26 Apr 2016
Whether it’s natural disasters, or abuse, or people killing each other, or hunger and despair, or disease and death, the presence of evil or “destructive forces” in the world, makes many people question the omnipotence and even the existence of God. It’s one of the main arguments against the Christian God: If God is a “mighty” God, whose kingdom is “splendid” and “glorious”—as we hear in the psalm today—then how can evil exist? Evil exists, therefore, God does not (at least, not as an all-powerful God).
We see the Apostles running up against one challenge after another. We heard today that our brother Paul was pummeled with stones, almost to the point of death. And we hear Jesus say those rather ominous words at the Last Supper: “The ruler of this world is coming;” he was soon to be put to death. The destructive forces of evil were all around.
And, yet, Jesus says at the same time: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” There’s clearly a tension between peace and unrest. And we can relate to that. We hear of a shooting in Antigo, in Ohio, in Menasha . . . and it rattles us a bit. Or we see the numbers of Catholics going down . . . and it unnerves us. And we might wonder: “If God is good and all-powerful, why do people still kill each other? Why doesn’t God just inspire people to come to Mass?”
And we could go off in a lot of different directions in trying to work through this “question of evil.” But today Jesus offers some help with that question we all struggle with. He says: “The ruler of the world is coming. . . . But the world must know that I love the Father.” He didn’t run from evil and destruction; instead, he embraced them, he looked them straight in the eye and said: “You have no power over me; the fear you try to spread is nothing in comparison to my trust in God. Love and trust are more powerful than fear."
And that’s the response to evil Jesus is perhaps trying to put into our minds and hearts. In the face of destructive forces around us, Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Have faith—real faith—in me.” The presence of evil is, perhaps, a test of faith. Which is more powerful to you—the fear of evil, or your loving trust in God?