As a social worker I often encounter the problem of evil in sometimes heart-stopping ways. In working with clients that have had substance abuse, mental health challenges or a mixture of both I hear stories all the time of inhumane things done to them especially because of being in a vulnerable state but of course also by them. The phrase, “man’s inhumanity to man” comes to mind. At the end of the day I rarely share anything dark with my wife because I want her to live in some kind of blissful ignorance of such things. Yes, there is a problem of evil in the world and it seems like it takes supernatural grace to not be a cynic about it if there is no response.
But in this week’s homework I see there is an answer.
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 (Catechism of The Catholic Church, 1994, para. 309).
no quick answer will suffice— I remember hearing from a couple years ago who, when looking for a new church, were getting “quick answers” or formulas from pastoral staff about losing their son in Iraq. They knew they found the right church when the pastors were wise enough to listen to their hurts and tell them they did not have an answer. That church became their new home.
Christian faith as a whole—This is fitting since Catholic means “according to the whole”.
the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants— So true in that God proposes in his covenants in salvation history with Israel and then the Church. God honors the dignity of humanity in his proposition rather than an imposition.
the redemptive Incarnation of his Son—- This is the summit of God’s grace for the world in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church— As one would see in how the book of Acts lays out the narrative of the Church, the Holy Spirit and the holy people are enmeshed together beautifully to be a light of hope in the world so all can come to the holistic saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
the power of the sacraments— In my former days as a Protestant I would have described the sacraments as man-made hurdles that get in the way of a direct relationship with Jesus. Now after being fully informed of the deep scriptural foundation of these I would see them as the most default channels of God’s grace that brings us out to the deep like stepping onto the undertow at the beach.
Evil needs to be laid at the feet of the choices of man when it is of the immoral choice origin.
The beauty of the universe: The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.
Even atheists can discover the order in natural law and be a humanitarian. Now how far they apply such submission that they connect it to being in relationship to their creator is another thing.
Also this week in the readings I am reflecting on the fine line in the faith experience between coercion and desertion of God’s evident presence. Peter Kreeft stated that if there was not beauty or order in the world to give us hints toward God then we would be abandoned. I would compare it to being on a treasure hunt without a map. But Kreeft does well to point out that if God blew our socks off with evidence then there would be only coercion and not act of faith. Free will would be at least in jeopardy.
Where my hope is as a Catholic in my discussions with others that I can point people that are not on a faith journey to open up to God with what revelation they have and see where God would engage them in their faith and reason. I have much to learn intellectually and much to internalize in my spiritual formation so that I will not be another person with a “quick answer”.