In this week’s blog Fr Paddy reminds us that in the midst of such hardship and suffering as being experienced in Haiti, God’s presence is witnessed in those who generously come to their aid.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 20th January 2010

This has been a devastating week for the people of Haiti. Already the poorest country in the western world, the recent earthquake, has brought extreme hardship to a people vulnerable and impoverished. In many ways our recent sufferings, felt because of arctic weather, pales into deep insignificance when we consider the terrible suffering now endured by over three million people. It is estimated that up to seventy five thousand people may have died and millions more will find themselves directly affected by this terrible natural disaster. The United Nations has described this earthquake as the one of the worst tragic events that they ever had to deal with.

There is a huge global response to the sufferings felt by the people of Haiti. Hundreds of international relief agencies are transporting immediate supplies of medicines and essential goods to help alleviate further death and starvation. We are all surely called to respond generously to National agencies such as Trocaire who are already engaged in this relief project. An image of hope is the local airport in Haiti at this time. The airport has been given to the direction of the U.S. and every fifteen minutes emergency relief arrives to this area fuelled by the generosity of people from the many diverse cultures, creeds and traditions across the globe.

Why do terrible things such as this earthquake happen to good people? How can God allow a people already so bruised and broken by poverty and hardship to suffer now so greatly? It is a question that I am sure we all ask, with the images of orphaned children and mass corpses lying on the streets, as seen on our T.V. screens.

Job in the scriptures, when he faced brutal devastation, justifiably considered

“Is it better to curse God and die?”

The psalmist who suffered and felt overwhelmed and weighed down cried aloud “Friend and neighbour you have taken away, my one companion is darkness”. A situation, echoed in the Gospel,

“Lord if you were here my brother would not have died”. While on the cross, Jesus himself cried out

“My God, why have you abandoned me?”

When we ask such questions, considering such terrible circumstance, it is very difficult to find immediate answers. In many ways, God, does not give us answers to the why of human suffering. However, in the midst of such suffering, he does offer support and hope. His example was lived and indeed felt in history through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus carried the heavy cross of human suffering to express solidarity and offer support to all who are weighed down and overwhelmed.

Our God remains present and available in this time of need. A God whose generous spirit has prompted so many to respond to the appeals that are now helping and healing the people of Haiti. This devastating tragedy evokes a compassion and generosity in all our hearts. Thousands of Aid Workers are the living face of God’s presence in a dark and dreadful moment of despair and burden for the people of Haiti. May we share generously our resources to these broken people. May the Lord bless all who help carry their heavy cross in the months of rebuilding ahead.