Mar 14, 2011


May God help the people of Japan.

You can make a donation through Catholic Relief Services (U.S. Bishops' international relief and development agency), Caritas (Catholic Church's international charitable organization) or the American Red Cross.

UPDATE: March 15, 2011, 1:13 A.M.

Why has God allowed something like this, I've asked myself throughout the day today. My faith was shaken. Why does He just not listen to my prayers and stop it?

The readings at today's Catholic Mass provided me with an answer. Reflecting on Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 and the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46, Rev. Deviny C.P., the priest who presided at the celebration of the Mass online at St. Ann's Monastery reminded us that we are "made in the image of God" and are therefore "holy as He is holy."

But human beings certainly don't seem very holy for the most part I thought.

Rev. Deviny then spoke about Jesus' message in Matthew's gospel:
"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?"
And the king will say to them in reply,
"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
He continued and asked why then had Jesus "condemned the pharisees who perfectly observed all of the commandments" and answered:
"Being holy for a Christian should be heart centered and not merely action centered. Being holy means being compassionate as Jesus was compassionate. Being holy means allowing the Spirit of Jesus living in us to transform our hearts and our actions. The Holy Spirit moves our hearts to have compassion on the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked and the imprisoned. Our actions follow our hearts, and we give according to our ability: food, water, welcoming to the strangers and clothe the naked, consolation to the imprisoned."

"Being holy means becoming Christ's heart and Christ's hands."
That is, I reasoned, perhaps God's purpose in allowing this monstrous tragedy. It is an opportunity for humankind to become holy, to become Christ's heart and hands for Japan. For being holy "as God is holy" lasts for eternity and is therefore incomparably more important than any suffering in this world.

Seen this way, suffering, and Japan's tragedy, is meant as a gift for humanity.

UPDATE 4:00 A.M.

Reading what I wrote in my previous update tonight, one might ask how the nuclear plant explosions and the spread of radiation is a gift.

While nuclear plants are human made the constitution of energy and matter is not. But had there been no nuclear plants this stage of the tragedy would not be occurring. So there is a metaphysical as well as a human dimension to the question.

The metaphysical question might be answered like seventeenth century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz did, that is, by arguing that God created the best of all possible worlds (note that St. Thomas Aquinas did not agree). Following Leibniz lead, one would argue that the constitution of matter and energy is essential for experiencing life as we have known it, prior to nuclear plants.

But nuclear energy can potentially serve good purposes if appropriately harnessed and regulated by humanity. Thus man made nuclear plants could have a place. But how fast and at what cost? Why were we not ready for this tragedy if not because we rushed to satisfy the "need" for energy? But isn't it mortally foolish for the first world to have rushed to nuclear energy without first being able to control it worldwide?

This raises several questions one of which is the availability and cost of other energy sources as well as about lifestyle expectations and high energy usage by highly industrialized and rapidly developing nations.

Was it worth it to supply a Japanese family with energy for fifty years only to have it die from radiation? Of course not. Yet first world families (and now China and Iran too) want a certain standard of living no matter what, and at any cost, it would seem. Arguably billions are willing to give up their lives and those of their children and grandchildren for a lifestyle, however frivolous and ultimately incapable of fundamentally satisfying existential religious needs it may be.

Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reported that Monday morning, just two days after this disaster struck, Japanese in Tokyo were reported to be angry about the train delays. Some did not want to be late for work. Surely they knew there were thousands just dead from the tsunami, or perishing, or in grave danger because of radiation resulting from nuclear plant explosions.
"Anger in Japan is mounting at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the country's leading utility, not just over the precarious nuclear situation but also over its mismanagement of a series of planned blackouts that caused mass confusion and delays in the commute for many Japanese heading back to work on Monday.... It's just too confusing," Nobuyoshi Takashimaya, 56 years old, an insurance firm employee in Tokyo. He said he had to walk one hour from home to reach his office because his train wasn't working."

"A Tepco spokesman, responding to the barrage of criticism, said he regretted there was inaccurate information about the areas affected by the blackouts. ...Even before Monday's confusion, the company took out a full-page ad in the Nikkei newspaper, Japan's leading financial paper, apologizing for the inconvenience of the blackouts and asking for Japan's cooperation in conserving energy."
Confronting mortality in the face is not easy, even for an unrelentingly stoic people like the Japanese. Better get to work, make some dough, drink Sake and watch the sunset on a wide television screen. Although perhaps that is one of the problems that got us here.