Within one week of the Great American Solar Eclipse, our nation is hit by one of the worst storms yet: Harvey. As the death tolls rises, more and more land is flooded and Harvey continues to move, many people begin to despair. We look at all this as signs, as chastisements, as God kinda just turning a blind eye to us. We can focus on the Chaos and say, we are doomed. People feel that inevitably in the face of these ‘signs’, we are lost, caught up in the mayhem that is surrounding us. It seems senseless and meaningless and that all this must ultimately be the end. We are destined to spiral out into nothing.
Much of this suffering comes from the unpredictable. Harvey has been very hard to track, it changes course and intensity so much in a short time. This is the basis for the Chaos theory of scientist which states that one small change in data of a predicted plot can create a great swerve in the results. Weather is a very apparent reality where one day all is going one way, the next all has changed. A small shift in pressure, a difference in hot or cold air, can suddenly lead to destruction for so many. This is summed up in its grand example called “The Butterfly Effect” that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil will cause a hurricane in the gulf of Mexico. This seeming unpredictability, this waring chaos that seems to be around us, is not natural. The Catechism tells us: “God wills the interdependence of creatures. the sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.”(CCC 340 )
The original plan was not chaos but just that: a plan. All was created as parts of a greater whole, united together and working together. Man was on the top of the creation and form the union of creation with God. “The beauty of the universe: the order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. the beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.”(CCC 341)
However, man sinned. This original sin, this break with the union with God not only broke man with God but also creation with the rest of creation and God’s original plan. There is a tendency to spiral out of control, into this chaos. This butterfly effect would continue to affect the rest of creation. This is the mark of the wounded creation that it moves and changes in such away. “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”.284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”,285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.”(CCC400)
This is not to mean that chaos is moving towards destruction or entropy as the final end of all things. Nor does it say that in the end all will lead to destruction. What it all points to and what we look to, is something greater. There is a yearning within all creation for completion for harmony.
Again we are reminded in the Catechism:
But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better.174 But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection. (CCC 310)
Our hope is in a greater reality: God who still leads all with his providence to a good end. When we see the evil and destruction, we should not fear that all will soon end and be destroyed, but rather our hope is that something greater and better is being prepared and planned for us. Even this chaos and destruction and storm are within God’s grasp. They are within his plan as much as the moving of the Sun and the Moon in the Eclipse. Not that God wills the evil and destruction but that he can bring something greater from it. All this will continue until the end of time, until all finds its completion and harmony in heaven.
As we see these things and continue to offer our prayers for those affected, the correct Christian response isn’t “This is a sign that the end must be near”. No. Rather, “all this is pointing to something greater”. A greater reality that we see in Jesus who enduring the Chaos and destruction of the cross lead it to the Resurrection. I end with a quote from Gaudium Et Spes: “We do not know the time when earth and humanity will reach their completion, nor do we know the way in which the universe will be transformed. The world as we see it, disfigured by sin, is passing away. But we are assured that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth. In this new earth righteousness is to make its home, and happiness will satisfy, and more than satisfy, all the yearnings for peace that arise in human hearts. On that day, when death is conquered, the sons of God will be raised up in Christ; what was sown as something weak and perishable will be clothed in incoruption. Love and the fruits of love will remain, and the whole of creation, made by God and for man, will be set free from the frustration that enslaves it.”