May 3, 2013


Bitter tears in the season of Easter joy

“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.”
—Catechism of the Catholic Church (#309)

Here we are celebrating the season of Easter joy and Christ’s victory over sin and death, when all hell breaks loose.

Innocent people are murdered or maimed, chaos reigns, and the forces of evil once again take center stage.

Why does a good God permit such unimaginable evil? What does the Resurrection mean when evil reigns in our cities, our factories and our homes?

The Church teaches that there is “no quick answer” to the question about evil. “Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question” (#309).

To comprehend even partially why evil exists—but is not ultimately triumphant over good—we must deepen our knowledge and understanding of the mystery of God and his divine plan for us and for all creation.

The answer to the problem of evil is a mystery. And to find the solution, we are challenged to look to a person and not to an argument or an explanation or a rationale.

The meaning of life is discovered in an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, whose whole life—words, actions, suffering, death and Resurrection—reveal the hidden truth about God, humanity and all created reality.

If God the Father almighty cares for all his creatures, why did two terribly misguided men in Boston allow themselves to become the instruments of evil? Why do hundreds of innocent people have to suffer and die every day—in West, Texas, in war zones, in bizarre accidents, in terrorist attacks, in natural disasters? Why, O Lord, do so many innocent people have to suffer?

St. Augustine once said that God is so supremely good that he can cause good to emerge from evil itself. We saw that in Boston and in West, Texas, and it does bring some consolation and pride to those who witness the heroism of first responders and ordinary citizens who become extraordinary helpers and healers in times of terrible tragedy and disaster.

But it does not answer the fundamental question: Why, O Lord, do you permit such suffering and cruelty?

In the end, there is no satisfactory answer. There is only hope. Christians believe we have reason to hope for a better life to come where there will be no sadness or death, no sin or evil. What is the basis for this hope? What makes Christian hope more than just an unreal fantasy or wishful thinking?

Jesus Christ is the reason for our hope.

While he lived among us, he grieved for the poor and the sick. He shed tears and was filled with compassion. He performed miracles—not to call attention to himself—but to show us that God’s love really is capable of overcoming the worst things we can experience, or even imagine.

And then, as if to prove the point beyond all doubt, he freely submitted to mockery, torture, intense bodily suffering, insults and humiliation and an ignominious death on a cross. No pain that any of us can endure was too much for God’s only Son. He accepted his Father’s will and chose to suffer and die for our sake.

Jesus Christ is the answer to the problem of evil. Not the pious, simplistic or “plastic” Jesus. No, we mean the real God-man who accepted all the consequences of the Incarnation, who shared our joys and sorrows, our pleasures and our pain, and who “descended into hell” to experience the horrible loneliness that every human being suffers at the moment of death.

This man, Jesus Christ, experienced the mystery of evil and refused to be conquered by it. By the power of God’s grace, he overcame the power of sin and death once and for all.

There are no quick answers to the problem of evil. There is only hope. Let’s cling to the one whose victory over death and despair brought us new life and real hope. In times of tragedy and profound sorrow, let’s hold onto each other—and to the one who knows our suffering more intensely than we can possibly imagine.

By his wounds we will be healed. By his death, we will all be raised to everlasting life.

—Daniel Conway

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