Rain and Sunshine
Heavy rain drenched Metro Manila with more than half of a month’s volume of water in just twenty-four hours starting Sunday. This deluge caused massive flooding in the capital with almost fifty percent of the city underwater affecting also nearby provinces according to the news. In some places the water level was neck-deep that thousands of residents had to be evacuated on higher ground. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Director Benito Ramos described the situation as “like a water world.” A total of two million people have been displaced by almost two weeks of relentless rains.
This disaster is always accompanied by more inconveniences and sufferings. There is stoppage of work in government offices and private sectors. Schools are suspended at all levels. Lives are lost caused by a lot of reasons from drowning, electrocution or landslide. Damage to properties can also be extensive. And the basic daily concern of people are usually food and water. I read from the papers the painful plight of a certain Minerva Mercader, a beauty parlor worker who was forced to leave her home beside the river in suburban Quezon City to find shelter in a church . She was dripping wet from the rain as she stepped into Santo Domingo Church with her three children. She said she got scared because the sky was so dark and the strong rains were coming. “We have no food and I don’t know what to do,” she agonized.
The scenes in television were reminiscent once again of “Ondoy.” But this time it was even more frightening. At least the September 2009 devastation can be blamed to the tropical storm “Ondoy.” This one does not even have a name. We are simply informed that the heavy rains and floods were spawned by the southwest monsoon. Will the next monsoon rain bring the same havoc? Will this be the new normal due to climate change? Did they not say “we are better prepared now?” Time and again we struggle with the same problems every time the rainy season set in. But it seems we are not winning our battle against the fury of nature. We always stand defeated. Also this time.
This Sunday’s First Reading (1 Kgs 19:4-8) recounts the plight of prophet Elijah. He just scored a victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. But this earned him the fury of Queen Jezebel who was seeking his life in retaliation. We find the prophet exhausted from his trials both physically and spiritually. He is discouraged and wants to die. He is tired of fighting his battles.
We can find ourselves in a similar situation at times. We are tried beyond our strength. Our problems can be so overwhelming that they test our patience, our endurance and our faith. Like the prophet we can bitterly complain to God: “This is enough, O Lord.” We have no more nerve to move on. We simply surrender to our miserable misfortune. And as a people, we can also undergo the same heartache. We can suffer a corporate misery. We experience a kind of collective suffering that do violence to our collective consciousness. The desperate part is, there seem to be no solution yet to the serious issues we face. All we can do is look up to heaven and sigh. Heaven help us!
But the story of Elijah encourages us to trust in a gracious God who is not indifferent to our plight. As God does for the prophet, He will sustain us by his divine presence, represented by the bread and water Elijah receives. He was given strength when he had none and he was able to continue his journey across the scorching desert. The bread given to Elijah is just a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic Bread that Jesus gives to us today. He is our “living bread” – his flesh given for the life of the world. His presence is a promise that he will not abandon us in our misery. Instead he will stay with us to give us life and hope. With Jesus, we can always smile to await the shining sun tomorrow.