Was It God's Will?
Q: I think that I am like most
Catholics in asking: Does God have a direct hand in a personís
death? Or does randomness play into oneís death and only
then does Godís judgment determine a personís fate?
If two people are involved in an accidentóplane
crash, car crash, tornado, whateveróand one of them dies,
does that mean the person who died was less important in
A: In an extremely wide sense, whatever happens
is Godís will because God created everything. The huge problem
with saying that is that contradictory things appear to
be Godís will. We know, however, that God has a clear preference
between good and evil.
Adolph Hitlerís death camps killed approximately 6,000,000
Jews and 4,000,000 gentiles. Was that Godís will? No. The
Allies defeated his war machine and closed the concentration
camps. Was that Godís will? Yes.
We need to be very careful in using the expression ďGodís
will.Ē Doesnít our experience show that people most often
use this term to describe someone elseís suffering?
They do this, of course, to restore some kind of order in
a seemingly chaotic world.
In the Book of Job, three friends think that Jobís suffering
reveals Godís will. At the bookís conclusion, God denies
In the Gospel of John, Jesusí disciples assume that the
man born blind was being punished for his sins or those
of his parents. Jesus rejects both alternatives (9:3).
I once saw a three-panel cartoon. In the first panel, God
is standing on a cloud, looking pensive. In the next panel,
God goes to a wire container with numbered balls (like those
used in bingo) and picks one out. In the final panel, a
man walks down a street and the masonry from a balcony comes
loose and is about to fall on him.
I do not think that tragedies happen that wayóand I doubt
that cartoonist did either. Some human suffering is created
by people (I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and then
develop emphysema or I drive too fast on a slippery, winding
road and have an accident). Other suffering is created by
forces of nature (people die in hurricanes, volcanic eruptions,
etc.). Many more problems, however, are caused by the misuse
of human freedom than by so-called ďacts of God.Ē
Godís will is that each person live as someone made in
Godís image and likeness. Godís will is that we share eternal
life with God. Must God do anything and everything to guarantee
this? No, because that would render human freedom meaningless.
In the First Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul writes,
ďThis is the will of God, your holiness...Ē (4:3). Godís
overall will for us is certain; how we respond is not so
We dare not exalt human freedom to the detriment of God,
who created it. We likewise should not use ďGodís willĒ
as a way of undercutting human freedom and the importance
of our daily decisions.
In Jesusí parable about the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46),
we can easily imagine that those who were saved and those
who were condemned had very different ideas about Godís
willóespecially when it came to feeding the hungry, clothing
the naked and the other works of mercy which Jesus lists.
If those types of suffering are Godís will, then why bother
trying to alleviate them? Jesus, however, praises those
who respond with compassion to the needs of their brothers
and sisters. He condemns those who deny compassion to those
Itís too easy to say that the suffering which happens to
other people is Godís will. If that were true, then every
work of compassion would oppose Godís will. The Scriptures
One personís death and anotherís survival in an accident
have nothing to do with their respective importance in Godís
Ultimately, we have to admit that God and Godís way of
dealing with people are great mysteries. Using reason enlightened
by faith, we can rightly probe these mysteries, but eventually
we must admit with Job that we cannot question God as equals.
Shouldn't Jews Be Catholics?
My aunt and I were recently discussing and wondering: If Jesus was Jewish, why didnít all the Jews become Catholics? I feel that I should know the answer to this but I do not.
A: The biggest objection to Jesus by his Jewish
contemporaries was his talk about God as Father, Son and
Spirit. Living among people who worshiped many gods, Jewish
people maintained their faith precisely because they insisted
on worshiping only one God.
Most of Jesusí Jewish contemporaries feared that he did
not share that belief. His followers, however, have always
affirmed that they believe in one God in three persons.
When Pope John Paul II went to Romeís main synagogue in
1986, he affirmed that Godís covenant with the Jewish people
has never been revoked. The pope has often repeated that
conviction, quoting from Vatican IIís Declaration on
the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
Putting My Prayers Into Action
Q: I want to be a good Christian,
but I am having a lot of trouble being humble and contrite.
Even though I try to concentrate on the words when I pray,
I feel as if I am missing something.
Why? An hour after praying I often
feel upset with my husband for leaving his dirty clothes
on the floor or his dirty dishes on the counter. I seem
to lose all humility and end up speaking crossly.
I have tried many things to stop myself
and I hate when I do this. Sometimes it seems as though
I watch myself and think, ďShut your mouth and donít say
it,Ē but I say the angry words anyway. I now try to remind
myself every time I pick up his dirty clothes that instead
of being upset about this I should be thankful that I can
Sometimes, I just wish I could cut
my tongue out so that I would be kinder to him. Do you have
A: Perhaps you could pray often, ďLord, help me to
speak the truth in love todayóespecially to my husband.Ē
You donít want, however, to stop speaking the truth to yourself
and to others: Selfish behavior can and should be called
You do not want to use that truth like
a cannon, blasting someone else to smithereens. Only a partial
truth can be used that way. Your husband is more than this
annoying habit and you are more than your frustrations.
With Godís grace and human cooperation, a solution can be
What About Surrogate Parenting?
Q: In doing a research paper on surrogate parenting,
I came across two articles: one by a Christian saying this
is O.K. and another presenting the Catholic Churchís teaching
that it is not allowed.
The first article cited the story of Abraham using Hagar
to produce offspring because his wife, Sarah, was infertile
(Genesis 16:1-16). This articleís author said that since
God did not forbid this, it must be O.K. How do you respond
as a Catholic?
A: Surrogate parenting introduces up to five people
as possible parents: the couple raising the child, an egg
donor, a sperm donor and a woman who carries the fertilized
egg to term. Even if that number is reduced to three (only
one spouse is infertile and the woman raising the child
also bears him or her), you are still risking eventual confusion
about the childís sense of identity.
We also know that courts have not always upheld agreements
that infertile couples thought were binding.
Even though a married couple may desire a child, does that
mean that any and all means to have one are morally good?
Even if that includes destroying fertilized eggs not yet
Considering how things developed for Hagar and Ishmael,
her son by Abraham, is that storyís conclusion (Genesis
21:9-21) really an argument in favor of surrogate motherhood?
The Hagar story does not support surrogate parenting (or
Why is surrogate motherhood preferable to adopting a child
who needs a loving family?
Just as there are limits regarding means used to preserve
life, there are moral limits about procedures used to conceive
children. Everything possible is not automatically morally
Please know that the Catholic Church accepts some medical
procedures which can help conception to occur in the womanís
body, using her egg and her husbandís sperm. For more information
on this topic, read "Helping
Childless Couples Conceive" from the April 1997
issue of St. Anthony Messenger.
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