I was asked to briefly comment on what I thought about the tragic attacks on in Paris and immediately my mind went to a familiar verse when presented with such human suffering: Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:8)
Suffering and violence are themes not absent from Sacred Scripture; in fact our very Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died innocently. Many ask, how can this be, how can a loving God allow such atrocity? Very honestly, part of this is a mystery in and of itself. God of course didn’t create Evil, as evil isn’t a thing like a hairbrush or a mattress it’s a choice made by someone with free will or freedom to make a choice. God did create man and woman in His image, which included free will. God had to include the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, so as not to violate Adam & Eve’s nature of free will. The same is true today, scarred with a fallen nature humankind suffers at the hands of those who choose to murder like Cain. The blood of Abel cries out from the earth for Gods justice and in a similar way the blood of all those who have been struck down in such a way.
If God is so powerful wouldn’t he just stop all evil immediately right now? Certainly God could, but again, that would violate everyone’s free will. Quite honestly God is well invested in the business of human suffering and at the effort of eradicating evil. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to suffer on our behalf, identifying with all those who are unjust victims and as well providing a road for redemption for all those perpetrators of evil. We also have to ask ourselves, to what degree of evil do we wish eradicated? God’s standard is clear in Sacred Scripture; no one would pass the test without Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross His resurrection and ascension. To divide light from dark at this time in history would divide our very hearts as we all are sinners. Though I acknowledge not all of us are murderers; evil is evil, sin is sin, truth is truth. Jesus, in the telling of the parable of the wheat and the weeds aptly illustrates this dynamic in Matthew chapter 13. After the evil one sows weeds in the good field of wheat one of the servants asks their master if they should go and pull up the weeds immediately, the master replies:
‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ (Matthew 13:29-30)
Many people of all ages have yet to sort out their relationship with God, with truth, with the greater good versus evil, with good choices versus poor choices. Nobody murders because they wish to be evil, they murder, they steal, and they hurt because they believe something personally good will come of it for them. It is the same deception of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent or Satan the old liar deceives Eve after asking her about Gods instructions, particularly what will happen if they eat of the forbidden fruit saying:
you will not certainly die… For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)
Satan is real, his deception is real. We must move ourselves from knowing what is personally good, to knowing the greater good, to the law that is outside of and beyond ourselves: God’s Law, God’s ideal, not the ideal of men with swords who libel God's name, God's mission and purpose.
Through all of human history, while working in time is this question of suffering and evil being worked out. God has invested His very Son who suffered and died in this effort, it is for us to accept His Grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit be like Him. Our choices matter, gravely so. Small decisions throughout the day make for a good day or a bad day; a hurtful day or a healing day; a sinful day or a saintly day, the same is true for a lifetime, it begins today in this moment. Being a people: of solidarity, of encounter, of compassion, of understanding, of truth. Stopping terrorism, stopping evil, begins in the interior life, begins personally at home with a conversation between us and God. We don’t have to understand His ways completely, in fact we never will. Yet we can with great confidence find consolation in Jesus taking on this plight with us, this pilgrimage to heaven and unity with God. It begins by reaching out, by feeling with those halfway across the world; by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. The greater good always rises to the top, always moves beyond the wreckage of the selfish good, that which was done in evil for selfish profit yet rendered empty. We have a God we can trust in. We have a God who is intimately familiar with fighting evil. We have a God who has and continues to work through His grace in each and every one of us to change this stemming tide of evil; to be strong lights of hope in an ever growing darkness.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:8)
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since 2011.