In our media saturated environment, it’s easy enough to obsess on affairs of politics or pop culture, to the exclusion of just about everything else. At this moment, for example, we are overdosing on the fanatical efforts of the Democrats to pounce on George W.’s “lying” about weapons of mass destruction, and his half-hearted falsely patrician efforts to fight back. Then, there’s the case of basketball star Kobe Bryant, facing a rape charge, who will now only admit to the “mistake” of adultery with the same young lady. Bryant’s wife also refers to this mistake of adultery. Funny, but I never thought that a mistake could be intentional.
Sometimes, though, events occur that force us to focus on matters quite a bit more important than partisan politics or the licentious behavior of dubious celebrities. For it was on July 16th, in Santa Monica, California that ten lives were suddenly terminated by an out-of-control automobile.
Is it possible for us to make any sense of this tragedy? Can we gain any understanding of the mystery of death from this sad accident?
While the loss of life surely pales in comparison to 9/11, at least that catastrophe could be viewed in the context of a deliberate act of war against a high profile target—even if such categorization does little to console those directly bereaved. No doubt, more people died that day in Santa Monica area hospitals, and we didn’t give it a second thought. Perhaps it was the randomness of the deaths, and the helpless nature of the victims that affect us, because even a terminally ill patient at least has the luxury of time, to prepare himself to face his own mortality.
However, that may not be such a good thing. Since we are all fated to die, would it not be better for it to come quickly? Fortunately, except for the suicidal, we are spared this difficult decision, and leave it in the hands of God. There can be no atheistic point of view in all of this, of course, since that would only lead to a nihilistic answer, which, by definition, is no answer at all.
The victims ranged in age from 7 1/2 months to 78 years. Do you feel that the deaths of the youngest victims, those who have barely experienced life, are somehow more tragic than those of the oldest? If you do, then you must be burning inside over the millions of abortions performed annually, right?
What about those people who were at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, but just happened to be out of the path of destruction? Should they be thinking about why they were spared? Or, should they reflect rather on how precious and fragile is this gift of life, and how they should savor every moment? Shouldn’t we all?
Chapter 55 of Isaiah contains some of the most beautiful, reassuring, and yet enigmatic words in the entire Bible…
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; Let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
If life on this Earth is merely a waiting room for what lies beyond, then it should not matter how or when we die, if we consider this amount of time as compared to all eternity. Viewed in this context, therefore, you can appreciate how foolish are those “religious” individuals who carp endlessly against the death penalty. Whether the convict dies now, or 30 years from now, the urgent issue is saving his soul, not his life! Indeed, the town’s namesake, St. Monica (333-387) prayed unceasingly (and successfully) for the conversion of her husband Patritius, as well as her son, who became one of the greatest saints of all time—Augustine. Her statue stands at the end of Wilshire Boulevard on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Yes, we can take some comfort from prophets, saints, and faith, but we are fallible, fearful humans after all, and have great difficulty dealing with matters of life and death, especially when they are brought to us in such sharp relief, as a horrible accident on a fine Summer’s day.