This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]
Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his Apostles: “Do not think I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”
Date: July 11, 2014
Location: Nkozi, Uganda (Uganda Martyrs University)
“But Haley, if there is a God, how can He allow evil to exist? And if He doesn’t allow evil to exist, but cannot do anything to stop bad things from happening, then how can He be considered an all-powerful God?”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to single-handedly save the entire continent of Africa.
A number of my close family members and friends are atheists (they deny the existence of God). Now, in my opinion, there’s really nothing wrong with that because I love them just the same (if not even more, since they don’t know the love of God), but it is always very interesting to converse with them about the reasons for their disbelief.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” they say. “How can evil and God exist simultaneously? If God actually exists, there wouldn’t be evil in this world.”
They began constantly questioning me in this manner around the time I was in 6th or 7th grade. At that time in my life, I’d usually respond like this…
“Well, daddy, this is the way I see it. Earth is not a perfect place. Heaven is a perfect place; perfection is meant for Heaven. If earth was in fact perfect, then we would have no need for Heaven. Evil exists on Earth so that we have a choice between good and bad, life and death, a God-filled life and a Godless life. Whichever we choose will determine if we spend the rest of our lives in Heaven with Jesus or the rest of our lives without Him. But why doesn’t God choose to stop bad things from happening to good people, you ask? Well, imagine a world where God constantly forced us to act in a certain way, as if we were His little puppets. That wouldn’t be much of a life at all. Instead, God loves us so much that He gave us free will. You see, He knew we would abuse this free will and fall into sin everyday, but because He loves us, He lets us live our lives in whatever way we choose.”
That 6th grade response was never enough for any of them. The conversation usually resulted in more questions, some verbal attacks, and a few tears on my part, of course. Typical sensitive Haley. Thankfully, today I don’t shed any tears during those conversations, and my answer has in fact improved (slightly) since 6th grade. Yet above all what I realized in those hard conversations was that the most beautiful thing about our faith is the fact that some questions will never be answered. As much as we think we know Jesus, we don’t. He is beyond our understanding. No amount of pondering and reflection and research will ever allow us to understand fully the beauty of His ways. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). We will never fully comprehend Him, yet what we do know is this: “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). This we know to be true, that God is wiser and stronger and higher and more powerful than we will ever be able to understand.
So for once, let’s stop asking questions. Let’s remain silent, with our eyes fully open and our hearts prepared to trust in His presence and receive His love each and every day of our lives. Because no matter how hard we try, even if we spend our entire lives searching and searching for answers, we will never be able to wrap around our brains around the greatness of God. He is too wonderful, too powerful, too awesome to ever be understood by such imperfect human minds as ours.
Still, I must admit that it is very fascinating to hear other peoples’ opinions about this topic as I continue to refine my 6th grade response. The other day, I asked my Ugandan roommate, Agatha (Aggie), what she thinks about it all. Aggie is a Christian like me, yet she has been through more suffering in her 22-year-old life than I may ever experience in all of mine. She grew up Mbale, Uganda, and attended primary and secondary school (the equivalent of American middle and high school) in Jinja and later Entebbe, Uganda. Today, she is approaching her third and final year at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) where she studies statistics and economics. She comes from a humble background of a loving, wonderful family of 10 (5 girls, 3 boys, and her parents) whom I had the privilege of meeting about a month ago, and she has dreams of becoming an economics lecturer in the future. This summer, Aggie and I are research partners at UMU, working together to design and implement the next phase of the Savings and Internal Lending Communities created by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the 12 villages of Nnindye Parish right outside of Nkozi, Uganda. Now that you have some background information about this wonderful human being I call my best friend and future bridesmaid (she has already promised to come to America for my future wedding between me and my currently very nonexistent boyfriend), read her thoughts about God and how an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator could possibly allow evil to exist and possibly allow bad things to happen to good people…
“If everyone were rich, there would be no way to tell who is compassionate and who really cares about God’s people. If every student in the class knew all the answers and was perfect in every subject, there would be no need for teachers. Yes evil exists, but evil exists so we can have the chance to show our love for God. So God exists. The benefits of knowing the love of God will always outweigh the cost of evil existing in the world. God can never give you something you can’t handle. Yes there is evil in the world and God has put you in the world to deal with this evil, but He has put all the power you need in your hands. It is entirely up to you how you want to use that power (of free will). We are free to decide anything we want to. That is a gift God has given us: freedom. Freedom to choose the right way or the wrong way. It’s all about obedience.”
And get this: later when I mentioned the word “atheist” to her and told her that many of my closest family members and friends are atheists, she responded, “All the ‘atheists,’ or however you call them, try so hard to ignore God, but they each end up back in the same place, the Church, realizing that God is in fact real. If you doubt this just give God a try and see how your life will change. Anyone who says they are atheist hasn’t actually given God a try and if they have, they have turned away because they fell into the trap of believing that God is just a happy feeling and if you don’t feel that happiness 24/7 then He’s not real. That’s not true. God is not a feeling. Faith, like love, is a decision. Remember, it’s all about obedience. The more you choose to follow Him, the more you will experience His love.”
The more you choose to follow Him, the more you will experience His love.
Today, soak up His love. Today, be comfortable with not knowing all the answers to the world’s many questions about Jesus. Yes, do your best to defend your faith and develop your own answers to these questions, but find REST in the fact that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to comprehend how awesome and mighty and powerful and beautiful His love really is.
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:16-21).
As always, I love love love you for reading,
Haley is a student at the University of Notre Dame. This meditation was reprinted with permission (a virtual handshake and a hug) and was taken from her outstanding blog: Hunger and Thirst.
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