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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Problem with Evil

For my inaugural post, I’ve decided to spend a small amount of time addressing the problem of Evil.  Now, be forewarned…this is not a theological treatise nor a Sunday homily, nor is it anywhere close to exhaustive!  Rather, I am making use of some thoughts which I imparted to my parish this past weekend on the readings from Mass, most especially the Gospel. 

The Gospel passage this weekend is taken from Matthew, and is commonly referred to as part of Jesus’ Sermon of Parables.  The three parables which Jesus imparts to the people are that of The Wheat and the Weeds, the Mustard Seed, and the Yeast in the Flour.  My focus for this entry will be on the first parable, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.  For context, here’s the passage from St. Matthew:

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Mt. 13:24ff)

Fr. Robert Baron, in his reflections on this passage in his “Word on Fire” podcast, points out the interesting relationship here between the wheat and the weeds, or more to the point between good and evil.  This relationship exists for no other reason than because God wills it to exist.  From our own human perspective, we very often ask why God would allow evil to exist, and it’s usually couched in the all-too-common and rather cliché question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” 

Well, in short, there is no definitive answer to this question.  We cannot presume to know the mind of God.  We accept the coexistence of Good and Evil in the world as part of God’s “permissive will.”  He permits evil to coexist with good.  He must!  After all, He is God, and nothing would be outside the realm of his power!

And we can identify this mixture of good and evil in almost all aspects of daily life—even within ourselves.  For nothing in this world can really be considered to be completely good, nor completely evil.  Even the holiest of people are still sinful.  And even the most despicable of acts (or beings) may still produce some degree of good (even the Devil himself is an intentional creation of God!!!).  And this latter point is most important.  For, it is only God who can take even the most evil of deeds and bring good from it. 

So when we look at the Gospel above, we can see and understand better the reasoning behind the parable.  The Kingdom of God is made up of both “wheat” and “weeds” because God wills it to be so.  We need evil to exist among us so that God may manifest more greatly His Salvation to His people!  And how much sweeter is that Salvation when we have attained it by overcoming the weeds of sin and iniquity!

And so we learn a lesson from Job in the Old Testament, and give thanks to God for surrounding us with weeds.  As Job said, “We accept good things from God, should we not also accept evil?”  And indeed it is so.  We ought not to pray that evil people and circumstances be removed from our lives, lest we be uprooted along with them, mainly through the sin of Pride. 

It is Faith that we know that God gives good things to His people—even when we look around and all we can see are weeds, we know that we, as wheat, will not be uprooted until the Final Judgment.  We rely on deep roots—a firm foundation in the Faith of the Church—to sustain us.  And that perseverance that comes to us through our Faith will afford us the great reward of our Faith—to see God as He really is!

(N.B. This is not a complete homily, but merely a random collection of thoughts on a particular theme.  As I mentioned above, it is neither exhaustive nor authoritative.  So don’t take it as such!  You’ve been warned!)