Faced with Evil
by Fr. Charles Willingham, O.Praem.
Sometimes in community we are faced with very great evils, even from the brethren. And we find ourselves helpless.
We must consider that Jesus Himself came into this world to be betrayed and rejected in order to save us. And He knew of the plots of these evil men and did nothing to stop them.
He also knew that His best buddy and cousin, John the Baptist, would be the victim of Herodias’ evil plot, and He did nothing to stop it; and she succeeded in her scheme to destroy this greatest of all men born of woman.
And so on with all the saints of God — betrayed and condemned and killed throughout history. (I think of St. Joan of Arc who was betrayed even by the King she came to help). And Jesus did nothing to prevent it — but rather allowed it — and drew their suffering into His own.
And so when we suffer or when someone we love is made to suffer, we must see ourselves or our loved one, within this “Great Cloud of Witnesses” — our sufferings absorbed into Jesus’ own suffering bearing much fruit for the salvation of souls.
As for those who perpetrated these great injustices, and who still continue in their same old ways, still hurting other people; and if we can’t do anything to remedy the situation, we must say to Jesus and Mary, “I’m done! I can’t deal with these people anymore. I am giving all these people over to You. They are Yours to deal with. They are not my responsibility. If You want them to be punished that’s Your business; if You want them to be rewarded, I don’t care; if You want them to pass problematic people through here and kick out the good people, so be it. You have a plan; and it’s all good. I am going to trust in You.”
In the movie “The Shack,” the guy whose daughter was murdered, is having a conversation with God who wants him to forgive. He says to God: “So that’s it; he just gets away with it.” And God Answered: “Nobody gets away with anything!” So there are times that we have to just check out and detach ourselves from the surroundings, in a way that pleases God.
We have two Carmelites from whom we can take this strategy:
St John of the Cross who said: “Even if the monastery should burn down to the ground, do not avert to it.”
And then there is St. Therese who described herself going down to the monastery garden one day, looking forward to seeing certain trees covered in blossoms. When she arrived, she found that the branches of all these trees, along with the blossoms, had all been cut off by the gardener. In her sadness she said to herself: “If I was in another monastery on the other side of the world, what would I care if they cut down every tree in the Lisieux Carmel.”
So dear brothers, sometimes you may find yourself or another unjustly cut down by the stupid gardener, and God did nothing to prevent it. So with St. Therese, let us imagine ourselves in another monastery, not on the other side of the world, but in the Monastery which is the very Heart of Jesus.
And no, forgiveness does not make the hurt go away, and it will never make it O.K. what they did. But, it grounds us, and all those we love, and all those I don’t like, into the long history of God’s Saints and in His saving love, that continues to save the good people and the bad people. It reminds us that God allows evil only to bring about a greater good — a good that shall be ours and theirs and everyone else’s.
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