Faith in an infinitely good God, transforms all tragedy into a concealed blessing unveiled by hope. In the wake of the Humboldt tragedy we are left confused by the senseless loss of such promising youth. The thought of this happening to our own child, brother or sister is unbearable. The heart more than aches. It shatters, lacerating our insides as the shards fall to the pit of our stomach.
The time immediately following a tragedy is for grieving. The family and friends suffering such a deep loss need our sympathy. Our country has responded by wrapping its arms around them with a national hug. But as time passes, grief will move towards a search for answers. They will try to solve the physical cause of the accident. Even more importantly, they will look to answer difficult metaphysical questions. Why did they have to die?
Even the faithful among them will be tempted to anger against God, even doubting or denying His existence. They will wonder why an all-loving God would bless them with a child and then end their life prematurely. Like the Shummanite woman from the book of Kings who was blessed with a son only to have him die as a child, the grieving hockey parents may question along with her, “why God deceives them?” (2 Kings 4:28) Unlike the Shummanite child who was miraculously raised from the dead by Elisha, their children will remain buried and only rise again with the hope of the resurrection.
It would be presumptuous for me to bring reason to this tragedy. Those who suffer from the agony that the abrupt finality of death inflicts, are more consoled by our silent, prayerful presence than by our well intended, yet vain voices.
But their tragedy offers others a moment of reflection. It allows us to question our own tragedies that are bearable now only through the mercy of time. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does allow us to momentarily remove ourselves from the emotional trauma. With time and reflection, we are able to abstract providential causes out of tragic events. This is best accomplished using the virtue of hope.
The theological virtue of hope is more than mere optimism. It is not simply finding a good reason for a bad event. Through the grace of faith, hope reveals that all events unfold for the good. There is no greater example of how hope can transform a tragedy into a blessing than how sin transforms into forgiveness.
Daily, God experiences the tragedy our sins inflict upon Him. Our Creator, who is personified as love, is consistently assaulted with hate and indifference. Couldn’t an all-powerful Being restrict our ability to sin against Him? Yes. But that would limit the sacrificial nature of God’s love. He allows for the tragedy of sin to be inflicted upon Him so that the blessing of forgiveness and mercy can be manifested.
Couldn’t an all-powerful Being restrict the tragedy in Humboldt from occurring? Yes. But our minds are incapable of understanding the complexity and wisdom of God. God allows for human tragedies to occur while mysteriously causing good to emerge from the tragedy. The theological virtue of hope “inclines us to desire communion with God” (C.C.C. 1812) thereby allowing us to likewise witness the good concealed in the tragedy.
Hope, being a virtue that originates from God, draws the believer into the realm of the infinite. Hope is not only a present feeling nor a wishful future, but it transcends time and even changes the events of the past. Anyone who has experienced a spiritual conversion immediately recognizes that their former destructive and chaotic life, was a well-ordered journey to find God. Seen through hope, their past changes before their eyes and takes on a whole new perspective. We can’t change the physical nature of the past but through communion with the Holy Trinity we can witness it through the wisdom of God.
Before tragedy occurs, we must prepare to respond with hope. We can look to God and His preparation for the tragedy of sin as an example. Sin was an inevitable result of free will, yet God still chose to share His love with us. The first sentence of John’s Gospel reveals His preparation. “At the beginning of time the Word already was” (John 1:1).
God prepared a hopeful response to the tragedy of sin in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, who would atone for all our sins. Even before sin occurred, God transformed its ugliness into Divine Love. If we continuously strengthen our relationship with that Divine Love, we also will be prepared for the inevitable tragedies and ugliness in our own life. With Hope in Christ, we transform our tragic senseless despair into blessed providential hope.
We cannot change the physical nature of the events that occurred on that Saskatchewan highway. But through the grace of faith, hope can change the senseless death of the past into a birth of joy and love for the future.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows, may the souls of the dearly departed be lifted into the arms of our Heavenly Father and may the family and friends of the Humboldt casualties be consoled by renewed faith, hope and charity.
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