Jesus wants us to be fully
engaged in this fallen world,
because in Him we are the light
of the world …
By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“What do the Scriptures say?” This was the question at the beginning of the passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans last weekend at the outset of Lent. Paul’s response to his own rhetorical introduction is the Kerygma. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart, then you will be saved.” Having been grasped by Christ, St. Paul testifies that “I live no longer I, but Christ who lives in me,” and “the love of Christ compels me,” and “I count all else as rubbish in the knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is the repentance and conversion that beckons us on Ash Wednesday with the words, “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are an invitation to walk faithfully with the Holy One who loves and saves us.
What do the Scriptures say? What a fundamentally important question for our lives of faith with every facet that ultimately matters, in this case, the mystery of evil. On the first Sunday in Lent, we have the definitive struggle between Jesus and the devil, the evil one, the enemy, the malicious spirit of this world and what the Scriptures say carried the day for the Son of God, divine yet wholly human.
Stones into bread, the deceiver allured. “One does not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from the mouth of God.” From the mountaintop with the Putinesque vision of reality, the enemy enticed. “This can all be yours if you but bow down and worship me.” Ah no, “You shall adore the Lord your God, him alone shall you serve.” Finally, onto from the parapet of the Temple the devil led with the seduction of religious power through a false representation of the living God. In turn, Jesus countered with the disarming response; “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
What does the church say in the Sacrament of Baptism about the mystery of evil? “Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises?” Or, do you reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?”
Obviously, we are not shadow boxing in the renewal of our baptismal promises over these forty days, accompanying the catechumens and candidates with whom we will proclaim to the world that although evil, sin and death are all too real, yet, they do not have the final word, because the crucified one is risen.
What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) say about the mystery of evil that is a compilation of nearly 2000 years of the prayerful and lived experience of the followers of Christ?
Soberly, we read that evil, suffering, injustice and death contradict the Good News of Jesus Christ, and shakes the faith of the believers. (164) At times, God seems absent and incapable of stopping evil. Yet, we are not powerless, because God’s power is evident in the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead which is the first and final word in life and in death. (272)
Yet, why does evil even exist? (309) St. Augustine says that we cannot find a solution, a way out except through conversion to the living God. (385)
We have to fight the movements of concupiscence and the lure of sin that never cease to bring us to the threshold of evil. We are called to reverse the rebellion at the beginning and realize a rupture with sin, a hatred of evil, a disgust with past sinful action, relying on the grace and mercy of God. (1431)
The presence of evil impacts all relationships including marriage, threatening the bond of unity through discord, domination, infidelity, jealousy and conflicts. (1606) What is necessary is a life of placing oneself in the hands of God, a handing of oneself over in adoration and service. (1889)
These citations up to now are taken from the first three sections of the CCC, the Creed, the Sacraments and Life in Christ. The fourth and final section of the CCC is the unfolding of the Lord’s prayer, the mind and heart of Christ that address temptation and the reality of evil.
By God’s grace and the power of faith we can put aside temptation and walk away from the destructive path and pain of evil. Recall Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper. “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you guard them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) (CCC 2850)
Indeed, Jesus wants us to be fully engaged in this fallen world, because in Him we are the light of the world, witnesses to faith, hope and love, reconciliation, justice and peace, and the promise of eternal life. May we seek the answers to life’s unrelenting questions in the Scriptures and the living tradition of the church.