By Pat Gohn
Discouraged by evil and sin? Take heart!
Our Catholic faith helps us understand the spiritual battle between God and evil. We’ve all been victims of evil in varying sinful degrees. That’s why the Gospel is called Good News.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reminds us:
“There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil” (CCC, 309).
Ever notice how the word evil resides within the word devil? Despite the devil’s PR campaign to the contrary, the Catholic Church has always taught that the devil is real.
Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see… a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing. (CCC, 391.)
The devil succeeded in tempting Adam and Eve with the very lie that he believed… that he —- and they — could be “like God.” (See Gen.3: 1-6.) Such envy is a deadly sin.
When considering the battle between good and evil, some people mistakenly think that there is an equal playing field. They think the devil is equal to God, or at least an opposing force of equal power. That would be incorrect.
The power of Satan is… not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign.
Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries — of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature — to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him. [Rom8:28.]” (CCC, 395.)
The Catechism challenges us not to get bogged down in the mystery that the devil exists or that God permits evil. There’s no comparison between a finite creature — even a powerful demon — to the infinite omniscient omnipotent Almighty God. No matter what evil comes our way, the devil’s power is limited, but God’s is not.
The Scandal of Evil is No Match for the Cross of Christ
From the beginning, God versus the devil is not a fair fight. God always wins. Only God can bring Good from evil. It sounds crazy, even unfathomable, at times.
St. Leo the Great taught:
“Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away” (CCC, 412).
This is evident most profoundly in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ — the most heinous, and most monstrous evil ever committed. Evil doesn’t get any worse than the Son of God being rejected, brutally tortured, and publicly executed.
From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that “abounded all the more”, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good. (CCC, 312)
Our meditation on the crucifixion of Jesus, with all its intense messiness, despair, and annihilation, reveals what sin looks like: cooperation with evil is a bloody mess resulting in death.
Yet the Passion and Cross of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the question of evil and sin, and the destruction and death that comes with them.
The Catechism proclaims that Jesus’ death on a cross “makes amends superabundantly…” (CCC, par. 411.)
That’s a powerful thought to hold on to: God’s superabundance.
The resurrection of Jesus is evidence of God’s superabundant love. It’s God 1, Evil 0.
We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror. (CCC, 385)
In Jesus, evil loses its grip on us, and we are superabundantly saved from our sins. The Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil Mass, declares: “O happy fault… which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”
The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). (CCC, 420.)
Jesus is the Victor. He does everything superabundantly. When I cling to that superabundance through grace, it soothes my scandalized heart every time.
Pat Gohn is the editor of Catechist magazine and Catechist.com. She also contributes to Catholic Digest‘s “From the Catechism” column.
This article was originally published in Catholic Digest, March 2014, and is used with permission. Note: This article has been edited and re-titled to fit this format. The original title was “Evil versus the Cross of Christ.”
Image credit: Thoom / Shutter Stock 373153807