Hurricane Katrina is by far the worst natural disaster to hit North America in more than a century, leaving millions of people asking many questions.
What kind of vindictive, terrible God would allow so many innocent people to be swept away?
No one could have ever been prepared for the immensity of Katrina's destruction. As neighbourhoods, towns and cities are dewatered, God alone knows how many bodies will be uncovered. We have yet to see the worst effects of Katrina.
After experiencing this damage and suffering, many are asking why, just as Job asked God after he and his family suffered misfortune after misfortune, said Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi, Mississippi earlier this week. His only answer to "Why?" is, "I do not know. But this I do know -- that the love of God is with us. That the Lord who wept over Jerusalem, knowing that it would be destroyed, is with us. The Lord who wept with Martha and Mary at the tomb of their brother Lazarus is with us."
Why did God allow Katrina to lash out? God doesn't intervene to prevent such things, because God loves us too much. If we had a God who simply swooped down to halt natural catastrophes, prevent human tragedy and sinfulness, then religion and faith would simply be reduced to some form of magic or fate, and we would be helpless pawns on some divine chess board.
Where was God in the Gulf disaster? There -- in the midst of it all, weeping giant tears.
And where is God in the aftermath? God is mightily present in the lives of individuals and communities, schools and churches in many states that have taken in evacuees and organized aid. Cities and towns all across the U.S. and Canada are reaching out and helping in every way they can.
Over the past 10 days we have been besieged by stories of evil and destruction from this tragedy. In New Orleans we have seen the worst and best of which a human being is capable. And we have witnessed that the best triumphs over the worst.
I recall words of the late Pope John Paul II that offer some direction to those of us asking what we can do to help: "No human is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which we have our own place and our own role to play. Love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which, together with the thousands of deeds of so many brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown, converges to form the mosaic of charity which can change the tide of history."
And I also remember the words of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament: "Deep waters cannot quench love" (8:7). This is the heart that now beats in all of us for those who are suffering from Hurricane Katrina. From this heart come concrete actions of charity and hope that can change the tide of history.