CONFRONTING THE WORKS OF WICKEDNESS
By Cliff Garvey
Not too long ago, Pope Francis said: “We are called to face the evil one through prayer; and with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily lives. Unfortunately, we know that evil is at work all around us, wherever violence, rejection of our neighbors, closed mindedness, war, or injustice occur. All of these things are works of wickedness. All of these things are works of evil (2-18-18).” Pope Francis then said that we must find the courage to reject what leads us astray, and to choose instead whatever leads us our hearts and minds back to God.
What leads us astray? The Holy Father is very clear. Again and again, Pope Francis points to gossip, bigotry, cruelty, exclusion, rigidity, rumor-mongering, and an increasing lack of charity in our world. He points to the sad reality that we live during a time when the vices of anger, greed, and pride seem to hold increasing sway over the virtues of faith, hope, and love. In fact, we live during a time when our civic leaders fight like junkyard dogs; and when faith leaders often fail to speak out against injustice. We live during a time when too many of our brothers and sisters choose to reject simple truths, and believe the biggest lies. We live during a time when too many of us turn our backs on people who live, love, look, sound, or think differently than we do.
So, what can we do? What can we do to confront the works of wickedness that threaten our peace, our sacred institutions, our way of life, and our common home? Here’s an idea: Pray, discern, and respond.
We can pray. We can pray more and with greater urgency. We can pray for ourselves and for each other. Prayer is never an empty exercise. It is a profound force for goodness, healing, and reconciliation. Prayer changes hearts. Prayer changes minds. Prayer makes miracles. When we ask God to guide our thoughts, words, and actions, we can become instruments of love, mercy, and friendship. By persevering in prayer, we can truly become instruments of peace in our hometowns and parishes; and in our church, our country, and our world.
We can also be more discerning about what we buy, what we consume, and what we waste. We can be more discerning about who we listen to, what we watch, where we go online, and how we obtain news and information. Just because someone claims to be Catholic or fair and balanced does not mean that their reporting is true; or that it brings us closer to Christ, closer to the Church, or closer to each other.
When Pope Francis talks about the “works of wickedness” in our world, he refers not just to actions or policies, but also to false rumors, fake reporting, and scurrilous slurs that sow the seeds of anger, confusion, division, and doubt. He’s talking about the lies that corrupt our culture, our churches, and our civic institutions. During an age when the voices in our lives are countless, we owe it to ourselves and our children to be more vigilant in both prayer and discernment.
Finally, we can respond to the darkness and wickedness of these times by logging off, tuning out, and turning away from whoever and whatever leads us astray, away from God, and away from each other. We can support causes and candidates that promise to protect our environment, our children and grandparents, and our most vulnerable neighbors. We can reject whatever leads us to anger and pride, whatever hardens our hearts, closes our minds, and feeds the fires of bigotry and division, hatred and violence.
We can recommit ourselves to living the Gospel, sharing God’s love, and rebuilding our Church, our community, and our country. We can pray for each other, take care of each other, and look out for each other. We can confront the “works of wickedness” by transforming our world so that the Golden Rule is the foundation of all that we think, say, and do. And we can put into concrete practice what Saint Paul preaches to the Romans:
Let love be genuine;
hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
out do one another in showing honor.
Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty,
do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay evil for evil,
but take thought for what is noble
in the sight of all people.
If it is possible,
so far as it depends on you,
live in peace with everyone.
And my favorite verse of all:
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good.
Doing good isn’t always easy. But it’s never been more important. In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis calls us all to live by simple, powerful virtues: goodness, kindness, and mutual support. The pope offers a simple solution for rising above the dark voices, the agents of division, and all the works of wickedness in our sick and suffering world. He says: “Let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service (77).” Sounds like a plan, Holy Father. We should give it a try. Just this once. Common. Please. “Let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service.” Pray. Discern. Respond. Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to Pray, Discern & Respond: Confronting Works of Wickedness. These audio recordings are produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at email@example.com. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Art Credit: Purchased from Dreamstime.com
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
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