By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 29, 2009
Reading the news can definitely bring on the blues. In India, a cluster of bystanders lost their lives when a bomb exploded. In our own country, many people are out of work and some have lost their homes.
Whenever you turn on your computer or pick up a newspaper, the headlines blare at you: terrorism, wars, famine and gut-wrenchingly horrible crimes. It may be tempting to give up in frustration and conclude the world is coming apart at the seams.
It helps to remember who ultimately is in control of the world. Not presidents, kings or prime ministers, and not billionaires, movie stars or the big wheelers and dealers on Wall Street.
God still is at the helm—but let’s be careful about proclaiming this truth. Some people will then blame him for all the horrors parading on the nightly news.
In truth, though, God didn’t detonate the bomb that killed the people in India. He didn’t force people to live beyond their means, leading to the current financial crisis. He didn’t pull the trigger on the gun that killed a family during a theft.
He didn’t cause these things, but he did permit them to happen. And to the inevitable question, “Why would he allow terrible things to happen?” we have to admit there is a deep mystery in evil.
St. Paul assures us that all things work together for good for those who have faith. He also tells us that in this world we see through a glass darkly. I take this to mean that in the next world our eyes will be fully opened, and we’ll have our questions answered.
But this earthly life provides partial answers to the mystery of evil. For one, God gave human beings free will. He could have created us as robots that would always do exactly what he ordered. But he wanted us to be free, so we could make a crucial choice—either to love him and keep his commandments, or turn our backs on him.
Terrorism, rape, kidnapping, murder and theft are all tragedies that result from one person, or a group of people, rejecting God and breaking his commandments.
What can we do about the state of the world today? For one, we can pray for the people who are suffering. This means praying for the anonymous faces in newspaper photos, faces contorted with misery and streaked with tears. We also must pray for the wrongdoers who are wreaking havoc, asking God to change their hearts.
But let’s not forget also to pray for our own conversion of heart. We’re part of the human race, and we all turn our back on God at times.
Sometimes our own sins seem minor and hard to detect, while the sins of other people seem so blatantly obvious. We all need a spiritual doctor—a priest—to help us uncover the underlying disease in our souls, which can be cured by the graces flowing from confession, holy Communion and prayer.
In 1934, a London newspaper asked people to write essays responding to a simple question: “What’s wrong with the world?” Writer G.K. Chesterton had a very simple reply: “Dear Sirs: I am.”
It was true then and still is today.
Once we recognize the brilliance of this simple answer, we may cease being shocked by the state of the world. Instead, we can endeavor to change the one thing that is entirely within our power to change, which is our own heart.