The Matter of Evil

In 13 Today's Church on 2015/04/19 at 12:00 AM


  • No doubt many of you followed the terrible story of the Boston Marathon bombing as it unfolded this past week. Perhaps many of us are wondering how it is possible for any human being to commit such evil.
  • Truly, it is hard to understand how these young men could so callously murder those people and seriously injure so many others.
  • Every act of evil is in some way a mystery, beginning with the evil committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the betrayal of Judas, to all of the evil we see in our world today.
  • Evil is a mystery because we are created to be good by an all-knowing, all-powerful God Who is not only good Himself – but Who is Goodness; Who is not only loving – but is Love.
  • The answer to this mystery, of course, lies in the human will. Because He desires that we love Him, and because we can only truly love if we are free to choose to do so, our Lord created man with the capacity to choose and make decisions.
  • By choosing God’s will, we gradually grow in virtue and holiness. Indeed, choosing to be obedient to God is the primary way we show that we love Him, and by uniting ourselves to Him in this way, we prepare ourselves for Heaven.
  • As our salvation depend – at least in part – upon how we use our free will, our Lord has given us a conscience to help guide our choices, and our Lord has written His laws upon our hearts such that we know them innately, whether or not they’ve been taught to us in a formal manner.
  • While we may have to remind them, we don’t need to teach our children that things like lying and stealing are wrong. We all know these truths instinctively, even as children.
  • But as we choose to go against the laws of God and commit sin, we lose our ability to hear the Lord’s voice and follow Him. We gradually lose our ability to choose according to His will, and we warp and deaden our consciences such that they no longer guide us properly.
  • This weakening of our wills and this deadening of our consciences is one of the worst burdens of sin.
  • One thing I’ve learned in the confessional over the years is that there’s no real limit to the depth of human depravity. As history has proven over and over again, man is capable of tremendous evil. That’s the power of the human will and the price of human freedom.
  • We can blame the devil, and to be sure, he often has his hands in such heinous and senseless acts of evil we saw this past week in Boston. The evil one is able to manipulate our imaginations to induce us to sin.
  • But as powerful and crafty as he is, the devil cannot control our wills. He cannot force us to sin. If we commit an evil act, if we sin, it is because we have chosen to do so. Even when we have given ourselves over the devil, we never completely lose control of our wills.
  • The problem is that sin, like virtue, is a habit. Therefore, if we commit the same sin over and over again, eventually we develop an inclination to commit that sin regularly that, if left unchecked, will lead us to committing progressively greater degrees of the sin.
  • When this happens, we often become hardened in our sin – which makes us unable to see just how terrible the sin is. Becoming hardened in our sin is a real tragedy because it makes it so much harder to be saved.
  • No doubt, these two brothers in Boston were hardened in their sin. We may presume that, along the course of their lives, they gradually hardened their hearts to the laws of God and eventually deadened their consciences enough so that they could commit a crime such as this.
  • To be sure, the capacity to commit this crime was not formed over night, but rather evolvedover time as they made little choices here and there to sin.
  • Most people who commit such crimes don’t just snap. They’ve chosen little by little througha habitual rebellion against the laws of God to become capable of such evil.
  • As we consider the horrific events of this past week in the light of Scripture and our Catholicfaith, we must ask ourselves how we are going to respond to evil.
  • We must consider this question both from the point of view of when we are the victims ofother people’s evil actions, and when we are tempted to do evil ourselves.
  • As it concerns the temptations to commit evil, hopefully most of us will never be tempted to commit evil on the level of that committed by the Boston Marathon bombers. Nevertheless,we all face temptations to sin, and all sin is evil.
  • So as temptations come into our lives, we must try to remind ourselves of the truth of God’slaws. Like good sheep, we must try to hear the Master’s voice and follow Him, for as theGospel indicates today, our obedience to Him helps secure our place in Heaven.
  • We must also remember the exhortation of St. Peter in his first epistle that we are butstrangers and pilgrims in this life, and thus we must refrain from all of those carnal, earthly desires that make war on our souls. In other words, we must avoid the occasions of sin and keep ourselves focused on Heaven, remembering that our citizenship is there and not here on earth.
  • As we strive to overcome our sins and grow in virtue, and as we confess our sins for those times that we fail, we gradually grow stronger in holiness and more impervious to temptation. Best of all, we become more like our savior, Jesus Christ!
  • In those times that we are the victims of the evil committed by others, we must always respond in truth and love. All of us who are baptized are ambassadors for Christ. We are called to take the Good News into the world, to be instruments of salvation for others.
  • In addition to extending forgiveness to all who injure us, we must always be willing to communicate God’s love and mercy to others, while holding fast to what we know to be true. We must be willing to speak up for that which is good, true, and beautiful.
  • Indeed, evil must be confronted head on, and it must always be opposed. We must never formally cooperate with evil or make excuses for it. We must excuse the evil actions of others as their legitimate choice. That’s cowardice! Moreover, we must try to convert those who commit evil.
  • If the evildoers in our midst are converted by the truth we speak, then we can rejoice that we have helped saved their souls. But if they refuse, then like Sts. Paul and Barnabas we may shake the dust from our sandals and move on to those who are willing to hear the truth.
  • Most importantly, in the face of evil – our own or that of others – we must never lose hope. In this life we will all have sorrows, but if we persevere in living our earthly lives according to God’s will, then we will have joy in the next life – a joy that no one can take from us!
  • Thus we must learn to endure whatever sufferings we have in this life as penance so that we might make reparation for our own sins, as well as those of others.
  • My brothers and sisters, it is a sad reality that evil is part of our earthly existence. But while evil may often seem to have the upper hand, we must never lose hope, for a greater reality awaits all of us who love and serve the Lord in this life.
  • Like the great multitude St. John writes about in Revelation, may we all strive to be the chosen souls who have survived the time of great distress and who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
  • May we be willing to suffer through whatever evil this life presents us, offering all in reparation for sin and for the salvation of souls. And may our Lord, the Good Shepherd, bless and protect each of us as His very own sheep.

21 April 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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