Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Invasive Surgery

God came not as a deus ex machina to set everything externally in order, but as the Son of Man in order interiorly to share in the passion of mankind. And this too is precisely the task of the Christian: to share in the passion of mankind from within, to extend the sphere of human being so that it will find room for the presence of God.
Faith and the Future, 86

Reflection – Why doesn’t God just fix everything? Who has never asked that question? If God is so real and so powerful and so good, why does everything just go on and on and on the way it is: war and violence, exploitation and injustice, selfishness and greed. It’s a dirty old world, and God doesn’t seem in any great hurry to clean it up.

We can go three directions faced with this rather obvious problem, fundamentally the problem of evil in the world. We can choose the path of atheism, either denying God’s existence outright, or coming up with some conception of God that is not-God—God as limited in power or not really good. While this seems to solve the problem, it does so at a very high cost: without God, reality becomes utterly incoherent and meaningless, and indeed the problem of evil that led us to deny God vanishes before it appears, as the perception of evil is ultimately vacuous without a Goodness that is real and ultimate.

We can also choose the path of superficiality. Just don’t think too hard about these things. Shore up a little safe world for yourself, as best as you can, and don’t get all morbid. Allied to this are the various simplistic solutions to the problem of evil, from the old standby of ‘well, they had it coming!’—evil as a punishment for sin, to the rather blasé accounting of evil as  result of free will. God lets us be free, and so we freely choose to make the world what it is.

While this is certainly true, it is not enough. God is not sitting on his hands up their in heaven watching us destroy each other, periodically sighing to himself, ‘Free will… oh well.’ God has entered into the world and its passion, but from within. This is the path of faith, hope, and love.

God in Christ enters the pain of the world; we are to enter the pain of the world. God in Christ is present to every suffering person; we are to be present to every suffering person. God in Christ allows the world’s evil to penetrate his being; we are to allow the world’s evil to penetrate our being, not in becoming complicit in it, but in compassionate love.

This is the plan of God, in our  Christian faith, for the healing of the world. Some may object, ‘Why? Why can’t God just fix everything? Why this long slow passion? Why must we go on suffering? Why would He do it this way?’

I think ultimately such questions can only be answered by God Himself, the Divine Wisdom finally satisfying our human folly. I would point out that if God was to come down, today, and ‘fix everything’, whatever that would look like, and then retreat back into heaven, within a week the world would be just as messed up as before. In other words, it is our free will that drives the world’s devastation. The problem is in the heart of man; all the ‘evils’ and problems are merely symptoms. And God is a good physician, not just treating symptoms but attacking the disease.

The disease is our lack of faith, hope, and love. So God has come, has made Himself very near to us, has revealed to us as much as He can of his goodness and love in Jesus Christ, and bids us in Christ to walk the path of suffering love, enduring hope, radiant faith.

This is the only way the world can be really healed. And this is how He is healing the world. It is radical, it is difficult, it is a deep and invasive surgery, a searing radiation, a strong medicine indeed, working on and cutting into the very heart of mankind. But it works, and that’s the main thing.

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