“…all things work for good for those who love God.” So says St Paul today in the second reading. Perhaps you have heard this before or even said this to others, perhaps trying to encourage someone going through difficult times. It’s a one of the phrases in the Bible that can keep us going and yet when we hear this phrase, we might think about situations that did not seem to come out good for someone (or even us) who love God.
Many people who love God still have experiences that don’t seem to work out good. People who love God still die, sometimes violently or “before their time.” People who love God still experience being put down by injustices like racism or sexism/machismo. The Holocaust, saw almost 3 million Catholics lose their lives (mostly the Roma (derogatorily called gypsies) or Polish), certainly many of them loved God but things did not seem to work out good for them.
The key to understanding St Paul comes down to the word “love” and he doesn’t mean the kind of love people are looking for in the Bachelor or a Hallmark movie. To love is better understood as St Thomas Aquinas taught us, “to will the good of the other.” It is primarily an act of the will, not of the emotions, though at times emotions can come with it.
To love then is to will the good of God, to love is to do the will of God. It is what we say every in the our Father, “thy will be done.” This might seem even worse that God wills suffering, injustice, violence, and death, but that is NEVER God’s will. These things happen because people are not listening to God’s will be revealed in Scripture, not because of God. In the same way cancer is not God’s will but we have it because we have so polluted God’s creation with chemicals and indiscriminate waste.
But if we were to will God’s will, all things do work out for good because we say God is good. If I will for what God wills, I am willing, wanting, doing the good. Even in the difficult things in life, we try to make the best out of a bad situation. What is the most good can I do in this bad situation? From bad events have come a lot of good: the Geneva Convention, MAAD (mothers against drunk driving), Amber alerts, and all our workplace protections.
St Paul’s words, “all things work for good…” is never a Pollyanna phrase to give others after a tragic event or death, rather it is God’s deepest desire that all come to Him, all of us are destined for God, but we must love Him first, by learning His will and if I can give up my will for His will, I have learned what Jesus taught us on the cross about love, God will bring us a new life and all things have worked for good
With a heart for Mission,