Godtalk: Goodness unfolds gradually


Artwork - rainbow colours

God writes straight with crooked lines, it is said.  But can good really come out of evil? Do love, truth, and justice ever work out through hatred, lies, and injustice? Do crooked lines really straighten?

Not when we look at the surface of things;  but faith is never predicated on how things look on the surface. Faith sees that under the surface, error is often at the service of truth. (‘It seemed a good idea at the time!’)

In spite of evil, God does continue to work, God's plan continues to unfold, and our very misfortunes become part of the growth of love, truth, and justice.  

But this is not usually evident on the surface of things because, there, we are forever too focused on the big movements of power, politically, socially, economically, and religiously. We are forever looking at the big players and trying to read God's movements there.

Luke the Evangelist introduces John the Baptist in his Gospel by, first, naming all the important political and religious figures of the time (Pontius Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas) and then telling us that the word of God bypassed them all and went instead to John, an obscure eccentric, in the desert.    

 If we were there at the time we would find that hard to believe; and that incredulity mostly blocks us from seeing where God's providence is working at a deeper place.

However, God's providence often, perhaps mostly, occurs outside of what's happening visibly inside the seemingly important political, social, and Church structures. That's why often God's providence isn’t usually evident. It's hidden because God often bypasses the places where we're looking.

‘Our world is an immense groping, a search that can only progress at the cost of many failures and much human suffering. But our sufferings aren't useless. In our suffering we help pay the price of universal progress and triumph.’ (Teilhard de Chardin). Our sufferings, whatever their nature, are noble. They help bring about progress in the very world that crushes and sacrifices them.

The divine plan often unfolds under a dark cloud, today's error is at the service of tomorrow's truth, and God's providence often bypasses the structures of power.

So our faith needs to look deeper than what's happening on the surface, our hope needs to ground itself on something beyond the daily news, and our love needs to deepen. God is always alive and working underneath. Nothing will be lost of our efforts and sufferings, even of our failure and errors. 

Peter Knott SJ