One of the hardest questions we all have asked ourselves has to do with the existence of evil. “If God is so all loving and good, why is it that he allows evil into the world?” This past week I have heard this question, often. It has been asked by so many people throughout our existence.
None of us are free from the effects of the brutal killings of our students, Ethan, Xana, Kaylee, and Madison over this past week. And people have asked “How could God allow this to happen?” and “What kind of person would do this?” People have also said that we have to do something more than offer prayers, and ask “What should we pray for?”
In coming to grips with this awful thing that has happened, I think it is crucial that we ask these questions. We can only learn about what we don’t know by asking about it and seeking answers. Answers don’t always calm our souls. Neither do they fix the feeling we are experiencing. I have heard anger, frustration, disbelief, the phrase “this just doesn’t happen here.” And there is fear; of the unknown, of safety and the fear that we have no control over the things that have taken place.
It is the feast of Christ the King. A feast day that marks an ending of our Church year and a new beginning for us in the coming season of Advent. One of the things we will take with us into Advent is this question of why?
If Advent is a time of new beginnings, why do we start with such a horrible scene in our minds? This is a time for giving thanks this Thursday, when someone’s child will not come home. Next Sunday we will begin to look forward to the coming of Christ at Christmas. How do we approach giving thanks and excitement about the coming of Christmas without feeling guilty or wondering if it is okay to look
forward instead of get stuck in last Sundays news.
We are told, by their families, friends and classmates that these young people, whose lives were taken from them, were joyful, excited about life and the future; friends to so many and good kids in their families. This moment, when they are not here, does not mean those qualities they have are no longer with us. God gives us the gift of memory, to remember last Sunday and to make sure their
names and faces are not forgotten.
Reflecting on the readings and the feast day today does not take away from what happens in our lives and what happened in the lives of others. As Christians and Catholics we have been asked and taught to believe things that would seem impossible in our world if we did not have God at the
center of our lives and in our world.
The Book of Samuel leads us to reflect on who we are as an earthly family when the people say to King David “Here we are bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh.” This is exactly what God says to Adam at the beginning of creation. Before he rested on the seventh day, God created us on the sixth day and says that Eve is of Adam “bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh.” Made in the image and likeness of God he pronounces that day as “good.” We possess the dignity of intelligence, wisdom and enough love to stay in the garden with God.
Then the story changes. And what everyone calls “original sin” takes place as they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After that first sin, which is turning away from God, we often forget about the fact that our first parents were created in “Original Justice” and “Original Innocence.”
God is pained when there is sin. Sin is an action, the taking of the apple, if you will. Evil is not the same as sin. Evil is a lack of, a missing of something, in this case, the missing of the good. It is a void, a hole, an emptiness where something should be. We have experienced evil this past week, the lack of good, where four young lives should still be.
A consequence of the original story of our creation is that we see we are inclined to not listen to God or do as he always desires. He could force us into it, but he also gives us the freedom to make our own choices. The other consequence of the original story of our creation is a choice God has to make. And that is to find some way, some idea, some fashion to call us back to the garden. God misses us in the garden. He literally says in Genesis “Where are you?”
After sending prophets and kings and having us see events unfold in the world that would and should call us back, he finally says… “I guess the only way to get their attention is to send my son for they have not seen or listened to anything else that has happened.”
God has hope for us, that we will listen to Jesus. And some of us do. God also knows that many of us won’t. He sends his son to eventually die on the cross. Paul says this is the plan: “For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him, to reconcile all things for him, making peace… by the blood of his cross…”
It is such an unbelievable moment, that God would do this for us. To show us that we are not defective, nor is the world. Sometimes lacking in the world is the presence of good, of that original innocence. And how do we bring that back into the world. We do not have to be the ones who do so, for it has already been done by Jesus.
Christ, who is mockingly called king by others, shows he is a different type of King. He faces the battle, not against other kings, but the human battle of death. Everyone’s death, including his own. Though innocent, he does not try to climb down from the cross. Instead, to the end, he offers his compassion to the good thief, who recognizes him as the one who has done nothing wrong.
Why did he not save the other hanging beside him? Not because he was incapable of doing it, but because the desire for original innocence had yet to take hold of him who mocked Jesus. What was lacking had not yet been filled. When and if the second thief ever saw the good, we don’t know. But faith tells us, even in the presence of ignorance, God is willing to keep the door opened. That is
what makes this a special day. We are continuously reminded of the presence of good in the midst of its lack.
The senseless deaths of Ethan, Kaylee, Xana, and Madison confuse our minds and hearts as to what and why these things have happened. It’s almost impossible to say that we have learned from this. And even harder to try and see if there is God in this evil act. Evil is the lack of Good. Evil could never take away the fact that these kids are still good. Even though we have no answers to calm our fears and our hearts, our faith helps us to know that all of these events have not left us alone and without God. These young lives have reminded us of God. That is an incredible gift they have given to us. These events have made us question our faith. That is also an incredible gift they have given to us.
Without those reminders perhaps we would never realize how special they really are. As we are given those gifts, we are changed somehow. And if we can continue to remember we have been changed, then we won’t forget them. And our prayers can only be strengthened for them as the Lord calls to them… “Amen, today, you will be with me…”