November 23, 1997
Brother John Raymond
Recently I have been corresponding with people by e-mail who have had tragedies occurring in their lives. They asked me to pray for them. What I find disturbing is that these people believe God is "responsible" for what is happening to them or others. The way we perceive God's action in our lives affects our prayer relationship with Him.
One of the most profound realities of our Faith is God's respect for our free will. God really lets us choose. Even the Virgin Mary was asked by the angel Gabriel if she would be the Mother of God. We do not reflect on the fact that Mary was free to say "no." Had she said "no" Mary would not have received the blessing of being the Mother of Jesus. But the point is that God actually asked her permission to cooperate in His plan of salvation.
Again, regarding our freedom I think of Jesus performing miracles and telling people not to tell anyone else about them. But what did these people do? They went out and did the exact opposite. And what was the result? The Bible tells us that Jesus was no longer able to freely move about because of the crowds that went after Him. So these people not listening to Jesus actually caused Jesus to be constrained in His work. But still Jesus, although God, did not stop these people from acting contrary to His will. Of course, the Passion is the highest example of Jesus allowing people to exercise their free will.
Now why am I going on about free will? Because when people do bad things to themselves or us God didn't do it. When a married couple divorces after years of marriage God didn't cause the divorce. One of the spouses may say, "Why is God doing this to me?" Or let's say that we are praying for the reconciliation of the marriage and it is not taking place. Some people will say, "Well, it must be God's will" meaning the divorce. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, "God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil." (#311) God does permit people to do wrong because He respects their freedom and "mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it." (ibid.) He does not will their divorce. He will try to bring good out of the situation, however. (For more on this cf. CCC, Divine Providence #302-314)
If there is one thing that we learn from the Garden of Eden it is that God intended our happiness from the beginning. He looked upon what He created and saw that all was "good." It was the abuse of free will that brought suffering and death into the world. And what was God's response? Immediately He promised a Redeemer. Jesus took the suffering and death that Adam and Eve brought into the world and turned it into something goodour redemption and sanctification. He brought good out of evil.
Jesus came to reveal His Father to us. This is the Father who we are told to call "Abba," that is, Daddy. When we pray to our loving Father in Heaven we believe that He intends to give us good things, as Jesus told us He would. The way we word our prayers should reflect this belief. We should pray to God with confidence that only good comes from Him. And we should pray in thanksgiving for all the good blessings God continually sends us. Let us never ascribe evil to God or believe His will is to do evil to us. God's will is for us, with His help, to imitate Jesus in bringing good out of evil, to overcome evil with good.