One of the best known arguments against the existence of God is what is known as the problem of evil. How can you believe in an all-powerful God when so much evil and suffering are found in the world?
It should be noted that as an argument for the existence of God generally it has a weakness. If, as Iago sings in Verdi’s Otello, we declare “I believe in a cruel God” there isn’t an issue. But for Christians who declare a belief in a God who is love, there is a question to answer.
Some have argued that the issue is simply that we cannot see the whole picture – that from a proper perspective what we see as evil is part of a greater good. But the problem with this is we know that God teaches us that the end does not justify the means, so evil inflicted on innocents as a means to a greater good seems wrong.
A better answer is found in Our Lord’s teaching in the Gospel. God permits evil, because to root it out would destroy that which is good, so the evil sown in the world must remain until all is made new.
There is more to it, however. It would be wrong to see this as Jesus explaining why ‘bad people’ are allowed to exist and, it seems, flourish; to look on it as an explanation for God allowing evil people to live. We are not to see the weeds in the parable just as evil people, but rather to recognise that what is true of the world, is true of human hearts. Each of us has to acknowledge the presence of the weeds of evil in our own hearts. Which is why we should be grateful for God’s forbearance, as Jesus explains. But also to recognise that the grace of God has the power to transform weeds into wheat.
Each of us, whatever our failures is made in the image and likeness of God, and has the possibility for sharing in the glory of the children of God. God goes to great lengths not to take that possibility away. Which is why our first reading rejoices in the hope of repentance. It reminds us that our response to evil in the world is not just to reject it, and stand against it. It is also always a call to let the grace of God into our own hearts, that whatever weeds have taken root may be, not rooted up, but transformed into that fruitful wheat that can yield, as we heard last week, thirty-fold, sixty, a hundred.
Blessings ~ Fr Chris Denham
St John the Baptist, Parnell