During these difficult times, many people, including Catholics, are giving into doubt and discouragement. They wonder why their prayers remain unanswered as they continue to see so much injustice, suffering and evil in our country and in the world.
Amid such times, people tend to ask, “Why does God allow suffering?” The short answer is that God allows suffering to bring about a greater good. First, God gave us free will because He made us in His image and likeness and God is completely free. Second, He created us with the ability to love and love requires freedom. Third, because of our fallen human nature, we often abuse our free will, choosing evil and sin rather than love and goodness. But even then, God can and does bring good out of evil.
St. Thomas Aquinas writes,
“As Augustine says, ‘Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.’ This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist and out of it produce good.”Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. Vol. I. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Christian Classics, 1981.) I, q. 2, a. 3.
Often, however, we cannot recognize the good but can only see the evil. The good may not be apparent until much later, when the evil has subsided. But those with faith can find and create goodness amidst evil and suffering.
St. Paul tells us: “…[W]here sin increased, grace overflowed all the more…” (Rom 5:20). God allows suffering and evil so that we may merit an increase in grace. There is no doubt that we are being tested right now with the prolongation of COVID-19, the aftermath of the elections, and the increase spread of secularism in our nation and in the world. While many of our young people continue to drift away from God and the Church, other Catholics have become more faithful and fervent in their prayer and sacramental life. I have noticed an increase in daily Mass attendance at my parish and more people coming to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Even when our prayers are not answered in the time and manner according to our preferences, prayer and worship are good in and of themselves. They bring us closer to God and puts us in a right relationship with the Lord. In prayer we acknowledge that we are not sufficient, but are weak and vulnerable and completely depend on God and His mercy. Prayer helps us to obtain that which God ordained to give us upon our asking, and countless other graces.
St. Thomas Aquinas explains that often we do not get what we ask in prayer because, one, we ask inconsistently or lightly; Two, what we ask for is not conducive to our salvation; Three, we do not ask with humility, faith and reverence; And four, we stopped asking too soon. Therefore, let us persevere in prayer and leave it up to the Lord to grant them according to His holy will.
As we are tempted to impatience and hopelessness, let us also remember these words from St. Paul: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God…” (Rom 8:28). Even injustice, suffering and sin can work for our benefit and the good of the Church and the world. I believe that this is a time of grace for the Church. The threat of evil, sin and destruction have caused many people to turn to the Lord more and more. Before the election, there were many groups promoting the praying of the Rosary and novenas. Shortly after the election, a friend of mine said that there was an increase in the number of people going to Mass at her parish. Jesus reminds us that those who seek will find, and that the Father is not indifferent to our needs, and so we ought to have faith and to persevere in prayer, hope and love.
In the history of the Church, when there is a rise in evil in the world, there is a counter rise of holiness in the Church. Faithful Catholics do not give into despair, but respond more fully to God’s grace. Supernatural grace requires cooperation on our part in order to bear fruit. The sacraments and prayers are primary channels of grace, but also the proper dispositions of the soul. Qualities such as humility, faith, and abandonment to divine providence, are pleasing to God and will draw down an abundance of God’s gifts, not only for the individual but for the Church and ultimately the world.
We are called to holiness, not only for our own salvation, but for those around us—our family, friends, and community. Our vocation is to sanctify the Body of Christ and build up the Kingdom of God on earth. During these trying times, we should especially turn to our Blessed Mother, who is full of grace, not only to implore her powerful intercessions, but to learn from her how to obtain more graces. In particular, Mary accepted all the hardships and crosses in her life and the life of her Son, knowing that they were part of God’s redemptive plan. She responded fully to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and conformed her will to God’s will at all times. Our Blessed Mother never gave into doubt or discouragement, but remained steadfast in trust, uniting her suffering with Jesus, and offering every act of love for the glory of God and our salvation.
The pendulum of good and evil is constantly moving. Currently, it appears to be moving in the wrong direction—towards more evil, blindness and destruction. Therefore, it is up to us Christians and people of good will to move it back in the direction of God, truth and harmony. We do this by frequent and fervent reception of the sacraments, as well as an increase in prayer, and the practice of the virtues. We know that evil does not have the last word.
St. Pope John Paul II reminds us not to be afraid because, “The power of Christ’s cross and resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” No doubt, we are going through dark times right now and things may look bleak. But they say it is always darkest before the dawn. I believe that Christ wants to renew His Church during these difficult times. In the book In Sinu Jesu, Jesus tells a Benedictine Monk, among other things, that He wants to start a springtime of holiness in the Church, and in the world, and Eucharist adoration is to be the primary means toward this renewal.This is a time of grace, and the holiness of the Church starts with you and me. Let us persevere in goodness and faithfulness, while uniting our suffering with the Sorrowful Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in order that the Holy Spirit may renew the face of the earth for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Editor’s note: Fr. Tran’s new book, The Imitation of Mary: Keys to Growth in Virtue and Grace, is now available from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.
We also recommend Fr. Tran’s article, “How Imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary Can Lead Us to Grace” right here on Catholic Exchange.