Homily for February 28, Cycle C

posted Feb 29, 2016, 1:31 PM by Church Office   [ updated Feb 29, 2016, 1:31 PM by Michelle Massung ]

         In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the 18 people killed when the tower they were building collapsed on them.  He referenced that it was not their fault that they died accidentally.

         Before entering the seminary, I was a member of the funeral ministry at Christ the Redeemer parish in Houston, TX. One particular funeral was most tragic. A six month old baby boy, the son of a Houston Police officer on the drug enforcement team, died at the house of the babysitter one evening. During the funeral, the father kept asking me why such a good and gracious God would allow his son to die. On February 18, 1998, my mother, Carolyn Gibbons passed away after a long fight with Alzheimer’s. She was only 71 at the time and when she died, I was really mad at God for taking her at such a young age. Yet, when I sat back and examined why I was mad at God, it turns out I was really mad at myself for not spending more time with my mother before she died. I was too selfish with my time, living a sinful life of dissipation in Houston. However, a few years after her death, I realized that if I did not change my way of life, I would never see her again. As a result, I got more involved with my local parish, Christ the Redeemer, and this brought a tremendous joy to my heart. As I continued to serve the parish in many different ministries, I decided to enter the seminary in the fall of 2006.  I was now on a quest during my time at the seminary to find the answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people. How can an all-good and all-loving God allow pain, evil and suffering to exist in the world.

            After many hours of classes and lectures, after writing several papers on the subject of why bad things happen to good people, here are a few thought s that I have learned. There are two types of evil, physical evil and moral evil.  Physical evil refers to pain and suffering, and moral evil is performing an immoral act and therefore, in the eyes of God, committing a sin.  Physical evil comes from the imperfections in the constantly changing universe, our imperfections as humans, accidents, etc.  God created a world that is always evolving.  In its evolution, the world is changing, and as a result, Mother Nature causes accidents.  She allows it to rain too much, the earth to shift, the winds to blow too hard, and the sun to dry out the earth. Moral evil is when someone decides to commit a sinful act that harms others.  The recent shootings in Kansas and Washington are examples of moral evil.  It is primarily caused by our self-centeredness; that is, we do something for our pleasure or gain without God’s help.

            What is the difference between pain and suffering? Pain is a neurological condition within our own bodies that signal our brain that there is a problem.  Pain can actually help us to survive and to be used to benefit society.  For example, if you touch a hot stove, you experience pain that teaches you not to touch a hot stove again.  Inventions such as air conditioning and heating are examples of how pain is used to motivate us to improve our living conditions here on earth.  However, some pain tells us that there is a problem in our body and it needs to be cured if possible.

            Suffering is the anxiety we experience about wanting to change our existing condition or the condition of a loved one.  For example, I suffer because of my father’s Alzheimer’s.  I want his condition to be such that he lives a normal life and not one that is tormented by this terrible disease.  Suffering is something we all go through in one form or another in our lives.  It is how we accept this suffering in our lives that determines our closeness to God and His love for us.  For us to be truly close to God, we have to die to self through our suffering and be open to fill that void with His love for us.  It is when we internalize our suffering and blame others that our suffering takes us away from God.  But how do we embrace the suffering we experience and let it draw us closer to God?  In the cross of Jesus, the Pascal Mystery, we see the ultimate example of suffering for the sake of love, for the love of God and for all of humanity.  He became man to be our model of humanity in all aspects of existence on earth.

            Unfortunately, we also have to deal with moral evil.  God gave us the gift of a free will.  In doing so, He also gave us choices to make.  If we make the right choice, we are rewarded with grace, if we make the wrong choice, we are sinful.  Therefore, God tolerates moral evil existing in the world because without it, we would not be able to exercise our free will of deciding to return to Him.  Unfortunately, the technology used to make our lives easer and pain free can also be freely chosen by man for the committing of morally evil acts that can be catastrophic.  Again, the world is evolving and with it, the risk that mankind’s immoral decisions have a greater impact now than they did in the past on mankind’s existence.                                But with all that has been said about evil, pain, and suffering, the question still remains, why does God allow us to suffer so much?  Can anyone explain why so many innocent people are killed trying to do great things for mankind?  No one has an answer to that question other than God himself.  It is a mystery to us and will be so until we are reunited with Him.  Philosophy tries to explain this cross to us, Christ just hung upon it.