Nov 27, 2012

Does God care? - As we approach Advent:

If you’ve ever wondered how a good God could tolerate such evil in the world then you are certainly among the normal.  It is common to wonder about such things. The most consistent argument that an atheist would have is to simply point to the reality of the world in which we live with its wars, disease, injustice, destruction, natural disasters, the death and suffering of the innocent and to say, “There is no God.”  If there is, he/she must not care a wit about humankind.  Christianity professes faith in a benevolent God who is love itself.  How can a God who loves allow such suffering and seemingly do nothing about it? So goes the usual argument and from a merely logical perspective, it has merit.   

This last week of our liturgical year always poses the question for us who do believe in a God who cares about his creation and in particular about humanity.  The Gospel for this Tuesday (Lk 21: 5-11) is filled with some disturbing images.  Jesus states:

“. . . All that you see here the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down . . . When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first . . . Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky . . .”

As a result of this destruction many people will die and many will suffer.  Not a pretty picture but there is an important lesson for all of us. All will pass away and in the end Christ will win the final battle.  In fact, we say that he has already done so and it is only a matter of time until evil is destroyed.  Well, that may sound like a reassuring theological construct but what about my personal life we might ask.

Our waiting during this yearly season in preparation for the joy of Christmas is not a waiting forever.  This is the Christ of yesterday - today - and forever.  He came to us in Bethlehem - he comes daily in our sacramental encounters and in our prayer - he will come again at the end of all time.  But, as we live now in that inbetween period we may still well ponder the existence of evil in the grand scheme of things.  

Maybe a way to understand is to remember the best way to view a solar eclipse.  Either one puts on very dark, protective lenses to look directly at the sun or looks through a proper telescope, or makes a pin hole in a piece of cardboard or a paper, then looks down to see the image of the darkening sun projected safely. Looking directly at the sun with unprotected eyes will certainly cause severe damage to one’s sight. At the best, all we can see is a reflection or view the eclipse with limited assistance.

That is the way we all view our lives and the passage of time.  All we can see is a small portion of the whole.  “One day at a time” as the saying goes. We can learn from the past and prepare for the future but what that future will look like, we can never know until we reach that time. Human vision and understanding is limited.

God, however, sees everything.  He knows the past, present and future. By faith we believe that “nothing is impossible with God.” In the grand scheme of divine wisdom and vision what seems to us evil and suffering is permitted by God so that we may come to know him more – not reject him.  Why do we assume God must think as we do?

For every evil, there is a greater good.  In moments of crisis, people turn to one another for help.  In the face of suffering, love comes forward to bring compassion.  And, as the late Pope John Paul II once said, “evil has a limit.” God’s mercy is greater than our suffering.  Christ on the cross brought new life, resurrection and hope for salvation. In every darkness, there is found light. 

So, as we journey through this final week and prepare for the reflection of Advent, it is the light of Christ shining in darkness that can be our greatest hope. Called to be faithful every day we have the challenge of accepting what we cannot understand and holding on knowing that in the end God does care and walks with us in the light and darkness of our lives.