From the murder of Father Jacques Hamel in France, to the recent murder of two nuns in Mississippi, it seems as evil continues to hit closer and closer home to the Church. However, regardless if the evildoers are proclaiming to do their acts of evil in the name of their religion or if there is no motive known (as in the case of the murder of the two nuns) it is clear that Christians are left having to find a way to address and deal with the evil around them.
Unfortunately, the problem of evil all around us is one of the greatest barriers that must be overcome for many before they can accept the truth that God exist.
Let’s look at a very important key fact we must never forget when addressing or faced with this issue:
Evil comes from actions made out of free will
The evil acts which we have seen all around us and in the news are the actions and result of free will.
C.S. Lewis once said, “If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God.”
We must first remember that people commit evil acts because of sin and of free will. It is their choice which direction they will go.
Every single individual has been given the free will by God to choose or not to choose God and His ways.
The Catholic Church teaches God has given people the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. But, that does not make their bad choices, the evil they carry out, alright in any way or legitimate those decisions.
Archbishop George Niederauer said, “human freedom does not legitimate bad moral choices, nor does it justify a stance that all moral choices are good if they are free.”
Saint Teresa of Calcutta said “Jesus said ‘I am the truth’, and it is your duty and mine to speak the truth. Then, it is up to the person who hears it whether to accept or reject it.”
That leads us to discuss what exactly are we supposed to do in response to the (what seems like) surmounting evil around us.
First and foremost, we need to pray
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44). When we see evil on the news, or hear about it in our parishes, we should pray. Not only should we pray in our homes on a daily basis, but it starts with Mass. It starts with attending Mass and offering up that prayer for those who do these evil acts. Remember, Mass is one great prayer and it’s the greatest prayer the Church can offer. That’s the most important place you can pray for those who are doing this evil.
It’s always much easier to pray for those who are victims than those who are the aggressors, but I would dare say those who are the aggressors need the prayer more than the victims…specifically if the victims are those who are faithful to God.
We need to provide hope to others
Let’s face it, we serve Jesus Christ…the Son of God and person of the Holy Trinity. He is the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords. We know who is ultimately in control of all that happens, so why do we fear? If Christians respond in fear then how will those who are non-believers ever have hope and not fear?
When we respond out of fear, which is responding out of emotions, then we make mistakes and do not think clearly. Let us, as Christians, always pray first and then respond with hope secondly.
Take a quick look at the 12 Apostles and the countless early saints from which the foundation of the Church has been built. You will soon be reminded that persecution and evil is not new. It’s been around since the beginning. It will continue to exist until the end of time. If we really think we will ever get rid of evil in the world then we are delusional. There will always be people looking to do harm to others, especially those who serve God, they just may create a new group under a new name or even do it alone.
Our responsibility is to share the hope that we have, the love we have through Jesus, and the peace that we have with others. Jesus told his disciples three times not to fear other people in Matthew 10:16-25. That may not seem like much, until you realize that he tells them that immediately following his message to them that they will be persecuted.
We are to respond in love
“But I say to you, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mathew 5:44)
In addition to praying for those who do evil, we should also love them.
We are also told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Our ‘neighbors’ are those who do evil. It’s everyone, not just those who live next door.
We are to show love to everyone we meet, including those who have done evil things and have evil thoughts. We are to be kind, be reflections of Jesus, and be something different than they are used to. After all, that’s what makes the difference is the love of Christ expressed through us, not showing anger and hatred like all the others.
We are to be faithful
We are to be faithful to God.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said “If you do not live what you believe, you will end up believing what you live.”
Daily prayer, Mass attendance, sacraments…. they’re all there to keep us grounded in the faith. If we do not stay faithful and committed to our faith, we will be committed to something else that will pull us away.
Now, prayer and responding with love does not take away the fact those who commit evil acts should be appropriately punished. But, it is the responsibility of the Christian to show the love of Jesus Christ to those who need it the most.