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Typhoon Yolanda: Sign of the End of our ‘Little Worlds’

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

keeping the faith amidst disasterCertainly most of us if not all, would have seen and have been touched by what had happened in the Philippines last week. The scenes of destruction and the images of helplessness, despair and death are so unreal and unimaginable that I said to someone the other day: ‘If you are not moved by what you see in the Philippines in this sad time, you really must have a heart of stone.’ The scenes are horrific and heartbreaking. Looking at them, I felt like my heart is torn to pieces. I just can’t help but shed a tear. 

It made me sit down, to reflect and even ask God: ‘What’s going on in the world now?’ And it’s not only me asking this question. The other day, someone said to me: ‘Father, is this the sign of the end of the world?’ I couldn’t answer it. I don’t know. Only God knows. Even Jesus wouldn’t tell us in the gospel. For him, the most important thing is not for us to know when is the end of the world or when is his second coming. The essential thing we need to be worrying about is how are we preparing (i.e. spiritually) for his second coming. If St Paul were to answer this, he would say to us: ‘[W]henever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith”, (Gal 6:10NRSV). In other words, while we still have time, let us resolve to do good, and to do the good, that which is pleasing to God eyes, and that which is His will.

But that question on the end of the world lingered in my mind. It made me reflect not only because this is the theme of our gospel today but because it is a truth of our faith: That the end will certainly come regardless if it is sooner or later.

But a realization dawned on me. As I was observing the reactions of the whole world (i.e. Nations in the world, people, organizations, etc.) towards this catastrophic event in Central Philippines, I realized that what happened is not the sign of the end of the world as many of us would like to think it to be but it shows us signs that there are ‘little worlds’ in us that have come to an end. These  ‘little worlds’ are worlds that we have created ourselves or that we have allowed to happen in us, wherein we are comfortable, secured and assured but only for our own sake.

What are these ‘little worlds’ that are ending here?

First, is the World of Godlessness. Because of what happened, people turned back to God in prayers. Because of what happened, many turned back to their  faith to get consolation and assurance. One image that really helped console me was this picture of two girls, I presume they’re sisters, sitting down facing each other, surrounded by debris and rubble, with only little belongings in front of them which includes a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It just goes to show how much their faith in God meant for them. Because of what happened, many people, listened to the voice of God in agony calling them in the silence of their hearts to offer prayers and sacrifices for the victims of that terrible event. The world of Godlessness is slowly breaking, in that people are moved to rediscover their hope, to reassess their faith and to show their love and solidarity with the many who are suffering.  

Second, the world of selfishness, self-centredness and indifference was being crushed. It’s just amazing how people moved out of their comfort zones to help in any way they can. Just yesterday, one  lady in the nursing home, frail as she is, who gave us a $100 dollars to help some people in the Philippines. It moved me, because if she lived on a pension, that amount was a big chunk from that. Another incident is, yesterday I got a call from someone in Horsham, wanting to help. It’s 2:30 hours from here, but he said he would drive down here next week to deliver his donations. Another thing that is greatly uplifting is the humble gesture of  a family of refugees from Thailand who is now living in our city, of giving us some of their belongings for the victims too. It’s just amazing how this event moved people all over the world to get out of their world of selfishness, indifference and out of their comfort zones to help out the most needy at this very moment.

Third, the world of idleness is being transformed into a community of giving, a community of solidarity and a community who works for the benefit of many.  It is being transformed into a world of working, volunteering for the relief campaigns, working as part of the medical team, or working as a team providing security and order, and in many other ways and forms of collaboration. The whole world is working together to help the victims and it’s overwhelming. St Paul would be happy with this, because this is what he was hoping for, for the Thessalonians in our Second Reading today…See in St Paul’s time, some people were also caught up with the thought that the world is ending soon so they thought there’s no point of working if all would go for nothing when the world ends. But then again, we don’t know when, what we could do now is to prepare ourselves for it, by doing something good, beneficial, life-giving and spiritually nourishing. And to be able to realize we are to move out of our world of idleness and become examples of generosity and diligence for others to follow as St Paul would urge us today. I have witnessed this world of idleness being transformed not only because I have seen it on TV or on the papers, but I have seen it personally. Yesterday, I have invited the Filipinos to help us pack the relief goods to the Philippines. To my surprise, many people turned up offering their valuable  time on the weekend, Australians and Filipinos alike, and because of the diligence of many, we packed 50 boxes of relief goods ready to be sent over.

Thus, for us, people of hope, and people of faith, it’s not the end of the world yet. What happened around us are signs from God telling us to end the ‘little worlds’ we are creating in ourselves, to move out from there and go back to him. These events are signs for us to make an end of selfishness, of our laziness and of our Godlessness. God is giving us opportunities here to re-assess our lives, to ask ourselves: Does God mean the world for me?

If He is, then  let us find him as he suffers with the Filipinos affected by the Typhoon Haiyan. We can only find him though  if we get out of our comfort zones, get out of our comfort world and allow God to create a new world, a world of love, of giving, and of caring for one another. Amen.


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