Why is there evil in the world?
One of the most common questions people ask about God is, “If God is all good, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?” This is a very good question. However, God didn’t create evil. Evil comes into the world through the free choice of man. War, famine, disease, selfishness and abuse are all the result of man using his free will to rebel against God’s plan for mankind. But why does He allow it all to continue? The answer is that if He were to eliminate the consequences of our free choices, He would be depriving us of our free will. So God allows our choices to play out.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 13:24-43), JESUS is clear that in the Church and the world there are both wheat and darnel, that is both good and evil. There are many holy people in the Church today doing wonderful things and allowing God’s grace to work in them. But everywhere we look evil is also present, even in the Church. But this doesn’t mean that Our Lord is unaware of the evil, or that He’s not going to do something about it. All of it will be sorted out, but only on the Last Day at the Final Judgement.
So in the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel (weeds), Our Lord tells the workers to allow the wheat and the darnel to grow together until the end of the world. The righteous will go into the kingdom of Heaven, which is described here as the barn, whereas the wicked will go into the blazing furnace, which is eternal separation from God which we call Hell. Before the Final Judgement, the Church and the world, is always going to consist of both good and evil alike; and in His Providence God allows those to remain side by side until the end. Why? So that sinners may repent, because God wants to give everyone the opportunity to save their soul.
St Therese of Lisieux, (1873-97) when she was a young girl became very distressed at the thought that some people might reject God and lose their soul. So she began praying fervently for the conversion of sinners. And when she was fifteen, she saw a newspaper story about a convicted murderer named Pranzini, who had been found guilty and was facing the death penalty, but refused to repent of his crimes. When she read about it she was really excited, because here now was her chance to pray and sacrifice for a particular sinner! So she asked God through the merits of the Passion of JESUS to give Pranzini the grace of conversion, and she said many prayers and made many sacrifices for him. But she also asked God to give her a sign if he repented. When Thérèse read the newspaper account of Pranzini’s execution, she was delighted to read that although he had previously ignored all attempts of the prison chaplain to help him convert, suddenly he asked the priest to hold up a crucifix, which he kissed three times before being executed.
So prayer and sacrifice is powerful, and like St Thérèse, we also have the opportunity to change darnel into wheat. In our times with so much war, terrorism and crime, it would be a really Christian thing not only to pray for the victims of these crimes, but also to pray and sacrifice for the conversion of the perpetrators.
We pray also for those we know who may be living less than Christian lives. Our prayers and sacrifices, and perhaps even fasting for that person can often bring about a breakthrough of grace. Perhaps God is asking each of us now to focus our prayers on one particular person in need of them. And then imagine, when hopefully one day we get to Heaven, every conversion in which we played a part will bring about an eternal friendship and will be a cause of unending joy.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC