Monday, September 26, 2005

Our World Has Changed! - The Gulf Coast Disaster

The following is from Prayerful Reflections and Faithful Responses to the Gulf Coast Disaster, a free resource prepared by JustFaith Ministries. JustFaith offers gives permission to parishes to reprint this. Please simply acknowledge JustFaith Ministries in your reprint.

“Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…” (Joel 2:12)

Our world has changed! In Lamentation we turn to God.
The tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina leaves in its wake a set of humanitarian, environmental, social, and spiritual crises that are unprecedented in this nation. Rooted in the Greek word for “decision,” a CRISIS represents a turning point, an opportunity to pause, to carefully reflect, to look within, to look around and to look beyond. Crisis is a holy time, a time for repentance, a time for compassionate outreach, a time to take up new commitments and new directions. Katrina’s destruction presents all of us with a significant opportunity, if not the necessity, to enact personal and social changes. As the floodwaters recede, the extent of the devastation and the challenges of repair and restoration leave us with many deep-seated questions.

How have we been changed? With compassion we reach out to one another.
The great suffering of our people will leave its mark on this generation, as it mingles with the painful memory of September 11th in communion with the daily catastrophe affecting poor people over the planet. Our faith provides a lens to unearth layers of meaning and integrate the lessons and opportunities that suffering and even devastation can offer us. Faithful people do not stop at immediate or easy answers. Rather, we allow the deeper questions to disturb us, inform our hearts, sharpen our determination and shape our responses.

Thank God, the world has to change! We move beyond repair to restoration.
The forces of nature are felt most severely by those who are least protected and most vulnerable: the elderly, minorities, children, the infirm and those who are poor. The Scriptures recount God’s special concern for vulnerable people. Our faith challenges us to align our energies and our actions with God’s loving concern till we stand in solidarity with life at its most fragile. Disasters force us to re-consider and re-order our priorities. Tragedies become meaningful when we stop, attend to the pleas of those who suffer, allow ourselves to be moved, and respond to the profound questions that surface. Compassion, the communion of suffering, is the powerful soul-force of love that moves us to make personal changes, leads us to seek solidarity, empowers us to build-up communities, and inspires us to restore or create social systems of care that affirm life. Disasters evoke tremendous and immediate outpourings of support and relief. Though vital, this kind of outpouring is short-lived, and concern dissipates as our attention shifts to other realities. Sustaining a commitment to the people involved requires that we be willing to address the deeper questions and broader implications of repair, restoration and systemic change.