It is a slightly bitter irony that given what we have experienced from the weather in recent days, and indeed weeks, that the first reading at the weekday masses this past week has been the story of Noah and the flood! And yet there is more than just irony there. The missal has many options for masses to be said in particular occasions of need, and one of them is “for an end of storms.” Its opening prayer asks: “that the stilling of fearsome storms may turn a powerful menace into an occasion to praise you.”
At the heart of that prayer is a call to see in all the events of the world the hand of the One who rules all things and whom we trust is always working for our greatest good. That isn’t always easy. Events like the cyclone, and even more terrible ones – such as the earthquake that destroyed most of the churches of Lisbon in 1755 when so many of the faithful were at Sunday mass, or the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 – can cause doubts in the best of us.
However, the flawed nature of creation as we experience it is not the will of God. The whole order of creation shares in the effects of the fall and, like us, awaits the remaking of all things. These events should firstly cause us to pray for the coming of the “new heaven and new earth” the scriptures promise.
But the link between the fall and the imperfection of the world as we know it should also cause us to reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel. In the heart of his moral teaching Our Lord calls us to, like God, respond to the evil we experience with love. To return good for evil. If we hear that call to pray for and love those who sin against us, how much more are we called to seek the good of those who experience the dark side of the natural world.
The Lord’s call to aim for perfection finds both its greatest challenge and its greatest opportunity when we experience harm – from others and from the world generally. Let us pray that we may as individuals and as a community respond to the call to love today.
Fr Chris Denham