I became evil for no reason. I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself. My depraved soul leaped down from your firmament to ruin. I was seeking not to gain anything by shameful means, but shame for its own sake.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Confessions
If you remember those words from St. Augustine, then it gives you insight into why our world is so filled with evil, unabashed and unashamed evil. The evil itself needs no enticement or instruction. It is the nature of our hearts since the Fall of Adam. We need no prompter to learn to sin and we need no tutor to learn the delight of it all. St. Augustine is not speaking here theoretically but as one who went down that path without pause or hesitation. He indulged himself not for lack of good parents or Christian upbringing or churchly instruction or moral example. No, evil needs no excuse. His self-destruction was his delight. Perhaps we can learn from him.
We live in an age of vulgarity in which the things once merely whispered about are shouted at the top of the lungs, in which perversion is as familiar to the eye as it is to the mind. We live in a time when good manners if not good morals might have kept some of this from the silver screen or TV or printed page or internet site. Those good manners have left us and in their wake we see that there is no strong moral voice to counter the strong voice of self-indulgent wickedness. We have no savior waiting in the wings to rescue our age from its own desires. We have only us.
The forces who will reclaim our world from its delight in the vulgar, sensual, and evil are the same forces who have always run counter to the prevailing winds of our self-destruction. They are moms and dads who teach their children well, who impart to them the knowledge of God's glorious creation and instill in them a reverent sense of wonder, and who accompany this with the faith that both acknowledges our sin and rejoices in God's saving love in His Son. The home was and always has been the fortress against the onslaught of evil that would steal our children's consciences and stretch their moral fiber to its breaking point.
We cannot await a national leader nor can we look to the Church to provide a messiah figure who will fix what is wrong. It was and always has been keyed into the life of the home -- husband and wife whose love is strengthened by the confession and forgiveness of Christ and whose children learn from them what it means to believe and live as God's own baptized child.
We can condemn what we see around us but we cannot forget that sin will test the heart until Christ comes again to finish His new creation. Condemnation has to be heard for our sake as well as for the worlds but we need more than a "no." We need to speak and live God's "yes" of mercy to forgive every sinner no matter how great the sin, of the new will strong enough to begin to control the mind, the heart, and the voice, and, of course, of the life that death cannot end and wickedness cannot doom. We are the redeemed of the Lord, washed clean in the waters of baptism, confessing our faith in word and deed Sunday and every day. We will always need to hear again what the world needs to hear for the first time.
That said, we cannot hide in some safe place of refuge. God has not placed us here as the defeated awaiting our enemy but as those whose victory is assured, who are made bold to engage the world even at risk of persecution and martyrdom. We are not here to hide the light or hoard the salt. There is always risk in this but it is the risk of the faithful convinced that faithfulness is our only calling. It may force us now and again to ask ourselves if the risk is worth it and we will surely need to rehearse the story both of the curse and the blessing, the destruction and our Savior. But that is how it has always been -- at home in the family and together in the family of the Church. We speak back to God and in the hearing of one another what God has first said to us -- the surest Word of all -- and it this speaking the Spirit creates faith, sustains it, and keeps it to everlasting life.
Evil needs no excuse or justification. Faith needs no apology. Once we learn that evil is not a problem solved with a program but with God's regeneration of the sinner dead in trespasses and sin, we will understand the fight. Once we learn that faith is not an apology for God or for evil or for our weakness but its medicine and remedy, then we will understand what we need to do.
In this the winter of my life my faith tells me that neither men or devils are to my judge.
Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven...
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