Thursday of the Octave of Easter

Just this past Saturday I wrote about the “Good Friday Miracle”, devastating storms including four tornadoes that tore through the Saint Louis area doing horrific property damage but not taking a single life.  Last night our brothers and sisters in the southern United States weren’t so lucky.  A series of tornadoes, more than 100 total swept through Alabama and Georgia doing major damage and taking more than 100 lives.  More than 1 million people in northern Alabama are without electricity with the outages predicted to last four to five days.

I took particular interest in these storms because one of my sons, his wife, and my granddaughter live in Huntsville, right in the path of the storms.  Patrick called me around 6:00 to tell me that they had no way of knowing what was happening because they had no power.  I spent the next several hours watching streaming video from one of the Huntsville television stations and reporting back to him by cell phone.  Unfortunately, those circuits were jammed making it hard to get through.  My penultimate call was to tell him that a tornado was headed toward them and that they should take cover in the bathroom.  (They don’t have basements in Alabama.)

When I saw that the storm had passed them, I tried for a long time before I could get through to them.  Thanks be to God they were alright.  But it seemed like an eternity before I could get through and find out that everything was OK with them.

Now, by the light of day, I’m wondering why God spares some people and not others.  We know that everything happens for a reason but that’s small consolation to those who lost loved ones in the storm.  Of course we know that those who died in a state of grace are now in a much better place.  Thankfully we don’t know who goes where when they die, but those who are left believe, as we say with sure and certain hope, that the ones they lost are destined to spend eternity with God.  If we could know for sure that Uncle Cletus wasn’t among those bound for heaven, we most likely couldn’t go on.

But God is a merciful God and we hope that those who died are destined for heaven, even if they must spend some time in purgatory.  Face it, God’s mercy is the only thing that’s going to get many of us there.  So today, we pray for those who have died that God will have mercy on their souls.  And we pray for those who suffered damage to their homes and property that God will give them the grace and the determination to rebuild.

Why storms hit certain areas, particularly tornadoes which seem to jump around without rhyme or reason, destroying one home while leaving it neighbors untouched, we just don’t know.  What we do know is that technology provides us with very good warning systems.  Sadly, some of us just don’t pay attention to them much like we don’t pay attention to the warnings that Jesus gave us to prepare for the end of our time on earth.

Easter Miracle–The Power of God

This isn’t the message I’d planned to post for Easter.  As I’ve learned more times than I can count, if you want to hear God laugh, show him your long-range plan.  Last night, a massive storm system blasted its way through the Saint Louis area.  The system included at least two tornados.

Here’s what we do know, the alleged tornados leveled dozens, maybe even hundreds, of homes and businesses.  Lambert International Airport sustained major damage and is closed until further notice.  One local Catholic church had it’s steeple blown off during Good Friday services.  As someone has said, future generations will speak of the Good Friday tornado of 2011.

Others, myself included, are calling it the Good Friday Miracle of 2011.  Why?  Despite the millions of dollars of damage not a single person died or even sustained a serious injury.  One half of all the windows at the airport were blown out, and if you’ve never been to our airport, that’s a lot of glass blowing around yet only a handful of people sustained minor injuries.

An American Airlines plane sitting on the tarmac was impaled by a piece of sheet metal.  The metal penetrated the skin of the plane’s tail.  If it had hit ten feet to the left, someone would have been seriously hurt, maybe killed.

Cars were picked up, spun around, and flipped over, yet their occupants survived with, at worst, minor cuts and bruises.

It’s as if God was saying, “On the day when you killed my Son, I spared your life.  I AM God.  I AM stronger than the strongest forces of nature.  Trust in me.”

And how has the community responded?  As I write this, emergency management officials are telling us to stay home.  Too many people are showing up to help.  At this stage in the recovery there are major jobs to be done.  Power must be restored.  Roads must be reopened.  Damaged homes must be repaired, at least temporarily, as the meteorologists are predicting rain, and possibly more storms, for the next several days.  Well-meaning volunteers are actually getting in the way.  We’re being told that there will be plenty of work in the days ahead.  Right now, all they need is our money.

I would add that they also need our prayers.  We need to pray for the victims’ recovery and also to thank God that the only damage is to things that can be repaired or replaced.

Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate the greatest miracle of all; the day when Jesus Christ overcame death and saved us all.  You’d think that would be all the miracle we need.  But human creatures have short memories.  One of our favorite questions is “What have you done for me lately?”  We celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Season of Easter, to remind ourselves of what God and His Son did for us.  I think that sometimes God looks at us and says, “I think it’s time to remind them again.”

Yesterday we prayed for non-Christians and nonbelievers in the Good Friday petitions.  It seems like God answered our prayers by giving them a graphic demonstration of His power to save.

Have a joyous and blessed Easter!