I got back from Christchurch just three days ago. I went there with the Society of Saint Vincent of Paul, a catholic organization which is very active in helping people on the margins of the society. I have been one of their volunteers for a while here in Hamilton, I know their standard of service and care and when I was asked whether I would like to join them in the mission to Christchurch I didn’t hesitate to answer yes. We stayed in Christchurch for a week and we spent every day preparing and delivering food to the people in the poorest neighbourhoods but also listening to their stories, concerns and fears. The aftershocks that keep shaking the city are a constant reminder of the double tragedy that hit Christchurch in September and February.
Many houses have been evacuated by people in search of a safer place to stay for a while o for good. We came across many dogs and cats roaming the streets seeking food and shelter.
We literally had to go from door to door seeking out anyone who wanted our help. I remember the shocked faces of the children we met and the people who still sleep in their clothes, and jump when the van door closes.
I think we all were deeply disturbed by all of this and our main concern was how to bring relief and hope to them all. We wanted them to feel hugged by the whole country. We meant to be a sign of God’s love in the midst of that devastation.
When they have to deal with a situation like this, all the believers are confronted and challenged in their faith by the question: where was God in all of this? Or, why does God allow so much suffering and pain? Questions of this kind have been haunting christian believers since the very beginning of the Church. Although I don’t believe we can have a definitive answer to these deep theological issues, maybe a look at the paschal mysteries that we have just celebrated may help us to shed some light on our human condition. God has created the world out of love and freedom. Creation, however, was just the beginning. The universe and the planet we live in are in constant change. In a sense, we might say that creation is still happening right now. The same dynamic forces that govern our planet and allow the life to flourish have also a destructive aspect which we experience from time to time.
However, God is not indifferent to our suffering and the message of Easter is affirming just that: God in Christ has won the power of death. At the very heart of the Christian faith lies the belief that God through Jesus Christ has taken on to God self all the trials and hardships of humankind and has returned a new creation and life through the resurrection. This is probably the greatest mystery of all, the strangest paradox: Christ, the archetypical representative of our humanity has shown us that love can conquer death; he embraced his fate which involved radical injustice and suffering which were overcome by God by raising him from death. The same love the Jesus showed throughout his life and ministry finds here its deepest fulfillment through forgiveness, love for the enemy, compassion for all the creatures and the gift of his own life for us all. We are now in a new day after Easter, we are the community he has established but we can be his disciples only if we are able to love God and one another the way he loved us.