We heard last week how, like a seed planted in the ground, God’s Word has a purpose and accomplishes it, despite the various hindrances we encounter. According to Saint Paul, “all creation groans” in expectation of the full revelation of God’s power: that is to say, man’s personal struggles with knowing and choosing what is good are matched by a sense of incompleteness and even treachery on a global scale.
My daily ministry has me encountering people in their worst moments of physical pain and spiritual discouragement. The beds of Schuylkill Medical Center, the beds of our nursing homes and many people's homes as well, are fields in which wheat and weeds are found together: human beings, good creations of a good God, are afflicted with various ailments. In their understandable impatience they wish He’d rip out every trace of the ailment, but He doesn’t tend to work that way with that or much else.
The other day a professed atheist shooed me away, wanting nothing to do with “hocus-pocus” (which, by the way, is a corruption of the words of consecration in Latin, “Hoc est enim Corpus Meum,” “For this is My Body”). He challenged me for any sort of proof beyond this material realm, but at that point I didn’t have the presence of mind or the patience to dialogue with him. It wasn’t the time or place, anyhow.
While most of my audience shares with me a lifelong identification with Christ and the Church, I want to see where this man is coming from. God seems slow and distant at times; the dispensation of His love resembles an IV more than a torrent. We might consider that slowness and silence to be a grand disappointment. Although our all-powerful God enlists the help of human beings in carrying out His wise, loving plan, many things lie outside of our control—especially the behavior of other human beings who, like us, do not always operate in a wise and loving manner. And then there are the calamities that arise from weather, creatures, and so forth. When it comes to sickness and aging, however, the uncontrollable factor is the deterioration of our mortal frame, and even there with an honest appraisal we find that we may bear some responsibility.
There is no quick answer to the mystery of evil, whether it’s physical decay or moral injustice. Our Catechism points out that the entirety of the Christian faith is the response to that mystery. Insofar as God has created it, a person or a thing is good. The old saying goes, “God doesn’t make junk.” He created the human person with the ability to appreciate beauty, know truth, and choose good—abilities which are divine in origin. We sin when we fail to exercise those abilities, but God patiently has moved in the redemptive direction by establishing covenants with us, chastising and consoling us by turns. The sending and sacrifice of the Son in human flesh, the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, and the establishment of the Church as the reliable vehicle for salvation: finally these divine gifts demonstrate unending, unconditional love that God commissions us to “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37), to “pay it forward” as we might say today.
In the myriad, mystical ways of His Providence, the Lord brings good out of evil, even if we may not perceive it this side of heaven. In faith, hope, and love, with courage, justice, temperance, and fortitude, we persevere.