Why Does God Allow Evil? The Answer is on the Cross
Wednesday December 15, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25) Gospel (St. Luke 7:18b-23)
In the first reading today, we hear something that is very difficult for some people to hear. The Lord says, I make well-being and create woe. Most of us, when we think about what the Lord does, say, “Well, God is not going to do anything that’s bad,” and that is true. But then why would He create woe? It is because the reason God will do anything is for the good. And so everything that happens is part of God’s providence.
Now it is not that God wants certain things to happen. Obviously, He does not want us to be killing 4,000 babies a day – He does not want us to be killing any babies ever – yet at the same time He certainly is allowing these things to happen. When there are things in our lives that are not good that take place, we have to understand it is part of God’s providence for us. If somebody does not like us, if something very unfortunate occurs, that is part of God’s Will and providence in our lives. That does not necessarily imply that God wanted the other person to do something to us, especially when it is something sinful, yet God, knowing the free will of the other person, allows these things to happen. It is in fact His Will for us that these things occur. The reason for that is because it is something we need in order to grow in virtue.
This, again, is difficult for people to understand. But the reality, and we all know from our own experience, is that the only way we are going to grow is when we have to deal with difficult things. How are you going to grow in patience unless there is somebody who makes you impatient? How are you going to grow in meekness unless there is somebody who makes you angry? How are you going to grow in charity unless there is somebody whom you would rather be uncharitable toward and you have to practice the charity? On and on the list could go of all the different things.
We even see in the Gospel reading that Our Lord is telling Saint John the Baptist’s disciples, The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, lepers are cleansed, and so on. Those people could not have been healed unless they already had the ailment. It is just like the blind man about whom the apostles asked, “Whose fault is it that this man is blind? Is it his parents’ or his own?” And the Lord said, It is for the glory of God. That is the understanding we need when things happen in our lives: It is for the glory of God.
Now sometimes the things that occur we can look at and say, “Well, it’s my own fault that it happened. If I hadn’t done this or that or the other thing, these things wouldn’t have occurred.” The reality is that they are occurring and God is allowing them. He will bring about a good from them and all of it is part of His providence. This is something that is difficult for us to accept. It is hard to grapple with in our own lives, and yet it is a reality that all of us have to deal with. Absolutely nothing occurs in this world and absolutely nothing occurs in our own individual lives without God willing it. So as we struggle through the difficulties and problems in our lives, what we have to try to do is bring these things back to prayer and we have to ask the question, “Why are You allowing it? What is the purpose?” It is there in order to bring about a good. The thing that we always have to try to discern is what the good is. Sometimes we are not going to understand it until even years after the thing is over, when we can look back at it and begin to understand why the Lord was allowing it. But everything that happens is part of God’s providence.
And so, again, it is something we have to individually try to struggle with. Why does God allow Satan even to exist, let alone to give us trouble? Why does God allow us to sin? Why does God allow painful and even bad things to happen in people’s lives? This is a mystery, and a very difficult mystery for us to deal with; yet, in all of our lives it is a reality. But if we can begin to understand that He is allowing this so we can become saints, that oftentimes as we grow in holiness it is the very worst thing we have ever done that oftentimes becomes the greatest means for humility and for fidelity to God, that when we realize just how awful we can be, it is that which actually helps us to get on track and to stay there because we know what we are capable of. When we see how God brings good out of all the evil that we ourselves give into, it is then that we can understand how He allows these things; not because He wants them, but because these are the means by which we will become saints. They actually become the means by which we can serve Him better when we repent of what we have done or when we accept the evil that falls upon us. It is in accepting those things that we are able to serve Him better, with greater virtue and with greater holiness.
When we see the injustice and the evil, and we wonder why, all we need to do is look at the Cross. Look at, from a human perspective, the greatest injustice and the greatest evil ever done; and yet, from God’s perspective, see the greatest act of love, the greatest act of justice, the greatest act of good that has ever been performed for humanity. And when we wonder why, the answer is on the Cross.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.