May Bishop David O’Connell rest in peace. +
When this sad news broke out, everyone was shocked. I was speechless because only a few days ago, I was sitting next to him at the Priests Council meeting. It was even much harder for us to accept the fact of how he died. You are not alone in trying to make sense of this horrific tragedy. I have received many comments and questions on why and how this kind of evil thing could happen to a good man like Bishop O’Connell. While this is not a good time for catechism, I just want to use this means of communication as a platform to facilitate our thought process concerning the problem of evil in life.
The Catechism of Catholic Church (CCC) #309 teaches “If God Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.”
CCC #310 continues: “But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world ‘in a state of journeying’ towards its ultimate perfection.” CCC #311 adds that “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it.”
I highlighted those sentences to emphasize the fact that it remains as a mystery between human free will and evil. Evil can emerge physically through human free will. Paradoxically, the good can also derive from the evil tragedy. So what is the good thing derived from this killing? There are several good reminders worth noting: (1) our human life is vulnerable, fragile, and short, (2) we can always choose to do good or evil, (3) our action always has its consequences, (4) we can make our short life more meaningful or meaningless, (5) our good or bad legacy depends on what we do today, and (6) people always remember us for either good or bad.
Let us be more generous and kind to one another throughout this Lenten season.
Fr. Long Nguyen