So often when bad things happen to good people, when good people are murdered while they pray, when innocent people are the victims of civil wars, when we know of men or women or children whose bodies are ravaged by cancer, we spontaneously ask, ‘ why does God allow these terrible things? Why doesn’t God stop this slaughter? Why is God so silent?
Our first reading from Sirach has something to say about this; ‘for great is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and sees everything. Before each person is life and death, good and evil and whichever one chooses, that shall be given.
God did not create us as automatons, puppets. God will not rush in to save us from ourselves. We are free agents. We are gifted the gift of free will. We can choose to be good or bad, loving or unloving, just or unjust. The decision is ours and the consequences are of our own making. As Moses said to the Israelites – this day I play before you life and death, choose life.
We’ve all been blessed with gift of free will. We’ve been given the awesome power to choose. What the author of the Book of Sirach wants to do is to exonerate God from all responsibility for the evil that surrounds us in the world. Each of us knows ‘good is to be done, evil is to be avoided’. We bring the consequences of our choices upon ourselves.
But there is a fly in the ointment. We know it as original sin. It is that forbidden fruit that is attractive to our eyes and lures us to that false promise that we will be like God, knowing good and evil. There is a tendency in each of us to be lured away from what God calls us to be and do by false promises of love and happiness and power.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul claims that ‘if it had not been for the law I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said ‘you shall not covet.’ Eve and Adam would not have eaten the forbidden fruit if God had kept quiet and not told them to stay away from that tree. To put it another way, ‘this bean would not be up my nose if my mother hadn’t told me, don’t put that bean in your nose. The don’ts of life cause us to wonder, ‘why not’ why not give it a try? Don’t we pray every day, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
We are all caught up in the life long struggle, ‘ the good that I would that I do not and the evil I would not do, that I do.’ I think we can make our own the conviction of Paul that the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus our Christ, love of God made visible can be our motivation to ‘keep the commandments, be faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus, especially trying to keep Christ’s great commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’
We are not in this struggle alone. Christ has promised us, I am with you always. I walk beside you; if you fall I will pick you up no matter how many times you fall. All I ask is don’t give up trying. My grace is sufficient for you.