Wednesday 21st March 2018

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A Leaven In The World… The Problem Of Evil And The Response Of Prayer

October 9, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:43-38).
Our Lord’s teaching is clear. For Christians the response to evil is never evil but, rather, if we are to be good as our Lord is good, we must respond with good. Love responds to hate with forgiveness. If we are to be “children of our Father in heaven” in holiness we must respond to persecution with prayer.
In Las Vegas, the evil of hatred and the anger that fuels it have left more innocent people dead yet again in what some are calling the greatest large-scale mass shooting in American history.
The soul-wearying regularity of killing beyond the walls of our abortion clinics seems to punctuate the counting even of the weeks and days now. One no longer knows how to keep up with the killings lately as they seem to erupt so frequently. It’s true that we know more because of the vast amount of information at our fingertips. Someone we follow on Twitter on the other side of the world can post photos and videos as something is happening and we watch in real time.
Knowing that evil is happening, however, is the same human reality that it has always been. That we may know about more evil events happening anywhere in the world does not mean we know more about evil. If we are truly concerned we cannot be blinded to its uncomfortable presence also in our homes and our own lives. We are responsible for responding to evil wherever it happens, and first in our own area of responsibility.
The evils we are most capable of preventing are our own sins, of course. It is for ourselves that we are most responsible and for which we will answer to the Lord. The good we can most readily effect is with those who are in front of us: our own families, co-workers, and friends as well as ourselves.
The response to evil is prayer as our Lord teaches. So do we pray for ourselves that we will to do God’s will? Do we pray for our families? In this Fatima centenary year, are we offering sacrifices for sinners, both as penance for ourselves and in intercession for others? This is one ongoing response to the reality of sin where we can most do something about it.
The initiative of Christ to forgive our sins in the Sacrament of Confession is His response to the greatest evil of mortal sin. Examining our consciences and getting ourselves to Confession whenever we are conscious of having committed mortal sin is not optional in being a Catholic Christian.
One wants to care and needs to care. As humans and Christians we experience a compelling need to respond to evil. The violent taking of another life is murder, an offense against God and His law as well as against the human person so unjustly denied of life. In compassion we seek to be healers of those wounded by evil in any way, to include grieving family and survivors as well as to pray for the deceased.
Catholic convert and author Sohrab Ahmari has been reacting on Twitter to attacks on well-meaning persons who offered their “thoughts and prayers” in a compassionate response to the Las Vegas shootings. A new evil has reared its head in reaction to those who responded to the killings by offering prayer: that of verbally attacking the prayers.
“The attacks on prayer (as a first response to Vegas horror) have already begun. Things are so bad” was Ahmari’s comment on Twitter.
Prayer is sometimes attacked right in church. I had the bizarre experience recently of hosting a memorial Mass for a woman I am quite certain was a Catholic believer. As are most priests, I was delighted to help bring comfort to a Catholic family in their experience of the physical evil of the death of a grandparent and mother.
The family asked if a member of the clan could give a eulogy. He stood up before the Mass and gave his recollections but, in the course of his sometimes humorous or lachrymose recollections, he began to launch into something of an anti-Church tirade. At one point when he was really wound up, he said something akin to “the dead don’t need our prayers.”
I was observing from the narthex as I waited to begin the Mass and immediately grabbed a pen and paper and started taking notes. The content of my homily for the Mass had now been made clear to me: I was determined to fight this error then and there from the pulpit.
Along with the needed words on God’s life in Resurrection which is made ours through faith and the hope of future glory, necessary words for mourners at every funeral, I also made a point of responding to the eulogist who had proclaimed such an egregious offense against the Lord Himself and His teaching. He has commanded us to “pray always.” In our love for those who have died, would we deny them anything within our power? Of course we would not do so. And neither do we deny them prayer.
Every Mass is a perfect prayer and in every Mass we pray for the living and the dead. The Mass is Christ’s action of praying for all of mankind as He died on the cross offering His life for us.
The angry and dismissive response to offers of prayer in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings is simply the evidence of unbelief. But what is worse, it amounts to aiding and abetting evil. God is the greatest force against all evil. We reject the greatest power for overcoming evil if we disobey God and reject the response of prayer as “useless,” ineffective, or even uncaring.
We think as man does and not as God does if we react to prayer as if those who pray do nothing. God Himself prayed and when we pray in Him, we act in Him and he acts in us. When God acts in us He becomes present in our world. This is what we need most in the face of evil.
Always let others know you will offer prayers for them. Make a virtual intention to offer your Sunday Mass for them and for their intentions or for the deceased. Prayer is, along with action, the immediate means for good to fight evil. Mass is the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
Please join me in congratulations, prayers, and best wishes to The Wanderer on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. Ad multos annos!

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