By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila
My heart and soul bleed for the thousands who died from the Yolanda typhoon that swept across the Visayas, and for the thousands of families displaced, no homes left, no food or water or clothing. The photos and videos now being aired are truly disturbing and beyond complete devastation.
Earlier this week friends who have left the comfort of their homes in unaffected areas and are now in Samar reported that there are many towns, especially island towns and barangays, that have been totally wiped out. Isolated areas in Guiuan, Hernani, Lawaan, Giporlos, Balagiga, Quinapondan, Basey and Balangkayan were “extremely, terribly and horribly damaged yet still have not received relief goods.” By this time (11-16-13) we have heard that some of these towns are now beginning to receive relief assistance.
A report from one of our parish priests who left last Monday for the ravaged areas said that all along the hi-way people are desperately begging for food in order to survive. He believes the government media reports are understated and that thousands of souls have perished as whole towns were literally wiped off the face of the earth.
I am distressed by the stories and pictures of looting, of gangs carrying off things like TVs, appliances and other items not needed for survival, of ransacking groceries and supermarkets thereby depriving the needy survivors of food. I also received a report that an advance team who arrived in Ormoc last Sunday were unable to proceed to Tacloban because all routes were blocked by two types of mobs: the desperate and hungry; and the bandits who systematically loot when the opportunities arise.
Columnist Cito Beltran in one of his CTalk columns in the Phil. Daily Star this week had this to say: “I have no doubt that those of us who have been spared return to the regular programming of our lives simply interspersing it with updates and peeks at Facebook and the tube. As the death toll rises, we say “kawawa naman sila.” And then we watch some more.”
Beltran writes that this watching and watching media TV reports is the curse of technology upon modern man. “Technology allows us to know in our minds but not feel in our hearts. Our knowledge is thus divorced from feelings and therefore from a sense of responsibility or action.”
“It is now your chance to be a real saint, to comfort the afflicted and give hope to those who have no hope left in them.” He concludes his reflection and comments by saying that because we are blessed, we should be a blessing to others.
My favorite bible verse, Romans 8:28, tells us, “In all things God works for good, for those who love him and who respond to His plan and purpose for them.” “In all things” not some things or a few things. “God works for good” for my good, or for other’s good, or for me to be a blessing of good to someone else. Then there are two conditions to His promise. I have to ask myself: How much do I love God? How faithful am I in responding to His purpose in my life?
Where is the good in all the devastation from Yolanda, in the many lives lost, in the loss of families and homes and livelihood?
Perhaps God is powerfully reminding us that we need to take care of the environment, of His creation, and that we need to share even the little we have with those who are in need and not just offer up prayers for them.
As the Advent and the Christmas season approach, perhaps God is reminding us of the real meaning of the season – the importance of loving one another, the need to reach out to others in charity of heart.
Our focus should be on the help we can give to those devastated by the storm, not on how many gifts we give and receive from family and friends on Christmas. I believe God is giving us the opportunity to concretely and in practical ways share Jesus’ love and mercy with the victims of Yolanda and last month’s earthquake.
Where is the good? It is in our hearts; it is in our response to God’s call to share His love; it is the God-given chance to become His channel of blessings to others, the source of hope to those who have lost hope.