Magazine article U.S. Catholic

On a Wing and a Prayer

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

On a Wing and a Prayer

Article excerpt

The Cartoon is in two panels. In the first panel a poor fellow is knocked to the ground by a bolt of lightning. Turning his stunned gaze to the sky he cries out, "Why me, God?" In the adjacent panel a thunderous voice from the sky roars, "Why not you?"

Now there's a theme for a perceptive homily, maybe even a spectacular one! Has anyone failed to ask that question at some time in our lives? And has anyone failed to realize the profound wisdom of God's reply?

Television news, for all its faults, is able to bring home not only the horrors of wars in other parts of the world, but also catastrophes that occur in our own country: the devastating floods in Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota and on the West Coast, as well as the frightful damage wreaked by tornadoes, especially in the South. When we look at survivors picking through the shreds of what once were their homes we can realize, only incrementally, what it would be like to be in their shoes. And yet, and yet, why not me?

These concerns help to explain why Rabbi Harold S. Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Avon, 1983) was on the bestseller list for such a long time. Kushner's answer to these questions is multifaceted and anything but oversimplified, and, in the final analysis, isn't the answer that the ways of God are inscrutable?

And so we, Catholics and others, turn to prayer. "Reach out, O Lord, your hand to us in consolation." And if we dare to ask, "Take away from us these trials even though we are undeserving."

As Catholics we believe that divine grace is, well, gratuitous. It is not earned. "It falleth like a gentle rain from heaven on those below." For believers there is always the possibility of miracles utterly unearned for the utterly undeserving.

The current popularity of angels and things angelic speaks to this dilemma. In scripture, angels are usually messengers bringing God's wishes to humans. In our cybernetic age, however, isn't it reasonable that the angels are also interactive, bringing our wishes, hopes, and petitions heavenward?

Allowing for the crimes and misdemeanors that are often committed in the name of angels by merchants and popularizers, today's angel phenomenon would seem to be a blessed event. If it is only a refuge from the tide of secularism that sometimes swamps us in El Nino fashion, it is desirable. …

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