We now know what the word Tsunami means, if we didn't know before. As we turn to the papers each day to follow the latest developments, we find it impossible to imagine the terrible experience opened up for so many people. The grief of those for whom family members have died; the anguish of those who cannot find family and friends; those who have lost all they possessed; people displaced or disoriented; those who have an agony of waiting. The modern media increasingly bring home to us what such events are like. We used to be able to think of such disasters in a vague distant haze that edited out the sordid and the harrowing. Now we see something of what it is really like, even if we continue to edit it out at another level. Increasingly we are forced to put ourselves in the shoes of those going through one or another kind of hell. The media show us that this scale of suffering is all around, every day. The great catastrophes of the world only gather up into an unusual concentration the troubles that are there for people in every moment. Even as I speak we continue to hold in our prayers all the people in the coastlands of the Indian Ocean, all the children, all the fear, pain and struggle.
We do not know what to think or say, except that Christ came into this.
That presence of Christ poses a question to us: How do our problems relate to the people for whom we are praying?
We, the Body of Christ, have had our own tidal waves. The modern world has rolled over the Church and left a situation of devastation and disorientation. The religious orders fully share in all of that. We are decimated and looking for a path to the future.
Christendom is a pale shadow of its former self. Where have all the people gone? Where has all the faith gone? Many people outside must wonder where the Church continues to find its confidence.
And in fact, compared with the victims of a real tidal wave, we have no reason to complain or to worry. In comparison with human deprivation on the physical plane, the Church has everything it needs. The problems of us as the people of God can never be compared with those of God's suffering creation. The Church is a source of grace and that is all we need. My grace is sufficient for you. Wherever we live out our faith, whether in the midst of the world and its commotion, or in the bracingly busy peace of religious communities, we have what we need for the situation in which God has placed us.
We live our religious life as the contribution we have been asked to make: this is what it is: a particular contribution to the spread of the gospel and the salvation of the world.
All the world's suffering throws a sobering light on us, for Christ is in it. It suggests, yes, let us be preoccupied with our calling, but not with ourselves; let us be concerned with the salvation of the world, but not with the preservation of this community or this denomination.
That suggests going outwards, looking outwards, as Christ emptied himself.
But there is a paradox: for at the same time today’s readings speak of a coming‑in. All they from Saba shall come ...nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. If the Church has all it needs, and if religious communities have all they need, then this looking outwards is not in a facile marginalizing of the Church or of our Community, but in a knowledge that they are holy. In today's reading from Ephesians we heard of the Mystery which was hidden in God, "so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known", and, we might hope too that through CR the manifold wisdom of God will be made known. The paradox is to give our best attention to our calling because it is holy, and at the same time to look away from it to life all around us.
So in our continual prayer for all those in anguished or unspeakable situations, we seek the renewal of our life for their sakes. Such renewal requires a looking-way from ourselves, indeed a journeying-out.
The wise men made their journey against a terrible backdrop, symbolized in the pantomime-like monster figure of Herod, and the many horrors of life in the ancient world. That dark backdrop still hung closely around them as, entering the house; they "saw the child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him".
May we be wise, and may the world come to find its peace.