How often we hear from the world and from within ourselves…
Why didn’t God do something?
Why did the evil and suffering happen, on a good God’s watch?
If “God is love,” we might ask; what kind of love is this God? Do I want any part of it?
Confusion Set In
In the Gospel, the names of specific people whom we are told ‘Jesus loved’ are a select few. Among them are siblings Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (John 11).
Our confusion may begin when we learn that Jesus, the Son of God—who healed people throughout the Gospel—hears that Lazarus is ill, but stays put rather than going to heal him.
When have you called to Jesus, and he didn’t come? As you likely have, I’ve called to him in prayer until everything looked so bad that what was wrong could not be undone. Then, I stopped calling.
Belief and Trust
By the time Jesus and his disciples finally arrive, Lazarus has been buried. Jesus greets Lazarus’ grieving sister, Martha, with peculiar words;
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
After arriving late, Jesus asks Martha to trust and believe in him.
At this point in the story, we might abandon any thought of Jesus as a loving, all-powerful God. But, we are presented with a new picture; he is taken to the tomb, and “Jesus wept,” with Mary and the other mourners.
Yet, his challenging words continue. Jesus ordered, “Take away the stone” from Lazarus’ tomb. Who would say such a thing to a family freshly mourning? Martha protested, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
What stone has Jesus directed you to “take away”? How often do we protest, like Martha? “No, Jesus, I can’t do that. It’s not worth the trouble. It’s beyond my comfort level. No one would do that!” In the midst of our confusion, Jesus responds: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Why Does Evil Exist?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on our confusion in the face of suffering: “If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only the Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question…” (CCC, no. 309)
“God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it.” (CCC, no. 311)
I have experienced much physical, emotional, and spiritual pain in my short life thus far. I could never understand the entire ‘why’ behind it all. Yet, without that pain, I wouldn’t be writing this column in the utmost confidence that God is present to you now and at every moment; especially in your deepest suffering, wanting to bring light, life, and love.
Our faith professes that God so loved the world—with all its misery and evil—that he chose to enter into the trenches with us, to experience that misery, to descend into hell, and to show us that none of it has the last word.
A Call to Look Further
The final individual named as being one whom Jesus loved is the beloved disciple—who has been identified down the centuries as John. John was the only of the twelve apostles to witness Jesus’ torture and execution on the cross.
It is also John’s Gospel (1:5) account which begins, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” It is John who insists, “God is love.” It is John whose first letter also teaches,
“Perfect love drives out all fear.”
It was John who ran to Jesus’ tomb, found it empty, and when he saw the burial cloths, he believed that Jesus had conquered even the brutal execution which John himself had personally witnessed.
This is the love of God; a total and complete gift of self, offered to everyone—even to the deepest depths of suffering and evil. This Love challenges us to look beyond what we see with eyes of fear and discouragement. When we unite ourselves to this Love, we can look at any situation with eyes of trust, and know that no evil will overcome the life-giving light who is Love.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.