2002-08-25 there was a stir in the news about reports of an asteroid headed for our planet
August 25, 2002
Earlier this month there was a stir in the news about reports of an asteroid headed for our planet. The probability of it hitting us is about 1 in 70,000. It would not happen until February 9, 2019, anyway – enough time to pack your summer clothes and rearrange your portfolio. The media run such stories to exploit anxiety about mortality. Giant asteroids are harder to interpret than scenes closer to everyday life. People falling into a tank of sharks at an aquarium are even more unsettling than astral phenomena. The happy rescue of nine coalminers seemed to give the whole world a new lease on life. The President went to Pennsylvania to congratulate them.
Particularities make more sense than generalities. No number of speeches about the vileness of crime can match the news of one little child kidnapped. A hundred thousand pro-lifers demonstrating in the streets of Washington do not have the impact of one photograph of an aborted baby, which is why abortionists want to censure such pictures. God gradually revealed himself in history through various natural calamities and battles, but he struck Elisha most acutely another way: “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19: 11-12).
The communications revolution brings minute by minute reports of the great tremors and terrors around the world. New York City is a microcosm of all that (“If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere”). Our parish of Murray Hill is a remarkably compact microcosm of all that diversity: In a few square blocks are skyscrapers and brownstones, moguls and homeless, embassies and dry cleaners and historic clubs and hot dog stands. I think it is all quite wonderful and a unique challenge if we are serious about Catholic evangelism in a society whose secular distractions and sectarian denominations are crumbling. Charles Wesley said the whole world was his parish, and he had his moment. We can say with a lot of demographic support that our parish is the whole world, like a spiritual DNA of the whole human race. Before his conversion, when Malcolm Muggeridge told Mother Teresa that perhaps God could make better use of him outside the Roman Catholic Church, her still small voice said, “No, He cannot.” That settled it.
Fr. George W. Rutler