Faith and Religion

COMMENTARY: Japan Earthquake, Tsunami 2011


Father Dean

Special Commentary to Bilingual Weekly / Father Dean

STOCKTON, CA -Friday’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan have reminded us painfully of how fragile our lives are – and the infrastructure of our nations. Watching the horrible sight of an enormous plateau of water devastating communities along the eastern coast put another massive pit in my stomach. There is no
limit to the damage which natural disasters can inflict to our civilizations, except that limit established by God: they cannot destroy our will to go on.

And though they may attack everything we have and even take our families,
they cannot destroy our souls. Only we have the power to let that happen.

Twenty-nine years ago this coming Good Friday, I began walking 7,000
miles from Seattle to Bethlehem with a group of pilgrims concerned about
the rise in human violence and the potential for all-out nuclear war. At
that time, the prospects of a senseless Armageddon were looming, and the
Cold War mentality was reaching fever pitch. We launched our project to
call people to more serious prayer, to witness for Christ’s peace, and to do
whatever they could to help make our troubled world a bit more peaceful.

Our oldest walker was already 67 when we began. Fr. George Zabelka had
served on Tinian Island as the military chaplain for the crews who bombed
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not long after the atomic bombs were dropped
and the Japanese surrendered, he walked the streets of these once-teeming
cities which had been converted into nuclear wastelands. Witnessing the
horrendous suffering of the burned, the effects of radiation, and the utter
destruction of what had been proud communities, he was scarred for life.

Years later, Fr. Zabelka returned to Japan on a mission of peace. During
that stay, he met some Japanese Sisters of the Visitation. And as the walk
to Bethlehem was being organized, he invited these nuns to walk with us.

Three sisters joined us on our journey. One, Genevieve, was from Kobe.

From time to time, we reflected during our pilgrimage of peace on Japan’s
changed of heart following World War II and on the bombings that forced
the Emperor to accept unconditional surrender. We prayed that Hiroshima
and Nagasaki (once the Catholic capital of Japan) would never be repeated.

We prayed, that is, that the events of August 6 and 9, 1945, would serve as
a torturous reminder, for the rest of human history, of how ugly war can be.

Following the Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage, the Japanese sisters established
a house of prayer in San Francisco. I used to visit them there, and one day
found an old, damaged crucifix in the basement. “We were given this by a
priest,” Genevieve explained. “He found it when he renovated his church.”

I took the crucifix home, did some restoration work, and since then have
kept it always beside my bed, in a number of places, despite its weight.

Shortly afterwards, Sister Genevieve’s home city was struck by a monster
quake. On January 17, 1995, a 6.8 magnitude tremor caused extensive
damage, killing 6,434 people. Sister Genevieve returned to Kobe for a year
to assist her family and the members of her congregation in rescue efforts.

It seemed ironic that she should have flown out from a city which has been
bracing for a massive earthquake for decades. San Francisco had indeed
been hit by the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, when the Sisters were already
in residence, but they had only suffered a mild shock compared to Kobe’s.

Two months ago, I sat with a friend to watch, for the first time, the original
version of Godzilla. What I’d never known before was that this classic had
been created in part to heighten the sensitivity of post-war America to the
real fears and anxieties of the Japanese people in the face of nuclear war
and the prospect of unforeseen menaces arising from the depths of the sea.

Well, with nuclear war they are altogether familiar. And with Friday’s 8.9
earthquake and tsunami, their worse imaginings have suddenly come true.

Thank God they had been prepared. Praise the Lord that the international
community is quickly rallying to their help, and that the Prime Minister has
wasted no critical time in appealing for assistance. And what a blessing it
is that the Japanese have heard the good news that, whatever may happen
to them and to their families, the Creator of all that is and all that ever will
be has an answer for death. Not many Japanese consider themselves to
be Christians. I hope that the response of people of Christian faith will be
wholehearted and generous, and that their Gospel message of a life above
and beyond the crosses and crucifixions of this world will make better sense.

The book of Revelation puts it this way: “…Then the angel showed me
the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of
God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On
each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,

yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing
of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and
of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will
see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no
more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and
ever.” (R 22:1-5) At this, the people of God cry, “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”bombings that forced the Emperor to accept unconditional surrender. We prayed that Hiroshima and Nagasaki (once the Catholic capital of Japan) would never be repeated.

We prayed, that is, that the events of August 6 and 9, 1945, would serve as a torturous reminder, for the rest of human history, of how ugly war can be.

Following the Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage, the Japanese sisters established a house of prayer in San Francisco. I used to visit them there, and one day found an old, damaged crucifix in the basement. “We were given this by a priest,” Genevieve explained. “He found it when he renovated his church.”

I took the crucifix home, did some restoration work, and since then have kept it always beside my bed, even carrying it with me, despite its weight.

Shortly afterwards, Sister Genevieve’s home city was struck by a monster quake. On January 17, 1995, a 7.2 magnitude tremor caused extensive damage, killing 6,434 people. Sister Genevieve returned to Kobe for a year to assist her family and the members of her congregation in rescue efforts.

It seemed ironic that she should have flown out from a city which has been bracing for a massive earthquake for decades. San Francisco had indeed been hit by the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, when the Sisters were already in residence, but they had only suffered a mild shock compared to Kobe’s.

Two months ago, I sat with a friend to watch, for the first time, the original version of Godzilla. What I’d never known before was that this classic had been created in part to heighten the sensitivity of post-war America to the real fears and anxieties of the Japanese people in the face of nuclear war and the prospect of unforeseen monsters arising from the depths of the sea.

Well, with nuclear war they are altogether familiar. And with Friday’s 8.9 earthquake and tsunami, their worse imaginings have suddenly come true.

Thank God they had been prepared. Praise the Lord that the international community is quickly rallying to their help, and that the Prime Minister has wasted no critical time in appealing for assistance. And what a blessing it is that the Japanese have heard the good news that, whatever may happen to them and to their families, the Creator of all that is and all that ever will be has an answer for death. Not many Japanese consider themselves to be Christians. I hope that the response of people of Christian faith will be wholehearted and generous, and that their Gospel message of a life beyond and above the crosses and crucifixions of this world will make better sense.

The book of Revelation puts it this way: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (R 22:1-5) At this, the people of God cry, “Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

——————————————————————————–

By Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton, CA. Saturday, March 12, 2011

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Japan Earthquake, Tsunami 2011

  1. I know the Japanese are hardcore and stuff but this eposide of total wipe out is just not funny.

    Posted by Kenneth mcneal | March 14, 2011, 11:29 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: COMMENTARY: Japan Earthquake, Tsunami 2011 – Bilingual Weekly | Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan (11-03-2011) - March 14, 2011

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