SUNDAY READ

Making sense of senseless death

9

A two-year-old toddler eaten by an alligator in the world’s iconic amusement park. A rising British legislator and mother of two shot dead on the street. A Canadian living in Davao beheaded in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf. More than 50 people in an Orlando, Florida, gay club killed by a man reportedly with extremist views.

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Why does God allow this senseless carnage?

Even devout believers may find themselves thinking, if not mouthing that question in the face of tragedies like those, all transpired in just recent days or weeks.

The normally loquacious Pope Francis may himself be at a loss for words, as he was before a tearful 12-year-old Glyzelle Palomar at the youth assembly during his visit to the Philippines last year. Referring to the suffering and death of children, Palomar had asked: “Why did God let this happen to us?”

Saints, Pontiffs, theologians and other thinkers through the millennia have pondered and pronounced upon the whys of evil and death in a world created by a loving God.

Good out of evil
The usual suspects in making sense out of senseless suffering and death include accepting the inscrutable will of a loving God, Who lets the pain fall upon the good and the bad alike, but rights all in the end by welcoming the righteous to eternal joy in heaven, and casting the wayward to everlasting fire.

Another justification portrays life’s agony and end as trials for man’s faith in the Lord, obedience to His will, and compassion for the distressed and the deceased.

Atrocity and murder are also occasions for Christ-like sacrifice and forgiveness, by which humanity rises to the boundless love and mercy of the Divine.

A further sense-seeking perspective on senseless killing points to the good that may result from unconscionable deaths. Sadly, society and people often don’t do the needful to correct longstanding ills and perils until they are dramatically and tragically exposed by the death of innocents.

Thus, Orlando’s bar shooting and alligator attack could spur anti-gun policies and better safety precautions. Allowed to flourish for years, Islamic State was finally targeted by Western and Arab forces after its brutal online executions and horrifying genocide.

The British legislator’s killing has spurred soul-searching over the destructive passions stirred by political debate; her alleged killer reportedly shouted “Britain first,” possibly in opposition to her advocacy for the UK to remain in the European Union.

And the Canadian’s beheading in Sulu a month after his compatriot was decapitated might now prod the Philippine government to finally decimate the murderous Abu Sayyaf.

For Christians, of course, the ultimate good out of evil is Christ’s Resurrection after Calvary. His glorious new life and being came only after His Passion and Death.

And the brave sacrifice of early Christian martyrs manifested the conviction of their belief across the Roman Empire, and their blood watered the faith’s flourishing.

In sum, the thinking goes, what makes sense of seemingly senseless suffering and death are the nobility and good that come in its bloody wake. We can stand pain and brave death to bring forth a better tomorrow and advance a great cause.

Man’s agony becomes God’s love
Well and good, except for one thing: the good that may result from unjust, senseless suffering and death isn’t a sure thing, and the victims, like the child attacked by the alligator, may not benefit from or even know about whatever gains may result from the wrong done to them.

Jesuit Fr. Catalino Arevalo, the doyen of Filipino theologians, stressed the need for a heavenly afterlife to right the unjust suffering of countless people through the ages, which history and society have never made and can never make right.

So is that it—senseless suffering and loss of life are made right by the reward of Paradise? Well, if heaven was all that was needed to make sense of suffering, Christ’s sacrifice may seem unnecessary, since God has rewarded virtue and punished sin since Adam.

Rather, our Lord’s brutal and wrongful suffering and execution not only obtained forgiveness for man’s sin, but also imparted the fullness of divinity to human life, including its ugly, unsavory, and unjust episodes.

In sum, God sent His Son and Second Person to live a perfectly righteous and holy life, with total obedience all the way to an ignominious, excruciating death.

In so doing, senseless suffering becomes an act of divine love, opening the door for all humanity to rise to Godliness, especially in our deepest woes and seemingly irreversible end.

Thus, Jesus told His followers to take up their cross, not shun it. Those who lose their life for His sake would save it. And only by dying like the mustard seed can man reach his full potential as seen in the Risen Christ.

One with God in agony
And the toddler who probably saw no divinity in his tragic accident? Does he also share in the Godliness of martyrs and other souls offering all for God, even if he clearly was not willfully taking up the cross off his macabre end?

Well, even Jesus never willed His Passion and Death, although He accepted it in obedience to His Father and out of love for man. Neither did martyrs wish to be mauled by lions in the arena or crucified and burned alive by IS.

Moreover, every moment of distressing every human life partakes of the pain Christ suffered, especially the tragedy of innocents, from the babies massacred by Herod’s soldiers to the toddler swallowed by the Orlando alligator.

The woes of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the ill and the imprisoned are His too, and it is His pain and deprivation we ease when we feed, clothe, shelter, and visit the least of our brethren.

We suffer the immortal God’s pain and death in our own morbidity and mortality. It is the way to Him, the truth of our life on earth, and the door to life eternal.

If that doesn’t give sense to our groaning and passing, what will?

Amen.

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9 Comments

  1. Mabait na Pilipino on

    A senseless “Mercy Killing” makes sense then? I will leave this question to be answered by some of these folks because the discussion is getting complicated and it is already out of my reach.

  2. Its all very simple there is no god. You all believe in god because as children you are indoctrinated with the belief that god is real & its so easy to install beliefs in children. Their immature brains are like sponges, they take everything in & once that seed is implanted there its oh so difficult to get rid of it. & the Catholic religion gives you confession to keep you in that religion as you all believe that confess & you are let off or forgiven for your crimes. ha ha ha ha what a cop out. Say 3 hail marys & all is well. The muslims are the same torture, rape murder as many people as you like but al;lah will forgive you. Well i would much rather listen to the likes of Richard Dawkins than to any religious person, i know instantly who is the better person.

    • John Christian Balingit on

      Kung ano ang itinakda ng Dios ang siyang magaganap. The creation of everything here on earth and elsewhere in the universe follows God’s blueprint. No amount of prayers neither man to man coordination can ever change that. The calamity, murders, famine, earthquakes, super typoons, storm surge and other similar astrocities will come and go as they are included in the blueprint. If God can create life , He can also create death.

  3. My children perished because of lack of knowledge . I always question the sin nature of men. When Adam and Eve left the Garden, they became the followers of the evil one. The God and man relationship broke. That sin nature is still there being pass on from generation to generation. My mom has Diabetes. I tried to eat and live right , exercise and nutritious food, very little pork , no meat and soda. Still at age 50 , I was diagnose to have Diabetes. That is the same with sin. Sin and free will are the culprits.Gods intention is for us to have a long fruitful lives.

  4. You cannot answer those questions in theology because that phylosophy is wrong. It embraces both good and bad just like Michiavelli’s theory the “means justify the end” vice versa. Now in objectivism it is reason that will guide you in all your actions, unfortunately nobody embraces reason and more are drugged into religion which is the root cause of this senseless killing. I hope you get the point.

    • Rio, No I don’t get your point. Objectivism is explicitly atheist. It denies the existence of supernatural dimension as presented by Mr. Saludo. Unfortunately objectivism can’t explain all what’s happening in the world. It’s opposite to the teachings of God. And thanks God we have more than a billion people who believe in Christ our Saviour.
      All the killings and questions why people suffer are all written in the Bible… if you are reading and understanding it of course.
      “We suffer the immortal God’s pain and death in our own morbidity and mortality. It is the way to Him, the truth of our life on earth, and the door to life eternal.”

  5. Yes, that single week Orlando, Florida was the unfortunate place of 49 people gunned down, the shooting death of Christina Grimmie “The Voice”, that 2 year old kid who was killed by an alligator. It seems that all happened at once or we may call it “fate” like 911.