Encountering Evil

Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14;23-29

This Reflection is based on a book entitled Encountering Evil dealing with the often-asked question “Why does the All-Powerful God allow there to be so much evil in the world?” The present Russo-Ukrainian war, with all its reported atrocities and suffering, has brought this question to the surface of many people’s minds.

Although this Reflection doesn’t provide an easy answer to this question, and the Lord’s Prayer asks God that we may be “delivered from evil”, turning a blind eye to something which is Evil isn’t the only – or even the best way to encounter evil. At the centre the word ‘encountering’ is the idea of ‘to counter’, suggesting not only our disapproval of evil, but our duty to resist it in God’s Name.

The God-Incarnate Jesus, experienced pain, physical and mental, the moment He was conceived. When Mary and Joseph were teaching Jesus to walk, He often fell over, and they picked Him up off the stone floor in Nazareth, He was shocked, sobbing, and hurt. Being God Incarnate didn’t spare Him pain and suffering, as we know!

Herod ordered His assassination, thus turning God the Son into a child refugee in a largely Anti-Semitic Egypt. At Nazareth He was dragged away by the Synagogue Officials to be thrown over a local precipice. In Jerusalem, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin sought to kill Him. They illegally arrested Him in Gethsemane Gardens, and then subjected Him to what amounted to a ‘Show Trial’. Jesus clearly saw that their plan would involve Him in suffering and death. The next day both came to pass.

In John’s Gospel we hear many paradoxes which Jesus used to help His hearers understand the Truth, especially the Truth about His (and our) relationship with God the Father.

Alvesgaspar [2011], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A paradox uses two separate ideas which often conflict with each other, to explain the truth. In our reading Jesus talked about ‘giving us His Peace’; “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. [John 14;27] His Peace isn’t what the Secular mind thinks it means, but the Peace of God, which passes all understanding. To the Secular Mind, the word ‘Peace’ means the absence of strife, care, sorrow, disappointment, sickness, and all the other things people seek to avoid in their earthly lives. But the Peace that Jesus offers His faithful servants is something very different: He offers us, in this world at least, anxiety, trouble, strife, uncertainty, betrayal, failure, in fact those very things by which His Father reconciled the World to Himself!

This warns us that if we follow Jesus Christ, in this World, we can’t expect our life to be always a comfortable ‘Bed of Roses’. Roses have thorns, as Jesus Himself knew well from His own experience. What He intends our role to be in fighting evil, hasn’t yet fully revealed to us. Revealing everything to everyone at the same time is seldom God’s way of making His Will known!

Although during our earthly life God gives us some faint foretastes of the joys we can expect when we reach our destiny where His Son “has gone to prepare a place for us” much of His Plan remains a hidden secret, yet most beautifully expressed by the English hymn writer John Mason Neale [1818-1866]:

The cross that Jesus carried, He carried as your due:
The crown that Jesus weareth, He weareth it for you.

The faith by which you see Him, the hope in which you yearn,
The love that through all troubles, to Him alone will turn.

The trials that beset you, The sorrows you endure,
The manifold temptations That death alone can cure.

What are they but His jewels, of right celestial worth?
What are they but the ladder, set up to heaven on earth?

Fr. Francis Gardom

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