Archdiocese of Chicago

Cardinal George's Network Archive

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Acts of God

Insurance companies used to call natural disasters, floods and storms that weren’t caused by human actions, “acts of God.” We had a major storm last week that split a tree on the property and left our electrical transformer unable to provide sufficient voltage to keep the refrigerator going. Is spoiled food an “act of God?”

In the Old Testament, the only real actor is God. Everything is attributed directly to him, even though the human authors knew that human beings also caused things to happen. Nonetheless, they lived with a keen sense of God’s care for his people and his control of nature and history. Modern men and women are used to analyzing events in terms of personal and impersonal causes, and God doesn’t need to come into the discussion because he isn’t needed to fill a “gap.” We know the causes, human and physical.

In prayer, we get a sense of how God’s acts don’t diminish ours and of how everything comes from and returns to God, but in ways we can’t fully understand. God acts, but not the way we do, in fits and starts. God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, because he makes it possible for us to be and to act. Everything is an “act of God.” Everything is also caused by beings less than God. Isn’t it wonderful that God wants us to cooperate with him?

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

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