Reflection in Wake of the Tsunami

Father Joseph Lionel Ponders God’s Message

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THANJAVUR, India, JAN. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A priest from one of the areas hardest hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami thinks the tragedy has a message for the survivors and the world.

“While thanking and praising God for his saving power and mercy we cannot ignore the things beyond what we see,” wrote Father Joseph Lionel in a letter to ZENIT. “A believer must see further.”

Father Lionel, chancellor of Tanjore Diocese, considered the tsunami to be a response to corporate sin in the world.

“Perhaps we can also view matters not so much as God punishing those victims specifically, as the fact that when sin builds in the world, it puts the world out of order,” he said. “It causes an actual darkness that can physically — and geologically — manifest.

“Events come almost as a release of that dark tension. God allows it. The good suffer with the evil. There are victim souls and always have been. … Perhaps they serve as victim souls to warn the entire world of the global darkness or perhaps they are the victims of evil that opened the door to disaster that caused the region to be susceptible.”

Father Lionel stressed the importance of the tragedy’s message to the world, recalling Jesus’ response in Luke 13 to a tower falling in Siloam and killing 18 people.

Jesus asked, “Do you suppose this proves that they were worse than all the other people living in Jerusalem? No indeed! And I tell you that if you do not turn from your sins, you will all die as they did.”

The tsunami survivor reflected on Jesus’ words: “Therefore let us not look at this disaster with [a] cause-and-effect perspective, but rather look at it as God’s warning message for all of us. We do not try to explain or interpret the reason for the disaster but we reflect on the disaster as the turn of events take place.”

Despite the tragedy and its somber message, Father Lionel has seen love prevail.

“The waves have taken away human lives but left human concern and charity on the shores,” he wrote. “The great sign after the disaster is that people from every walk of life irrespective of caste, religion, language and nationality help the survivors in whatever ways possible.

“Hate is subjugated by love. … This event makes us to realize the universal brotherhood and love others with respect.”

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