Richard Roeper gets it about right in his column Thursday in the Chicago Sun-Times when he points out that last week the Associated Press put out its annual list of the top stories of 2004, figuring the year was pretty much over. Starting with the re-election of President George W. Bush as story No. 1, and the war in Iraq, Florida Hurricanes through the Russian school and Madrid bombing, the AP through they had covered the high points of 2004.
Trying To Comprehend the Tragedy
And then suddenly, the tsunami hit — the huge tidal wave that wiped out the lives of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 human beings . The AP list will have to be changed. The tsunami will have to fit in there somewhere, near the top.
Roeper tries in his column to help us imagine what 100,000 people looks like. The town of Green Bay, WI is about 100,000 people. The Ohio State Stadium holds 101,500 people. He tries to bring this huge number home to us. Then he shows how the media try to personalize it. There are people from Chicago missing, from Indianapolis, Boston.
The 9-point earthquake itself was strong enough to jostle the earth’s rotation, if only by a miniscule amount, and will shorten our day by 3-millionths of a second. And it will most probably be the most costly disaster in history, what with rebuilding whole towns, roads, bridges.
But the greatest tragedy is the of all the human lives just swept away, the broken families, parentless children, mothers missing, fathers gone. We think of the suffering the survivors. It breaks one’s heart.
But then Roeper points out stories of the near miraculous survivals, a three week old baby found floating alive on a mattress in Malaysia, a 2-year old alone but safe on a road in Thailand, and other stories that give a little hope.
Roeper concludes that as our world continues to shrink, “it will always be plagued by occurrences too large and too awful for us to ever comprehend.”
In Thursday’s liturgy we read : “No one can resist your word. The mountains to their bases, and the seas are shaken, the rocks like wax melt before your glance. But to those who fear you, you are very merciful.” We don’t know why this happened, but God does.
Our New Year’s Wish for You
So that’s how the old year ends, with a massive tragedy and a show of the power of nature over man. And now we begin another year placing all our trust and hope and attention on the God of the Universe who is also the God who is to be the center of our lives. Whatever happens, He must be at the very core of our being. Whatever we do we do for his glory.
And that is my New Year’s wish for everyone, that we will as a nation, as a Church, as a movement, become daily more and more centered on God as the purpose of our existence.
At Christmas we always get a lot of books, and though not all are spiritual, God comes into all of them, and the message is the same, whether the author intends it or not, that God in the center of our lives, the center of the Universe and simply stated, our eternal destiny. We suspect that many of the victims of the tsunami realized that at the very end, God was in charge of their lives, even though many of them had thought they were in charge, and while we don’t understand why things like this happen, we do know that wherever you are or whatever you’re doing we must always be giving him praise and glory.
So we wish you not just the usual Happy New Year, but we wish you a year in which each of us comes closer to realizing that we are here on earth for one reason: to prepare to spend eternity with God. If we get that right it will be a happy new year with hopefully many more to come.