St. Augustine in the City of God makes several comments concerning evil which help us understand what is happening in the world today.
As we face the rise of evil in the world, the unleashing of satanic forces not seen for a very long time, St. Augustine reminds us that God did not take away the power of the fallen angels, after their decision to rebel against Him. He allowed the original power of their offices, which is the same as their beings, in order for more glory to come out of evil. In other words, one sees the victory of good over evil even in the most extreme cases, such as in the lives of the martyrs so cruelly murdered in England, for example, being hung, drawn and quartered.
That God allowed the power of the demons to remain in their fallen state also means that God trusts His faithful to respond to grace and overcome evil with good.
The second idea from St. Augustine, in this context, has to do with the fact that after the Fall, God allowed mankind to retain free will. That we are made in the image and likeness of God involves God seeing us as free to chose or reject Him. In our freedom of choice, we are “like God”. Remember that St. Bernard of Clairvaux said that we kept the image (free will) but lost the likeness (grace) in Original Sin.
St. Augustine writes that the human race, so justly condemned to hell by the Sin of Adam, now has grace through Christ to choose good over evil and in the face of evil. God's glory will be seen in these victories.
We are “animals fit for heaven” because of our free will and the grace bestowed on us by God.
Thus, the City of God is built up daily, growing next to the City of Man, but with a difference, that this City of God will last forever. Quoting Philippians 2:13, St. Augustine reminds us that God works both the will and the good in us. We cannot, contrary to the belief of the Pelagians, move our wills towards God without His grace.
God's righteousness, notes St. Augustine, in man comes from God, not from our own efforts. His will dictates that we pray in His will and that we join in His will more perfectly as we die to ourselves. This, of course, is the great message of the perfection series.
One of the sections of St. Augustine's masterpiece lists many of the Old Testament references to eternal life, to heaven, to the New Jerusalem, as clearly not being simply a messianic age on earth, but the fullness of the Kingdom of God in heaven. Many of our Protestant brethren seemed confused on this point.
The materialist philosophy has infiltrated both some of the Protestant denominations and the Muslim “faith” making heaven into some kind of Caribbean hot-spot for vacations. The Kingdom of God, Christ reminds us in the Gospels, and in front of Pilate, “is not of this world”, but a spiritual Kingdom.
Sadly, too many Catholics want to equate the City of Man with the City of God, such Catholics as those who follow the heresies of liberation theology, or communism, or socialism.
One is constantly, in the teachings of the Catholic Church, brought back to individual dignity and responsibility. The rise of evil is happening not only because God's wrath will come upon us all for the sins of the nations, but because of individual, daily decisions made against God's Holy Will.
What heaven resembles, outside of the unity of our bodies and souls in the Beatific Vision, is a mystery to us. But, we clearly cannot confuse the Kingdom of God with any messianic ideal on this earth.
One more brief point from St. Augustine: the spreading of the Kingdom of God was not because of the efforts of the mk and work and work on a project of evangelization, then wonder why this effort fails. Perhaps those involved have merely done their own work, out of ego, rather than praying for the acceptance of the Gospel accordissionaries but because of Divine Intervention in preparing the Gentiles to accept Christ thousands came to Christ within a short period of time. Without this willing of God for the coming into the Church of the Gentiles, St. Augustine rightly notes, that no one would have accepted the resurrection of the body from the dead, reunited with the soul forever in heaven, as first witnessed in and through and with Christ's own Resurrection. Such an idea would not have been accepted without grace.
Too often Catholics, like those this morning at Mass who were not working out of humility or perfection but out of egotism (my music, my choir, my flute playing, my guitar playing, my collecting of money and so on) think that good works will save them. Holiness is service from the heart of God, not from one's own will.
to be continued...