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When things just don’t make sense

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POSTED June 6, 2010 2:43 a.m.
For those who long for a universe that’s fair, things haven’t been going so well.  Why Gulf oil rig Deepwater Horizon’s meltdown in leadership and accountability in April led to a deadly explosion and environmental disaster will be better understood with time.  But what’s hard to understand is how millions of innocent human beings and other forms of life should suffer so much irreparable loss at the hands of companies who simply don’t comply.  

We might hear better explanations of why Israeli commandos fired upon Turkish activists at close range with 9mm bullets, when the aid-workers’ flotilla was bringing much-needed supplies to Gaza.  But what we’ll never appreciate is how one of those Israeli soldiers, who alone killed six of the nine who were shot, is reportedly being considered for a “Medal of Valor”.

You, reader, could fill in any number of other examples of senseless events.

Yesterday morning, I visited in jail a young man whom the police pulled over on a dark winter night, purportedly to warn him that his tags were about to expire.  They impounded his vehicle when they discovered that he didn’t have a license.  Left at 10 p.m. in a convenience store, he was approached by three members of a rival gang.  Outside, they threatened to jump him.  By then, the home-boys he’d called arrived.  One of them had a gun.  Within minutes, a young man lay, dead.  Now, the kid left stranded by the police, with his buddies, after six months in jail, are still hanging on.

Why did circumstances seem to conspire in destroying so much potential?
I know it’s not fair to compare what happens in sports with these global tragedies, but as the South African World Cup begins, we’ve got to admit that, for millions, games of skill and chance carry a huge emotional load.

On Friday I visited the bank to prepare a journey to Rome.  A financial advisor and friend there confessed that she and her husband are heading for Johannesburg.  “It is so expensive!” she winced.  Joking back at her, referring to the country’s notorious history, I warned: “Watch out for the white people”.  She is Nicaraguan, but her husband is African-American.  

One of my heroes happens to be Nelson Mandela, who, after 27 years’ imprisonment, became president of the same nation whose previous rulers had martyred many of his fellow activists.  In this case, justice did prevail.

I’m not a spectator of baseball, though I played Little League for nine years.

The completely irredeemable blown call of one umpire, nullifying pitcher Armando Galarraga’s bid for yet another perfect game on Wednesday, puts this misbegotten moment on par with countless other embarrassing events.

I take consolation in the fact that the umpire’s misjudged declaration of “safe at first” was exactly that: a mistake.  Many  could claim the same of the King’s near-upset of the Lakers back in 2002.  Able for once to watch the game myself, I was extremely angry to witness, first hand, what was undoubtedly among the most corrupt refereeing in modern NBA history.  It wasn’t just Kolbe Bryant’s un-penalized assault on Bibby’s face, knocking him flat and stopping the game to treat his bleeding nose.  

From reports I’ve read, it was the entire latter portion of the game, in which by all standards the Kings should have beaten their rivals royally.  In fact, I was so bitter after that fiasco, I’ve never again tuned into an  NBA game.

It’s possible to laugh, when a kid steals the playoffs from an underdog franchise like the Cubs (remember Steve Bartman and the foul he nabbed?)

With time, that accidental wound has healed.  Moises Alou has even gone public in confessing that, after hiding the fact for three long years, he’d probably never have snagged it anyway.  The ball was simply out of reach.

What are the seemingly senseless disasters, tragedies, or major mess-ups in your life which leave you disoriented and bitter?  I’ve had my fair share, and in none of them could ever find simple solutions.  In fact, though I do seek answers and understanding from God and from the evidence at hand, nearly always I have to leave these troublesome mysteries alone.  It is true that, from time to time, the Good Lord reveals how, by allowing what I’d considered to be a curse, or a sign of being God-forsaken, to take place, he has brought about a much greater good.   It’s healthy to call these to mind.

But for the unsolved negative mysteries, I sometimes just have to cradle them in my hands like a baby who has passed away, or like a feared pink slip, or like a foreclosure notice, or papers serving for divorce, or like bad news from an oncologist.  Part of being alive is learning how to die, gracefully.

Jesus did this.  He resigned himself in the Garden: “Not my will, but yours, be done.”  He cried out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Yet, before he died, he commended his spirit into the hands of the God “who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7).   May we also trust, and be heard.

Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton, CA, 95202.  June 5, 2010.
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