This past Wednesday was the Feast of the Assumption. So, in a heavily Roman Catholic country such as Peru, it was perhaps inevitable that many people would be at the celebratory Mass. The Feast of the Assumption, is, after all, a Holy Day of Obligation.
Sadly, this past Wednesday, August 15, was the day a major quake hit Peru, leaving hundreds dead. Including some who were trying to celebrate Mary, the Mother of God. So, the question of the hour must be, “where was God?”
The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation holds that, after the host is consecrated by the priest, then God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, is actually present; present in “substance,” hence the name. So, one might say that God was, indeed, with those at Mass. If you’re a Catholic.
If you’re a Protestant, all sorts of questions are raised about both the Feast of the Assumption, and the notion that Christ himself appears at each and every Mass. Which is a polite way of writing, we don’t believe this for a moment. But we do believe that God is everywhere, all the time, and His presence may be felt “where two or three are gathered in my name” (Matthew 18:20).
So, yes, God was in Peru at the time of the quake. And we believers must include in our belief system that the God who created the universe, who is both all-knowing and all-powerful, could He not have done something to prevent the quake or at least to shield the victims? The answer must be “yes” to the believer.
But, here’s the little nugget of truth, make that Truth, as to why He did not. It’s in the Gospel of John, stated rather clearly in John 1:10 about God in the Person of Jesus Christ: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” Or, if you prefer, a stranger in a strange land.
The world rejected God back in the Garden of Eden, which I believe to be allegorical, but which is true…if only for the observable fact that the world self-evidently belongs to the Adversary. And that God allows this, not because He has no choice, but precisely because He does. And that we, who were made in His image, continue to make our choices, every moment of every single day.
Were the victims at Mass in Peru killed because they were sinners? Yes; it’s why we all die, because of our rejection of God. And yet, for those at Mass, and for those of us who also follow Jesus Christ and know he’s died in our stead, there is also the hope that we will trade this vale of tears for a crown.
A hope. That’s all I’m able to offer, but this is what my faith tells me. And, may God comfort those whom he will take as His own, and comfort those of us who mourn the loss of our fellow travelers on this side of the Great Divide.