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Finding Peace in a Difficult Moment

Some years ago, I wrote a parable of sorts to address why God might allow evil:

An alien spaceship came near Earth to observe whether we were worthy of a visit. It focused its surveillance equipment on a random city and peered into a hospital operating room, where doctors were removing a cancerous tumor from a patient. The ship’s captain made the following report back to his superiors:

This planet is to be avoided at all costs. Their most developed creatures exhibit great cruelty, putting other members of their species to sleep so that they cannot defend themselves. Then, they cut them open with blades and remove body parts. Afterwards, they sew them back together and wake them up, only to watch them writhe in pain. This is an evil planet! Stay away!

Obviously, the alien lacked understanding and context. This was not an act of cruelty or violence but of healing. Although it appeared to be an evil undertaking, it was necessary to save the patient. To be sure, the patient suffered as a side effect of the surgery, but suffering was not the point; healing after and through the suffering was the point.

Like many of you I am both mystified and disoriented by the events of the past year: a pandemic, people walking around in masks, fear everywhere, racial strife, protests nearly all year long that frequently turned violent, and finally a contested election and an attack on the Capitol. My own neighborhood currently resembles Belfast more than it does Washington, D.C. Blockades topped with razor wire seem to be everywhere; bridges are blocked; people are warned not to enter the city on Wednesday (Inauguration Day).

I feel as if I’m living in a strange, eerie dream, and I am deeply saddened by the decline of our culture. It has been eroding for decades, but lately there has been a rapid, frightening collapse. We seem only to be able to shout and fight. Those with the power to do so, the tech oligarchs, are making the Internet seem more like a police state; the principle of free speech is being denied to many. Secularization is rapidly expanding. Church attendance is even lower than it was after the shutdown. Even the vaccines, for which we so prayed and which were developed at “warp speed,” are a source of contention. There have, of course, been legitimate moral concerns about the development of vaccines for decades, but Covid-19 has intensified this. Add to this the politicization of who should be vaccinated first, who should be responsible for distribution successes or failures, and whether the current administration should get any credit for the rapid development of vaccines. Nearly everything is a source of bitter division. It feels as if we are living in a cauldron that is near boiling.

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