A Joint Service of Remembrance and Prayer for Rebuilding on the One-Year Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake (with Tsukiji Catholic Church)
St. Luke's International Hospital Chapel, March 11, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
(tower bell is rung for about one minute at 2:46 p.m., the time of the earthquake)
One year ago, on a Friday afternoon at 2:46, the most powerful earthquake in Japan's history struck off the coast in Fukushima.
The images from that time are probably fresh in all our minds. The damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami and radioactive pollution from the nuclear power plant accident was enormous in scale. At present, official figures show more than 15,000 dead and more than 3,000 still missing.
"Still." I think that's a key word. We must remember that many, many families are even now still searching for their loved ones. Many still haven't gone home. Many are still grieving deeply. Many are still completely in the dark about what the future holds.
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We live in a world where great suffering occurs. One Catholic prayer (Salve Regina) describes this world as a "vale of tears"
In the face of this suffering, we may often, like Job, want to ask "why?" But unfortunately, no matter how much we ask, I don't think any answers we might find will be very satisfying.
To be sure, maybe 80% of the suffering in the world is caused directly or indirectly by human sin and violence and ignorance and greed. But that still leaves things like 3/11.
The Bible talks about the Fall. In other words, the original sin of Adam and Eve. This caused a cataclysmic disaster, causing the original goodness of the world to be lost. As a result, the possibility of all misfortunes, things like 3/11 and 9/11 and sick children and war, came into the world.
I believe that. But I have to say, as an explanation it's not very satisfying. And I reckon it doesn't do a lot to bring comfort or hope to people in the midst of suffering. The fact is, we just don't really know why some people suffer greatly and some people don't.
What we do know is this: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
One of the reasons what happened on 3/11 was so terrifying was its unprecedented scale. But, one way or another, each of us is going to have to face something similar one day. We will all of us, without exception, lose our loved ones, our homes, our lives. Eventually, death will separate us from all that we hold dear.
But not from God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
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On another Friday afternoon, a Friday afternoon 2,000 years ago, the tragedy of the world's evil rushed in and swallowed up Jesus Christ. Christ, too, lost everything. Friends, family, dreams, life itself, all stripped away from Him, in the blink of an eye.
But nothing can separate us from the love of God.
The true God is Lord of the living and of the dead. He has the power to bring light into darkness, and life into death. With God, no one goes missing.
And His love is far stronger than all the world's earthquakes combined.
Let us trust God's promise that nothing can separate us from His love.
And let us ask His mercy for all who died in last year's tragedy, all who were impacted, all who even now live in uncertainty.