A burning furnace

“When Sachin Tendulkar walks out to the crease for the final time in Mumbai, he will bring to an end a career that has earned him god-like status in India.” So ran a news report this week on the retirement of a famous Indian cricketer. Cricket does not feature highly in Zimbabwe’s consciousness though it has its devotees. But Tendulkar can serve for now as yet another model of an outstanding sportsman who has won the admiration, even adulation, of millions.

Cricket takes place in a set space and the whole object of the game is to hit the ball beyond the boundaries of that space. And spectators go wild if you can get the ball over the boundary without it even touching the ground. We love sportspeople because they go beyond the boundaries, the frontiers. Deep within us is a longing to break out and do the same.

The Typhoon in the Philippines, which has dominated the news all week, has destroyed cities and killed more than 3,000 people. The scale of the suffering is beyond description and it seems the whole world is trying to help. Everyone wants things to “get back to normal.” In the midst of such suffering it may seem inappropriate to suggest some reflections, but such a tragedy must pose some questions.

We can leave aside the questions already being asked, about how prepared the government was and what precautions the people took, and move on to the question of why these disasters happen at all. Is it just a chance act of nature or is it due to human foolishness in messing around with our climate? Maybe we ask why God allows it to happen? To this last question a similar answer can be given as to the question once asked, “where was God when millions of Jews were deliberately killed in the Second World War?” The answer I always remember is “He was with them there in the gas chambers.” God is with us, Emmanuel. Having given us freedom, he does not interfere with us.

In November each year the Church hammers us with readings about crises and disasters and “burning furnaces.” She wants us to know that there is no “going back to normal.” ‘Crisis’ is the name of the game. The word comes from the Greek word krino, meaning ‘to decide.’ Even though we long for “normality” it is not good for us. We are made to go “over the boundaries” and we pack football stadiums and cricket grounds because we know it, and if we can’t get beyond the normal ourselves we can at least watch others do it.

Yet the appeal has to be to each one of us: decide to go beyond the boundaries. Don’t settle into the comfortable and normal. Our decisions are making the world for better or for worse – and everyone counts.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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