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Liturgy of Remembrance: Plainfield Tornado

Today’s readings: 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1 | Psalm 23 | Mark 4:35-41

It’s easy to understand how the disciples on the boat were worried, even panicking.  They’re in a boat, in the middle of the sea, and it’s a dark night, and a storm whips up, and their beloved leader is sleeping.  One wonders how he could sleep so soundly in the midst of the storm!  

Our life is full of storms.  Some of them are minor things, but others have a lasting impact.  Some of them merely give rain to the fields, some of them bring destruction.  In our area, this was never more evident than thirty years ago this afternoon, when an F-5 tornado tore through sections of our area, destroying the high school one day before it was to be filled with students on their first day of school, and, of course, destroying Saint Mary Immaculate Church, taking the lives of 29 people, and injuring many others.

I wasn’t living in Plainfield at the time, but I remember hearing about it because one of my good friends, Paul Sirvatka, chased the tornado, and had video of the beginning of the storm.  Hearing the news that day was surreal; nothing that devastating had ever happened in our area before, and the tales of the destruction were heartbreaking.  

So many storms, of various types, have happened since, including this year.  We are still living with the very destructive storm of COVID-19, and with the storms of social unrest caused by more and more reports of racial injustice.  And, of course, we can’t forget the much smaller, F-1 tornado, that was part of the “Derecho” storm a couple of weeks ago.  We could also add the storms of our own lives: the illness and death of loved ones, employment insecurity, family troubles.  It seems like there’s almost always a storm or two brewing in the atmosphere of our lives.

In all these storms, it’s human nature to ask whys our loving God allow such destruction?  We will never know the answer to that fully because we can’t see the big picture that God sees.  But we believe that our faithful Lord is with us in the storm.  Whatever it is that is pounding against our boat is no match for our God who is with us in whatever way He knows is best for us.  It doesn’t mean he’s going to wave a magic wand and make all of our troubles go away, but it does mean that we don’t ever have to go through anything alone.

Several years ago, there was a contemporary Christian song called “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” and the lyrics of the song have given me peace in my stormy times.  Here are some of them:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child.

We don’t know, any more than those disciples did, why the storms in our life come up.  They may be remnants of the evil unleashed by original sin, or even the direct sin of people.  Sometimes God prevents them from harming us; other times he prevents us from something that would have been more harmful.  But whatever happens, we are never alone, and our God is there to be with us, steadying us, guiding us, giving us the grace to get through it and be of help to others, with strength we never knew we had.Whether the storm needs to hear it, or we do, Jesus says in the midst of it all: “Quiet! Be still.”  Sometimes he calms the storm, and other times he calms His child.