The Answer is Obvious

Let us take special care, Sisters, to beg this mercy of him and not be careless, for it is a most generous alms to pray for those who are in mortal sin. Suppose we were to see a Christian with his hands fastened behind his back by a strong chain, bound to a post, and dying of hunger, not because of lack of food, for there are very choice dishes beside him, but because he cannot take hold of the food and eat, and even has great loathing for it; and suppose he sees that he is about to breathe his last and die, not just an earthly death but an eternal one. Wouldn’t it be a terrible cruelty to stand looking at him and not feed him? Well, then, what if through your prayer the chains could be loosed? The answer is obvious. For the love of God I ask you always to remember in your prayers souls in mortal sin. (Teresa of Avila)

Evil was defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While evil was defeated, God has not removed the free will of human beings and other spiritual agents (i.e. angels and demons). This means people can fall into sin or become victims of evil. This comes through direct attack by evil or collateral damage from evil. But because evil has been defeated, our prayers, behavior, and faith can counter the forces of evil. Of course, there are other variables at play in the battle of good and evil beside our prayers.

Teresa wants us to be attentive to those who fall victim to sin or evil. She uses a metaphor to describe their plight. Suppose someone “with his hands fastened behind his back by a strong chain, bound to a post, and dying of hunger, not because of lack of food, for there are very choice dishes beside him, but because he cannot take hold of the food and eat, and even has great loathing for it; and suppose he sees that he is about to breathe his last and die, not just an earthly death but an eternal one. Wouldn’t it be a terrible cruelty to stand looking at him and not feed him?” Of course it would be cruel not to feed him — our hands are free and his bound. When others are bound by evil or sin we are still free to pray. And we should pray for the other person without censorious judgment. After all, we don’t understand why or how they ended up in this condition — even though it may seem obvious. The only thing “obvious” according to Teresa is we should pray for them.

We should be cautious not to turn our opportunity to destroy or contain evil through prayer into self-condemnation for not praying enough. We’re not the problem. And the other person is not the problem. The problem is with evil. We are, however, part of the solution. And our prayer of faith adds considerable value in the fight against evil. This is true whether we pray once for a situation or person or we pray consistently. However, the belief that we’re in control and have to pray obsessively is a lack of faith and ultimately gives evil another foothold.

So when we see someone trapped by sin or evil, what should we do? Teresa says, “The answer is obvious.” Pray.  This doesn’t exclude practical help and advice, but we need to begin with God and that begins with prayer.

 

For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C. Kindle Edition.

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Jesus Follower, Blogger, Public Speaker. Teresaofavilaturns500.wordpress.com

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Posted in 7th Mansions - Chapter 1
7 comments on “The Answer is Obvious
  1. Gichon says:

    Some good advice on prayer from a Doctor of the Church.

  2. Aquileana says:

    `Evil was defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While evil was defeated, God has not removed the free will of human beings and other spiritual agents (i.e. angels and demons). This means people can fall into sin or become victims of evil. This comes through direct attack by evil or collateral damage from evil´…

    This is such an interetsing and thought provoking excerpt of your post, dear Dave…
    So, basically … evil could be a wrong choice among options, as far as I understand it… and free will triggers it… I am wondering if a collateral damage from evil makes us responsable as well… I guess the intentions count as well…
    But if evil results of action which aims to be good or at least not bad… does it count as sin or fault too?…
    Sending all my best wishes. Aquileana 🙂

    • Dave Small says:

      Aquileana,

      Thank you, as always, for your insightful comments and questions. From my perspective — (1) Evil or sin is one choice among options. Sin has more to do with dehumanizing others (unloving behavior) than simply following some legal code regardless of the outcomes. (2) Collateral damage can play out in a couple different ways. Our sin can cause collateral damage and we could certainly have some accountability, but the free will of other people may also comes into play. We also are recipients of collateral damage from the sin of others. Then we have accountability to correct what is in our power even though we were not the source of the problem. (3) Intentions: I think they do matter. Sometimes individuals do everything they know to be right — and the outcomes had evil or negative consequences attached to it. I don’t know why someone would be held accountable for unpreventable ignorance. This is different than the “chosen” ignorance of a “leader” that allows evil to thrive and refuses to educate themselves or take action. (4) Faith and Forgiveness: Faith (which includes logic and reason) in God’s power to renew. And forgiveness (which includes boundaries on poor behavior) also seems to have a power to bring healing and limit or eliminate evil.

      I would enjoy hearing any additional thoughts!

      Best Wishes,

      Dave

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