The Question of Evil


Reading John 12

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.

4-6 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.

7-8 Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honouring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

9-11 Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.


As he listened to sermons and teachings of Ambrose, Augustine became more and more fascinated by the Christian God, but he still could not comprehend the origin and purpose of evil and suffering. When he write about such things, Augustine mentions Jesus Christ more often than for any other subject. Usually, he wrote about God the Father. It seems that this shift was caused by his reading of the letters of Paul. The letters describe the redemptive work of the Son of God, belief in whom is a gift that opens up to grace, reaches true freedom, and seeks answers to the questions of evil and suffering in the brilliance of the life and work of Christ.

"I believed. . . that in your Son, Christ our Lord, you have laid down the way for human beings to reach that eternal life which awaits us after death. These beliefs were unaffected, and persisted strong and unshaken in me as I feverishly searched for the origin of evil. What agonising birth-pangs tore my heart, what groans it uttered, O my God! And there, unknown to me, were your hearkening ears, for as I laboured hard in my silent search the mute sufferings of my mind reached your mercy as loud cries."

Different indeed are the paths that lead to God. The Apostle Paul experienced a radical conversion while on the way to Damascus, the faith of Augustine was born in long pangs of agonising pain, and different still was the faith of Mary. As if intuitively sensing future events and the death of Jesus – she poured perfume on his feet and wiped it with her hair. All the while she does not utter a single word; at this stage of love they are truly unnecessary.

Mary, Paul of Tarsus, and Augustine of Hippo all found the answer to questions about evil and suffering in human life thanks to believing in him who suffered greatly, bearing the cross and staggering toward Calvary toward death and resurrection.

Lord, through understanding the lives of these people, help us to cry loudly for your mercy and, especially during this Holy Week, open our hearts and minds towards your teachings and grace.