I want to say thank you for your expressions of sympathy and condolences at the passing of my grandmother, and thank you as well to those who attended her funeral this past Monday. She lived a full life, and most of us in the family were able to see her in her last days. Thankfully, I was able to administer the Last Rites shortly before she passed from this world into the next. It is sad, but I'm always reminded that death is not the end. I continue to live in the hope given by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I know that the saints and angels of Heaven join us and are present at Mass.
Going back to our reflection on the Our Father, we have reached the final petition: “Deliver us from evil.” There are different evils in the world: war, violence, famine, illness. Some of the evils we face personally; tragic illnesses coming first to mind, but there are others, including loss of a loved one, debilitating accidents, job loss, broken relationships, severe property damage. No one wants to face these evils. At the same time, these evils we suffer may help purify us from inordinate attachments, may help us depend and rely on our Father more completely, may help us love and give of ourselves more selflessly. We don't need to seek out these evils and suffering, for we will endure them in whatever form at some point.
Jesus sets forth a simple yet demanding requirement in order to be His disciple: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt 16:24).” Taking up our cross is becoming helpless; it is recognizing that, without God, I am lost in the face of whatever I'm facing. These moments are turning points in our transformation in Christ.
Jesus also says, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one (Lk 12:4-5).” While we don't seek the evils that cause us suffering here, there is evil far worse from which we ask God for deliverance: Satan and sin. As I mentioned last week, Satan is the enemy of God and the enemy of humanity. Satan works ceaselessly to enslave, degrade, and destroy us, and his main and ordinary tactic to accomplish this is through temptation to sin.
All to often, we diminish the gravity of our own sins. Unless we commit murder, adultery, or highway robbery, we don't think we've done anything that bad. St. Paul used the Greek word “harmartia” (ʹαρμαρτια) when discussing sin; literally, “harmartia” means missing the mark or failure. There are some sins that are graver and more serious than others, but nevertheless, sin is a failure to live freedom excellently. Sin is a failure to live up to our nature and potential. It is a failure to allow God's image and inscription to be seen in us. Sin damages our relationship with God and with others, and regardless of how “small” a sin is, it is still an offense against the infinite goodness and love of God. Sin enslaves us, degrades us, and can destroy us.
When we ask our Father to deliver us from evil, yes, we are praying to deliver us from the evils of this world, but even more so, we are praying that our Father deliver us from the evil of sin and from the evil one. We have reason to trust God will deliver us from evil. Following Jesus' warning about being afraid of the one with power to cast into Gehenna, He continues, “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows (Lk 12:6-7).”
We are all saints under construction, growing in virtue and holiness together. Have a great week!