Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Our readings today show two stories of evil perpetrated. The question on many of our minds is how is there evil and suffering in the world, when we believe in an all-good, all-powerful, and all-loving God. It's really the most tangible and the only legitimate argument against the existence of God, and it has been around forever. St. Thomas Aquinas' answer follows St. Augustine before him, and he states, " As Augustine says (Enchir. xi): Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil. This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good."* We experience evil and suffering in the world, but we also experience in our lives how God brings about good from it; not just good but a greater good.
Look at our saint today, the evil and suffering that St. Patrick endured for love of God became the transformation of an island of pagan druids. This island became a powerful hub of Christian evangelization for centuries to come. Joseph in our first reading endured suffering and evil at the hands of his brothers and God brought about through him the salvation of his brothers and the whole empire from famine. Our Gospel is a parable that tells the story of Jesus. The greatest evil committed and the greatest suffering endured was Jesus, the God-Man, dying on the Cross. God, from this greatest of evils brings forth the salvation of the world, the opening of Heaven, and the reconciliation of sinful man with the God of Love.
As St. Paul writes, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Will we keep our eyes on Heaven and trust in the God who is love, to bring about in our daily suffering and struggle the good of our salvation, the grace of our sanctification, and the salvation of others?
*Thomas Aquinas. (I q.2 a.3 ad 1). Summa theologica. (Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Trans.). London: Burns Oates & Washbourne.
So many failed to believe in the miracles of Jesus. They continued to ask for signs. Jesus promises only this one sign, the sign of Jonah. Jonah was charged by God to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to a massive pagan city. He tries to run away from it but is swallowed by a large fish. Unlike the Disney version where he is camping out in there, the Scriptures point to the death of Jonah in the big fish. He is then spit out onto the beach and God tells him to arise (the same word for resurrection).
He rises after three days in the belly of the beast. He then goes throughout the pagan city of Nineveh preaching repentance, and they heed his preaching. The sign of Jonah promised by Jesus is that after three days in the belly of the beast of death Jesus too will rise. He rises to a new pitch of existence. His small group of followers begins to preach repentance to the world. In a very short period of time the pagan nations (the gentiles) come to faith in Jesus.
The greatest sign Jesus offered is the repentance and conversion of the world. There are over one billion Catholics in the world today and over two billion Christians. This is the sign of Jesus promises. To this day, when we speak of Him and His love others are drawn to Him. This is the sign that all Jesus said and did is true. Do we stake our lives on the reality of Jesus? Is He the center of our lives? This Lent surrender to Him and share the Good News with others.
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.