PERMITS many things to happen rather than ordaining them to happen. I am reminded of the Gospel where Jesus rebukes them for asking what or who's sin the man is being punished for.
    Sure, we have plenty to be punished for, each one of us. Maybe, just maybe, that little deposite wasn't a punishment but a gift. Maybe those hurricanes were gifts, maybe all the suffering we experience is a gift. Isn't it how we choose to receive it? As a gift, we unwrap and use for our salvation and holiness, to draw others to Him, also. As a punishment we suck it up and become fearful as we see our own imperfections and the great contrast between Him and us. Or we become resentful and angry at the unfairness of it all. He gives us the ultimate gift by allowing us to choose - how will we accpet ALL things? From His good hands....

  2. The comment made by "A little one" is well said indeed. I share the same thoughts.
    Out of ever negative experience comes a blessing from God!! Be patient, "listen" to God speaking within us... and always FEAR God.