The finger pointing after the tragedy in a Florida high school 10 days ago was all too familiar. Some said it could have been avoided if guns were outlawed. Others said we need more guns. Some blamed poor health care or a broken educational system. Some even blamed God. So, where does the blame lie? And just why would God allow evil in the world? Those questions have no simple answers. So, let’s start with what we know.
We know God loves everyone and that He is All-good. We also know from experience that God allows suffering in the world. Even ‘good’ people suffer the effects of evil, sometimes even more so than ‘bad’ people. To answer these questions, we must first appreciate the nature of evil. Evil does not exist by itself. Evil results from the absence of good. What we call “evil” is really the failure to live up to the purpose God created us for. God gave each of us the gift of free will with the ability to choose to follow His will or reject it. So, evil is the vacuum created when whenever we choose not to reach the true fulfillment of our lives as God intended. When we consider the evil in the world and the suffering caused by it – murder, drug abuse, rape, war, poverty, to name a few – we can see evil results directly from choosing not to respect God or love our neighbor.
So, evil exists because of the choices we make. Sadly, choosing to sin can affect many, so the innocent often suffer along with the guilty. Even so, God looks for us to do a good from the consequences of an evil. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the 13th Century, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin. God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’
So, what caused this latest tragedy? Quite frankly, I don’t know. Mother Theresa said, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of war, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” The answer to what happened in Florida lies somewhere in how well our culture embraces God and valuing (or not) the dignity of human life. Those are things not resolved with laws, political agendas, Facebook, or sensationalism in the news. Embracing God and respecting life is something that grows in the heart as we strive for holiness, perfection, and being in total union with God. When we choose to be with God, not separated from Him, we can build a culture of life where evil can’t exist. When that happens, our world becomes a better place to live.
Adapted from “Introduction to Catholicism for Adults” by Rev. James Socias