October 10, 2018

I want to talk about theodicy, not to be confused with The Odyssey. Theodicy is the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil. Understand that? I didn’t either, at first. Theodicy in layman’s terms usually comes in the form of a question: If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world? OR If God exists, then why does God allow so many bad things to happen to so many good people?

I’m going to be honest, here; I struggled with this question for a long time, and far too often for my liking. Every time a school shooting happened, I’d say, “Where are you, God?” Every time someone close to me would die, even after I prayed, I’d ask, “How could you do that to me?” Every time someone with questionable intentions came into power, I’d look up and say, “Are you even paying attention?” And, if I’m being honest, sometimes I still get frustrated with the state of things and repeat these questions, just not nearly as often or as angrily. 

I don’t want to be flippant either. I understand that many of you still struggle with the concept of a loving God who can control everything versus his seeming absence within our current context. (For that matter, I still wonder why God stopped talking to us, physically, like he did with Moses and the other prophets.) I think, “You know, it’d be a lot easier if you’d show up; life would be fuller if you’d just make your presence known and answer my prayers in a timely manner and suitable to my cause.” But then I realize my personal mistake (which I will not project onto you, but offer to you as a different perspective): God created each of us with free will; unfortunately, like children with a stick, it is up to us whether we whack away at our neighbor with our free will, or we use it as a walking stick to guide us ‘along right pathways for His name’s sake’ (Psalm 23). 

Free will is quite possibly the most frustrating answer we can get, too. We don’t want to hear that. We want God to DO something; we want God to step in and, much like a parent, separate us into our corners until we learn how to act right. But that isn’t the case. For God to refuse our free will and to over-write it would be counter-intuitive to our creation. We weren’t made so that God could control us and MAKE us do his bidding. We were created with the option to love and serve him and each other OR to go on about our selfish business and just look out for number one. 

So many folks in our world choose the second option. It’s so much easier to just look out for our own interests so that we can lose the least. But that’s the challenge of faith, isn’t it? Without faith, we reduce ourselves to autonomous creatures, doing our own bidding and forsaking those around us. 

I want us to realize that we’re defined by how we interact with one another, and by how we continue in relationship with God, especially now. As the world becomes more fractured, it is up to us to continue being the bridge, the map and the bandage that connects, leads, and heals people of differing views to one another. If you’re struggling with anything God-related, reach out. Some of you have done so in the past, but I encourage all of us to rely upon one another in our darkest hours. It takes great courage to admit when faith seems at its lowest. I am always here as a listener, first; but then, if asked, a willing partner to help you discern solutions to your struggles—just as I hope you would be for me in mine. Pain will always be a factor in our lives, but it doesn’t have to have the final say. God loves you, and so do I.

Fr. Sean+