The Philippines is regularly visited by natural calamities: typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, storm surges. These events often bring out the best in our people. During these times, we usually are able to come together as a caring community to show compassion and help one another. People become more generous, unselfish and totally giving. This is probably the reason why we are often able to rise up again and again disaster after disaster.
Alas, the Philippines is also visited often by disasters of our own making, like what we are going through right now after the Mamasapano debacle. And such events often bring out the worse in us as a people. During such times, people are so easily given to bickering, hatred, anger, selfishness, greed and lust. It is still the season of Lent and these are probably God’s signs to us calling us to repentance and meaningful changes in our lives.
The great theologian, Karl Barth, reflecting the horrors of the First World War saw the hand of God in the unfolding of those grim events. I reflect on these insights from Fr. Robert Barron:
From the quiet of his parsonage in Switzerland, Barth followed the horrors of the First World War, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, the devastation of nations, the collapse of the European social order. Then something dawned on him: it was precisely the inflated self-regard and hubris of nineteenth-century liberalism that led to this disaster.
He saw the European powers as descendants of the Tower of Babel builders, attempting to reach up to God on their own terms and in their own way. Behind the sunny confidence of the liberal period, he discerned arrogance, imperialism, and colonialism. The advances of science were made possible through the rape of the environment and economic comfort for some was made possible through the enslavement of others.
In the end, bad personal habits have bad consequences, but bad national habits have bad consequences as well.
I pray for the Philippines and our people that we listen to the stirrings of the Spirit in our hearts and harken to the Lenten call to repentance and reconciliation.