“But deliver us from evil.”
I have never completely understood those who criticize the Catholic faith by pointing to all of the evil in the world. While the problem of pain is a key struggle that many of us have, Jesus never said that this world is free of evil.
In fact, Jesus entered this world filled with sin and darkness and took that evil upon Himself by dying on the cross. He is very aware of the evil in the world. All of us are all too aware of it as well, whether it is by seeing all the hatred and violence in the world or experiencing the worst that life has to offer firsthand. And when this evil comes our way, we cry out for a deliverer: someone to raise us up out of the darkness.
And that is what we pray that Our Father will do.
There are two types of evil I would reference here: material and moral.
Material evils are the bad things we encounter in life that cause us suffering. Poverty, for example, is material evil from which we actively seek to overcome. Sickness is another type that ravages our bodies, tears up our emotions, and burdens our souls. These types of evil should not be overlooked or discounted. There is a reason the miracles Jesus performed the most were miracles of healing. And there is a reason that the only story that is pretty much the same in all four Gospels is the multiplication of the loaves and fish for the poor and hungry. When we encounter these evils, we feel overwhelmed, like we are trapped in a nightmare from which waking is impossible. And in that darkness, we lose sight of who we are and maybe what is important.
But the Father can deliver us from this evil. Even when things seem hopeless, we must remember that our God is a God of miracles. Our whole faith is founded upon the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection. Jesus calls us to constantly turn to the Father for our needs, as when earlier in the Lord’s prayer we are instructed to ask for our daily bread.
But do we really believe? When we ask the Father to deliver us from these evils, do we pray like we are throwing coins in a fountain making wishes? Are we casting our prayers upward in a “What have I got to lose?” attitude? I am not saying that God would not answer even these prayers, for He is more generous than we know. But our faith does play an active role here, not a passive one.
When Jesus went to His hometown of Nazareth, the people there refused to believe in Him. As a result, the miracles were few and far between. “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:5-6) Because they were not open to the miracle by their faith, the miracles were few.
When we ask the Father to deliver us from evil, we must have hearts of faith that He has the power to raise us from that darkness.
But as is prayed earlier in the Lord’s prayer, we are praying primarily for the Lord’s will to be done, not our own. This brings us to the second kind of evil: moral evil.
Moral evil is the worse of the evils. Material evil in and of itself does not have the power to blacken the soul and cause damnation. Moral evil has that power. To be sure, the pressures of material evil like poverty, sickness, abuse, and the like can put undo pressure on a soul and move it towards moral evil. For example, bullies are often people who are bullied themselves. But it is possible to exist in a state of material evil and not in a state of moral evil. Material evils can also be opportunities for the soul to exercise faith and charity. Many of the saints lived with poverty and sickness and some even endured unjust deaths like our Lord.
Moral evil is the worse of the two. And while the Lord has the power to raise us out of material evil, He may choose not to do so. Here is where the mysterious problem of pain and suffering intersects with our commitment of faith. The question at this point is whether or not we truly believe that God is allowing this suffering for a greater good. In other words, is he allowing this material evil as the means by which He is delivering us from the moral evil.
I hesitate to use any historical figure because I do not know with certainty the state of their soul, but take for example, JFK. While he was president, his infant son died. I am sure that while he was struggling, Kennedy prayed for his son to live and that they may be spared this great material evil. The Father had it within His power to deliver them, but He did not. Why? How could God allow such horror?
I cannot say with certainty the plans of God. But I do know that JFK was a womanizer who cheated on his wife. And from accounts I have encountered, the death of his son drew the couple closer together and he may have renounced his philandering ways. Less than four months later, John F. Kennedy would be assassinated I do not know the state of his soul when he stood before the Father. And as I said earlier, it would presumptuous of me to say that his early death was the reason for his son’s death.
But I firmly believe that the Father will deliver us from all moral evil if we let Him. And the Father can deliver us from all material evil. But He is first and foremost concerned with our souls.
When CS Lewis (who died the exact same day as Kennedy) was going through emotional hell over the death of his beloved wife Joy, he could not understand why God was allowing him to suffer. He could see no reason to give them love and hope only to snatch it away like a cruel joke. But towards the end of his journal on the matter, “A Grief Observed,” Lewis says something remarkable: “Either I need this or I don’t.” I’ve referenced this quote in earlier articles, but it is remarkable to me that Lewis’ faith was one of surrender. He admitted that He did not know why he was suffering, but he also knew that he did not have God’s perspective on things. But once he embraced faith again, once he accepted the material evil, there was a peace that came over him, a peace like Jesus described when he said that He would give us a peace “that the world cannot give.” (Jn 14:27)
And isn’t that the greatest way to deliver us from evil?
Copyright 2016, W.L. Grayson