Spirituality for Today – February 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 7

I Will Not Serve

By Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

A photo of red eye

Unflagging faith in God and calm perseverance in the face of temptation was Job's response to the stratagem of Satan. God rewarded Job abundantly for his fidelity, but the question of why evil is so powerful and why God allows the good to suffer is an answer ultimately reserved to God and, in part, to the soulful searching of humanity.

Evil is a particular entity within human experience. The various tempests of nature often are catastrophic in the severity of their effects, but are not evil – just natural. The proper question of this Lenten season is not why evil exists, but why humans are so fond of it. One can make the argument that something is innately dysfunctional within the human mind in regard to the mind's unnerving capacity to respond to events with flashing temper and violence over reasoned consideration and action. Evil is a free choice to disdain God's will.

Only God is absolute. Everything else, including the devil, is relative. The devil is not a defect in God's creation but rather a spiritual being using God-given freedom in a way that God never intended… God did not create evil in the same sense that God created galaxies, stars, soil, water, animals, plants, people, and everything else. Evil is a void that results from rejecting God's way and trying to impose our own.

– Father Pat McLoskey, OFM

A person of faith is walking through a cultural mine field of moral relativism (a fancy way of saying that everyone wants to do what they want to do and to whom they want to do it and to feel good about it). For the devotee of this philosophy, values emit from someplace inside himself, of his own creation, and varying according to his own will. No moral judgment from an outside source is acceptable, i.e. "I don't care what anyone else thinks." Contrastingly, the believer looks to a moral law from outside – the revealed Word of God. Caring about what others think, especially those who love the person, invites self-examination in order to determine if he has strayed from God's teachings or not. The consequences for one's actions are an essential consideration for the person of faith. Accountability and responsibility for the quality of values by which one lives is an awareness opening one to becoming a person of true worth.

Humanity is the great gamble of God. Freedom is our double-edged sword. Goodness is a free choice to live in accordance with the Will of God; evil is a free choice to turn from it. What is the product of evil? It is disharmony, alienation, contention, meanness, and a loveless atmosphere. In addition, evil ultimately brings the individual adhering to it to a dead end – death eternal. It is amazing that people cannot figure this result according to their own wits. So many people today stand amidst the ruins of an ill-spent life and cannot or will not "connect the dots" that led them there. There is the rub, I have appealed to human intellect and moral reasoning to avoid error. There are other participants in the game of making the moral decisions that determine that set the quality of life. As human beings, influence derives from internal spirit, mind, and emotions as well as external circumstances. Situations filled with mounting stress can lead to a desperation causing one to decide on actions outside of anything expected from that person. Peer pressure and a desire to conform to societal trends with the group acceptance it affords can push a person away from virtuousness. Our Lord's words indicating that it would profit us nothing to gain the whole world and to lose our souls in the process applies here dramatically. Complications and ambiguities muddy the waters of acting in good conscience, but, in truth, accepting God's loving way as your chosen way is the only way.

There is nothing necessarily easy about living in God's love and facing a world of so many cleverly disguised evils. God has done everything possible, promised all that could be hoped for, and has won every victory for us. Do not demand that God make of earth a heaven. It isn't and was never intended to be. To the degree that we choose to make our contribution to life one that expresses Christ visible in our words and actions, we can experience a glimpse of that heavenly life. This choice can keep us free from inflicting or be afflicted by many evils.

In John Milton's masterpiece of English literature, Paradise Lost, he put these words into the mouth of Lucifer, "I will not serve." As I have noted, evil is a complicated reality. If, however, you want to know how evil has had such sway in the world and how it continues to do so, you only need to hear those who proclaim, "I will not serve!" and be wary of them and pray for them.