“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” –John 16:33
Why doesn’t God stop Vladimir Putin? It’s one of the many questions surging in people’s hearts during these difficult days since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This question is the latest version of a question that has haunted humanity since the Original Sin gave evil a foothold in this world: Why does God even allow evil in the first place?
There are lots of ways to answer such a question, but none of those answers is likely to completely satisfy us on this side of heaven. Maybe God is stopping this invasion. There seems to be divine courage in the hearts of the Ukrainian people, as they defend their homeland.
We know that although God commands us to “love one another,” He does not force us to obey. He gives and respects the gift of freedom. Tragically, people often choose to sin, sometimes even committing horrifying sins.
We also know that God can and does bring good out of evil. To paraphrase Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, if God can take the execution of His own beloved Son and make it the cause of our salvation, then He can turn any evil to serve His saving purpose.
It is not ours to answer the question of “theodicy” (basically, why God allows evil) definitively in this life. What we know for sure is that God Himself has taken the full force of the world’s evil and emerged victorious. Jesus is risen, and He offers to all who believe in Him the gift of His peace.
It is absolutely essential for us to know that Christ’s peace is not just an elusive ideal. Peace is a gift given by Christ crucified and risen.
I know I have referenced this passage before, but I never tire of quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s question and answer, from his book, Jesus of Nazareth:
“What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?
“The answer is very simple: God … He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.”
By being for us Emmanuel, God-with-us, and by saving us from sin and death, Jesus gives us peace:
Peace with God
Peace within ourselves
Peace with all those who share peace with God and within themselves.
Many, many people in this world forfeit the gift of Christ’s peace. Some do this for a time, but then repent and turn to Jesus and receive a renewal of His peace in their lives. Others, tragically, reject Christ’s peace definitively. Hell is eternity without Christ’s peace, and some wretched souls seem bent on introducing “hell on earth.”
Such men and women can bring much suffering, sorrow, and chaos into this world, but their apparent victories will turn to defeat. Jesus has already taken everything with which Satan could attack Him, and He has emerged victorious.
We do have much trouble in this world. But we must take courage. Jesus has conquered the world.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
(I do not add “and for the people of Ukraine,” for they are part of “us.”)
Fr. Charles Fox is vice rector and dean of seminarian formation at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He holds an S.T.D. in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome.