In June, I was invited to attend the Panis Vitae Awards Dinner of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. Several hundred people gathered to honor a group of exceptionally good people who have generously shared their hearts, their time and their means to help others less fortunate than themselves.
Special events like that have to do with the recognition of achievement, success and goodness. Curiously, events like that dont make the headlines; in fact theyre often not considered newsworthy at all.
Popular newspapers and television usually offer us as news stories of destruction, failure and wrongdoing. Evil seems to be much more newsworthy than good.
To put it in religious terms, there appears to be a fascination with the mystery of evil. We seem morbidly interested in the mindless violence of ethnic groups and individuals, whether at home or abroad.
Evil seems to attract our attention as a flame does a moth. Like the black holes astronomers speak of, evil tends to absorb our relaxation, recreation, conversation and emotions.
The great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, taught that evil was not a thing in itself, but the absence of good. Maybe it is because of our fundamentally healthy instincts and nature that the absence of goodness so intrigues and fascinates us.
I often recall a silly little rhyme that I first saw in a well-known restaurant chain:
As You wander through life, Brother,
whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut
and not upon the hole!
The first chapter of the Bible tells the story of the creation of the world. It says that, at the end of each day of creation, contemplating His work, God saw how good it was.
If we want to learn to see the world with the eyes of God, we need to learn to focus our attention on goodness and not on its absence.
And that applies to looking at ourselves too.
In the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the wicked queen used to look into her magic mirror and ask, Who is the fairest of us all? She seemed to be the epitome of vanity and evil.
But, that doesnt mean we shouldnt look honestly into the mirror of our lives and recognize the goodness that is there.
Only one is good, Jesus said. So, if we find goodness in our lives, it is through the grace of the one God who is good. Rather than demurely denying our goodness with false modesty, we should learn to rejoice in it and give thanks to God for it.
With so much goodness concealed, small wonder that the world has become fascinated and absorbed by its absence whether in our own lives or in those of others.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples, Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
So, rise and shine!
Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA