Article 35 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Father John G. Hillier
Have you ever noticed, as you walk through your neighborhood or as you drive to and from work, that there always seems to be new construction of office buildings, superstores or houses, one after another? The operative idea behind such construction is that “this time” the buildings will be bigger, stronger and more efficient.
The same was said of the 6 Million Dollar Man, aka The Bionic Man, back in the 1970′s. In the introduction to each episode the announcer stated: “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.” But where is the Bionic Man now? Reduced to reruns; buried in a pool of cable channels that is more difficult to find than a needle in a haystack.
The words of Sacred Scripture come to mind: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established” (Proverbs 19:21).
We often express our belief that God is Almighty – that he has power over all; that his power is unlimited. But have we ever stopped to consider what this means? The power of God is not limited like the construction workers on a building project or even the world’s most esteemed scientists, even those who might have the ability to make us better, stronger, faster. The power of God is unique: there is nothing like it!
God depends upon no one for his divine might; he is the source, the principle of all other power. Upon God depends all the power, strength and energy of all creation. We can give no example of his power, for it exists nowhere outside of God. But we can examine things that have been created and are sustained by God including the universe and our place in it.
The Catechism explains that God created the universe “in a state of journeying toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained” (ccc 302).
We refer to this intentional path to which God placed his creation as Divine Providence. In short, Divine Providence can be defined as “the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection” (ccc 302).
We are told that “God protects and governs all things which he has made” (ccc 302) and “cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history” (ccc 303). In fact, “God’s primacy and absolute Lordship” is all-embracing “over history and the world” (ccc 304).
The Gospel of Matthew takes up this theme in the passage where Jesus asks for childlike surrender to our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s tiniest needs: “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ … But seek first the kingdom [of God] … and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
This passage affirms that God not only gives his creatures existence, but he offers humanity the intimacy of his Fatherly mercy and care. Our Heavenly Father also extends to human beings “the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan” (ccc 306).
Finally, God entrusts people with the responsibility of “subduing” the earth and having dominion over it (ccc 307).
God intended that we humans, the best of his creation, would help complete the work of creation. Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, we can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by our actions, prayers and sufferings. (ccc 307).
Next, the problem of evil is addressed: If God, the Creator of all things, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? The Catechism states emphatically: “Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question” (ccc 309). Then to the question of why God created a world with evil, the Catechism tells us that “God freely willed to create a world ‘in a state of journeying’ towards its ultimate perfection” (ccc 310). As intelligent and free creatures, both angels and human beings have to journey toward their ultimate destinies “by their free choice and preferential love” (ccc 311). However, when “they … go astray” (ccc 311) and choose a path contrary to accomplishing God’s will, evil occurs.
There is a silver lining, however, even in a world saturated by sin, poor choices and every variety of evil. The Catechism teaches, although “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil,” he permits it because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, “knows how to derive good from it” (ccc 311). One primary example is, what the Catechism describes as “the greatest moral evil ever committed” (ccc 312). This is ”the rejection and murder of God’s only Son,” caused by the sins of all humanity. The Catechism continues: “God, by his grace … brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good” (ccc 312). To say it another way, borrowing the words of Saint Augustine, “For almighty God … because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.”
The final part of this section of the Catechism tells us: “Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face,’ will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation” (ccc 314).