The past two weeks have been full of changes, and yet through it all, the my school community remains positive, hopeful, trusting – not in a naive way, but with eyes of faith.
Questions that teens often ask include, “where is God in the midst of suffering?” and “why does God allow bad things to happen?” It is a complex question, one that does not deserve a simple answer. Adults, young and old, asked this question too, though perhaps many hold this question silently in their hearts, tired of superfluous answers.
I try to do justice to this question (something I cannot accomplish in this reflection because it would require pages to address), but the prevailing message is this:
God does not cause evil, for it is against His nature – which is only goodness and love; yet, he is always capable of bringing goodness from catastrophe, life out of ashes.
This is seen most fully in the resurrection – the central mystery of our faith – which we are preparing to celebrate during this (unusual) season of Lent. On Friday, March 27, 2020, Pope Francis delivered his Urbi et Orbi Address on Coronavirus to an empty St. Peter’s Square. It is a beautiful, astonishing message – one that will become a defining moment of his papacy. I encourage you to read it, for it contains words that we all need to hear, to ponder, and to be allowed to penetrate our hearts.
In it, Pope Francis meditates on the present crisis facing our world, exhorting us to not be afraid, calling us to faith, urging us to let go of
“the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos . . . [and] uncover once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.”
Focusing on the Gospel story of Jesus Calming the Storm – in which the disciples are on a boat during a terrible storm, fearing for their lives, questioning if Jesus even cares about them – Pope Francis reminds us that, “Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”
I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection that my community, though we have our concerns, frustrations, and disappointments, is also willing to see the light in the midst of this darkness. Each day my students and I begin Theology class with a journal. Recently I asked my students to reflect on the possible good God will bring out of this. Here are some of the many beautiful responses I received:
God is always stirring up good in our lives, even when everything seems terrible . . . in my life, I think, better connections with my family as well as with God
In my own life, this time of desolation and fear gives me perspective on the troubles many people around the world face daily, even in lieu of the coronavirus. This makes me feel greater empathy for those who live in a perpetual state of need and poverty.
I think good coming out of this chaos could be how we will become closer to family. We will also have more time to ourselves sort of to reflect. Being distanced from each other, we can realize how important others are to us.
I know that after this I will appreciate the little things a lot more. I’ll make sure to savor the moments I get with my friends and family.
I believe that God is giving us the courage to face … these hard times. I think we will be more united as a country after this experience.
There is more appreciation for hospitals and doctors and all that they do for us.
So many students commented on how grateful they were for how they were spending more time with their family, for family dinners and game nights, for runs with their moms, and for extra time spent with siblings. Some of these things, they realized, they hadn’t done very often, or at least intentionally, as schedules are so busy.
The message is clear: we will weather this storm together remaining positive, hopeful, and trusting in God.
Finally, let us reflect upon and find comfort and hope in the words of Pope Francis:
“Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).”
Perhaps you, like me, are being asked “why does God let bad things happen?”, or perhaps you are one of those adults who hold this question silently in your hearts. In this short video Fr. Mike Schmitz offers one of the best, most concise answers to this question that I have encountered.
This piece was originally written for Bishop Guertin High School’s Reflections.