Have you ever noticed how time changes the meaning of thing. Once, when I was a student at A&M (longer ago than I care to admit) I was evicted from apartment with very little notice. The sudden uncertainty of where I would be living basically sent me into a hysterical panic. The first thing panicked Trenton did was call his Mommy (because that is what you do right). Mom called my brother in Houston.
When my brother arrived in College Station later that night I was still hysterical. Today I forget it what exactly initiated it but I do clearly remember exploding in an angry fit at my good Samaritan older brother. Oh I know he was there trying to help. But I am the younger brother, sometimes I am the snotty younger brother that can get away with it because “Mom Says, you have to help.” We were in our twenties so basically children.
Between my hysterical fits and my constantly losing keys to get all the furniture out of my apartment. My family stayed up with me that whole night. My brother quietly lugging my bed down the mattress down the stairs. Mom and Dad coordinating emergency efforts between my brother, myself and multiple storage units. Somehow, with no credit belonging to me, we managed to get everything moved into a new reliable apartment after only a few very stressful days.
Back then all I could think about was the uncertainty and stress. But when I look back on it today, what really stands out is how lucky I am that God has given me such a incredible family. I was the one who was evicted. According to the values of our increasingly individualistic society this could have easily been dismissed as my emergency. It would have been my personal responsibility to pull myself out the crisis. But as I hope all of you have been blessed enough to experience, that is not the way families operate. From the moment my mother picked up the phone my problem became a family emergency. And no matter how terribly I took them for granted everyone shared the burden of getting me out of it.
Loving parents drop everything on single phone call for help. Loving siblings will leave at a moments notice to drive for hours to help pick up their brothers mess. They ask nothing in return and even if they are given aggravation in return they keep helping. Can you ask for a better guide to holiness than the unconditional sacrifices made by a loving family.
Fast forward to November 2013 and this story has been running through my mind again.
On Halloween in Austin onion creek rose 41 feet high. The highest it has ever been in recorded history. This lead to a flood flow rate of over 120,000 cubic feet per second, nearly twice the force of Niagra falls. Considering the extent of the flooding some have considered it a blessing that only four lives where taken in the flood. But over 1,200 homes were damaged during the disaster. The record floods overwhelmed the resources of emergency responders in Austin[source]
At times like these the Catholic language really gets put to the test. Catholics like to talk about our father in heaven and our mother Mary and all our brothers and sisters here in earth. If we really have been born a new into a new universal family then Halloween 2013 was a family emergency. How can we as a loving family respond?
Sometimes family emergencies come in pairs. On November 7th Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippians. Like the flooding here at home this Typhoon in Asia was one for the record books. At its peak the storm had a 10-minute sustained wind speed of 145 mph making it the fourth most intense tropical cyclone ever observed. The results were catastrophic in the Philippians. To date there have been 2,410 confirmed deaths. Government estimates by the Philippians predict a real death toll of over 10,000. It has been estimated Haiyan has caused a staggering $937.2 million (USD) in damages. [source]
How will our family respond to this second emergency? How can we get our brothers and our sisters back on their feet again? More than words can we prove this is our family?
It is easy to lose faith after a natural disaster. Anyway you measure it the loss of life is tragic. The cost of rebuilding will be severe. And when this destruction is caused by “acts of God” it certainly seems reasonable to ask God why? But as Job was so profoundly taught this mystery will never be one for us to solve. None of us where there when God laid out the heavens and the earth. Indeed we do no if our world were without tribulation there would be no need for Faith and there might be no Faith. So while we will never fully understand why this crisis needed to come we should know that in hours like these we have the best opportunity to show the world we are family by our love.
In hours like these we must find true Faith to guide us during this crisis. We better call our Mother and our Father. The strength we need to act faithfully during a crisis can only be received in grace. Holly Mother full of grace pray for us.
An now as promised a special message from our Most Reverend Father to remind us our responsibility’s do not end in prayer. In an email circulated through several different channels Bishop Joe S. Vásquez called for Catholics to volunteer in the Halloween flooding relief efforts.
“As Catholics, we need to reach out and assist those in our community whose lives have been disrupted by this natural disaster. Please consider volunteering your time to help our brothers and sisters. I also ask you to join me in prayer for all those affected by the flooding … This is a perfect service opportunity and a chance to do corporal works of mercy, by service groups, youth groups, families, Knights of Columbus, campus ministries, and individuals. I invite everyone to help.”
-The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez Bishop of Austin
The email provided a link to the united way which will be coordinating volunteers starting now until December 22nd. Please check out that link if you have not already done so. If you are anyone in the Diocese of Austin our Most Reverend Father has addressed this invitation to you.
While Haiyan is both further away and harder to fathom in scale it is not so far as to be out of our families reach. Our Most Revered Fathers of America known more formally as the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] have endorsed the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to take the lead in emergencies like Haiyan. As a Catholic you should take pride that our brothers in the CRS where already working in the Philippians before the storm landed and they have responded quickly making the storm a top priority.
For information on how a Catholic in Austin Texas can help our brothers and sisters in the Philippians please check out the CRS website.
What is true for the nuclear family really must hold true for a universal Christian family. An emergency for our brother is an emergency for us all. We might not choose to take these tests upon ourselves and we do not enter into them lightly. But when they come we often find these are the times when the familial love really shines through. These are the times when the words Catholics use really get tested. These are the times our Faith must take action.
My challenge to you this week is to answer your fathers call. I hope by now you have heard it. Our Father in heaven is calling us to stand up during this crisis and take care of our brothers and sisters in crisis. In the words of your snotty little brother (in Christ) “Mary says you have to!” 😛
Verses for reflection: Job 38:4-7 Mathew 25:34-40 Mark 3:31-35