In my philosophy studies at St. Louis University, in an academic way I am faced with questions regarding the nature of good and evil. (The classic “Problem of Evil”: If God is so good, why is there evil in the world?) In a more practical way, in our society we are bombarded with headlines ranging anywhere from the latest casulties in a war somewhere in the world to horrible accidents involving cars, nature, or even swimming pools. In whichever sphere of my life I encounter it, political, social, or academic, I am brought face-to-face with this challenge of evil. Not only in recognizing it as evil and considering its origins or intent, but with the real life, every-day struggles of how to believe in the good while grieving the death of a good friend or listening to stories of legal immigrants made to go “through the system,” which may or may not include jail-time.
A big part of my vocational journey, that is, when I first realized that my desire to serve and be with people was probably coming from something outside myself, was an experience I had of a good friend passing away horribly from an accidental fall. Jeff was on home leave from the Marines, specifically to be able to attend another friend’s wedding. The last weekend of Jeff’s visit, while visiting our hometown, he found himself in an argument with another party go-er, late at night, after the bars had closed. (Hanging out with friends and going to bars/parties was a pretty “normal” part of my circle of friends’ social scene.) The argument rapidly ascended into a physical one, where Jeff was pushed backwards, tripped on the sidewalk, fell back and hit his head. At the time of the accident, nobody realized what was wrong, until the next morning when Jeff failed to wake up.
This was a classic “Ah-hah!” moment for me. In the midst of grieving over Jeff’s death, I found myself being a go-to person for friends to talk about this and how they were (or weren’t) dealing with their struggles.
During this time, though, I would often find myself thinking about that very issue of good in the world, or the classic line, “Why do bad things always happen to good people?”
In the Genesis story of Joseph being reunited with his brothers after being sold into slavery in Egypt, during his great speech revealing himself to them, he uses the line, “It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.” (Genesis 45: 5)
Keeping this lesson in mind, made clear by Jesus’ parable in the context of the New Covenant, I am given the strength to know that beyond my grief, beyond my struggle, there is hope in knowing that it is not in my power to judge good and evil, but the power of the Sower, and that my responsibility lies not so much in understanding the evil, but more-so in loving God and loving my neighbor.
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