Even before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, weather forecasters and federal agencies knew it was going to be a bad one. Slamming into the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane, it ravaged coastal areas of the Lone Star State and caused deadly flooding for more than 100 miles inland. In just a matter of days, at least 20 inches of rain fell over an area (nearly 29,000 square miles) larger than 10 states and at least 30 inches of rain fell over an area of more than 11,000 square miles. More than 50 inches of rain dumped on the Houston area alone. The amount of wind, rain, damage and devastation resulting from Harvey is unimaginable.

Researchers say that Harvey is a 1-in-1,000-year flood event. That means there’s just 0.1 percent chance of an event like this happening in any given year.

Well, this is the year, and you and I are alive during this sadly historic year. That was not by accident, but rather by God’s design.

Why? I don’t know.

But, I do know that there is a why, and that, as God’s children we’re bound to discover the why for ourselves as individuals, families, communities, and world inhabitants. World events are never for the other people in the world who are directly affected. They are for all the people in the world to observe, listen, and discern how God is speaking to them through that event.

That why question can be a real toughie, as hundreds of thousands of us are being directly affected by Harvey or have loved ones who are being directly affected, as is my own case. For those of us not directly affected, it’s still a pressing question. Regardless, we are all connected as God’s children and therefore, what impacts one impacts us all.

To clarify, I’m not referring to environmental issues, although I agree that they are present.

Instead, I’m referring to spiritual issues – what Hurricane Harvey elicits in our hearts and the ways Divine Providence is touching us in our own lives, right here and right now. Most certainly, there’s a call to offer practical help in whatever way we are able. Of course, we’re also called to offer spiritual help with prayerful support, fasting, and sacrificing. But, we’re called to do more.

We’re called now, and will continue to be called for some time forward, to discover how Harvey and its impact has changed us and to assure that it’s a deep change for the better. There hasn’t been such a catastrophic event like this for 1,000 years and there might not be one for another 1,000 years. When you meditate on that fact, what does it say to you about yourself? About who you are and what is expected of you as one of God’s children? What does it say about who you need to be and what you need to do going forward?

I don’t have the answer to those questions, but I do believe that they must be asked by every one of us. This is a 1-in-1,000-year chance for us to allow grace to transform us in untold and profound ways.

It’s almost as if St. John wrote these words specifically for us:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. (1 Jn 3:2-3)