With the recent earthquake and tsunami tragedies in Asia that took over 40,000 lives, the same questions that were asked by Voltaire after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 arise again: Why did God allow this to happen? How should a Catholic answer this?
It is difficult but an act of humility for Catholics to admit that, this side of eternity, we simply cannot know why God allows natural disasters to occur. All we can know is that there is no tragedy from which God cannot bring good. Augustine once said, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.” As horrific as the Christmas tragedy in Asia was, God may bring good out of it: human solidarity, charitable endeavors, conversion graces, etc. If it also serves to remind secular materialists that Christmas joy is not superficial jolliness but a call to holiness that can include suffering, the date of the tragedy may also be a channel of God’s grace as well.