The Problem of Evil

Many Christians (and non-Christians) find the hardest part of believing to be the problem of evil.  Whenever terrible things happen to people, there is always that lingering question of, “Why me?”

Last year, 2014, was a figurative hell for many people that I know.  This past January hasn’t been too good either.  Since things have been calm for me, I’m asking, “Why them?”  These are wonderful people that I know and love and yet their lives are filled with continuous bombs going off.  Why does God allow this?

In February’s Magnificat, Fr. Kevin J. O’Reilly addresses the issue of the problem of evil.  He admits that there are no easy answers, but our faith does provide us with insights and most importantly, comfort.

The Catechism says:

309      If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin, and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments, and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.(1643852850)

Most of the people I know who experienced tragedy this past year are women of great faith.  They are my role models and my sisters in my own faith journey.  To see them suffer is hard to watch, but to see them put their faith in action during these horrible circumstances is an extraordinary witness to the Catholic faith.  If I were going through what they are going through, I might be in bed with the covers over my head … or in jail.

Fr. O’Reilly has four insights of his own that I thought were well worth repeating here:

  • Free will:  God deemed that a world in which human beings have free will (and thus can choose evil) is better than a possible world without free will, in which we would not know true moral goodness and could not freely choose to love God;
  • Good from evil:  God can permit evils for the purpose of drawing a greater good from it; for example, as our Lord said when he heard that his friend Lazarus was sick:  This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God (Jn 11:4);
  • Lack of knowledge:  We do not know the entirety of God’s plan so as to understand properly why God permits evil;
  • Redemptive suffering:  Suffering, when accepted in faith in in unity with Christ on the cross, can earn indescribable graces of healing and salvation for us and others.

The last one gave me chills because I know my friends have done just that.  Their acceptance of what is happening to them defies my understanding.  It is the greatest lesson to me of faith.

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