EVIL (The Our Father, Word by Word)

November 28, 2011 | 9 comments

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Have Trespassed Against Us. Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From Evil.

by Betty Duffy

Evil’s the last word. And it would be nice if we never had to think about it. But we’re human, and we have original sin, so evil will always be a concern to Christians.

It will always be a concern, because evil is…interesting. When people talk about “the banality of evil” they don’t mean that evil itself is boring. They mean that evil makes itself appealing to so many people that an entire culture can accept horrendous acts as though they are normal. The casual societal attitude towards pornography is an example of the banality of evil. So’s the holocaust.

Of course there’s nothing casual about what sin does to people. We become attached, physically, emotionally, habitually entrenched in it. Sin can define lives. And it can define lives even if the sin is venial rather than some malicious mortal sin like murder or adultry. It can be soft sin, light sin, fun, interesting, harmless sin. Or so we tell ourselves.

Life in Eden before the Fall was perfect, but perhaps secretly, we wonder how much fun Adam and Eve could really have had without the stimulus of fiery tempers, flirtations with a more glamourous world, and the occasional over-indulgence in chocolate? Weren’t they pretty much just tending garden and looking after animals? Sounds like work to me.

Evil, as anyone who has ever lived will tell you, can be terribly, terribly attractive. Eve had everything she could possibly have wanted, but she wanted more.

The particular horror of Eve’s sin is that we don’t really blame her. In her place, I would have done the exact same thing. God prohibited my eating from this tree–but obviously, God was talking to the lowest common denominator, rather than a good person like me. It’s just knowledge after all.

It’s just a little gluttony. Just a little anger. You might just say I’m “spirited, ” when I throw that darn lego piece across the living room, or that I’m on the pursuit of excellence when I berate my husband for not living up to my standards. My addiction to (fill in the blank) is just a part of my personality. Garfield would not be Garfield, after all, without his inordinate attachment to lasagna.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a Homily, December 8, 2005:

“We think that evil is basically good. We think we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being.”

–Pope Benedict XVI, “Benedictus” p. 288

In allowing that little bit of evil to persist in our souls to salvage what we wrongly think is our winning personality, we inevitably block out the action of grace in our lives. We know what the devil wants, our souls, and we’re not giving in. But we avoid asking God what he wants. We have a sneaking suspicion that he too wants our souls. But what if he puts rules on my life? What if he makes me suffer? He’s going to white out my personality, my quirks, and turn me into an automaton. We make God our rival.

And so we do not belong to the devil in any obvious way–too smart for that–but we do not belong to God. We belong to ourselves, which is, ironically, exactly where the devil wants us–in a bind, refusing to grow.

It’s only in hindsight that we realize what heavens we have lost through our sin.

As soon as the sinner recognizes his need for grace, it is there. We have a Redeemer who releases all binds. He, and only He, delivers us from the tendency towards evil that is our birthright. He delivers us from our attraction to sin, and fosters a new dependency on his grace and mercy, a dependency that unexpectedly makes us more free than our supposed independence.

“The person who abandons himself totally in God’s hands does not become God’s puppet, a boring ‘yes man.’ Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great creative immensity of the freedom of good. The person who turns to God does not become smaller, but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself.” ( Benedictus p. 288)

When we pray, “Lord, deliver us from evil, ” we think, not only of the evil “out there, ” which most of us have become pretty adept at sidestepping, but deliver us from the evil within. Christ, our Redeemer, knows what we need before we ask. Deliver us from the evil we don’t see, the evil to which we have become attached and blind, the evil that is an obstacle to our surrender, the evil that sees God as a rival, that prevents love towards our fellow man, but that also prevents us from falling truly, deeply in love with Christ.


Elizabeth Duffy is a freelance writer and author of the blog, Betty Duffy. Her writing has appeared online at Patheos, Faith and Family, the Korrektiv Press Blog, and numerous other venues. She and her husband live in rural Indiana with their five children.


  1. Lizzie

    Maybe there’ll be an Amen entry but if this is the last, what a fabulous end to a great series.
    Betty and Jennifer, you are two amazing women! Thanks for this and for the reminder again about the reality and personal nature of evil. I definitely fall into the trap of thinking ‘but if I didn’t do … every so often, I wouldn’t be as sparky and interesting and ‘unique”. A timely reminder that my uniqueness comes from and through God so evil can’t be a part of that…
    Thank you so much and God bless, Lizzie

  2. MargoB

    THANK YOU! I sure needed (and appreciated) that! I don’t believe, fundamentally, that I need evil in order to be ‘me,’ but every temptation to commit a sin or to omit responding ‘yes’ to Him is me ‘thinking I need evil, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being.’ (h/t to our Holy Father; *great* insight!)

    Betty, you’re so right: in those times of temptation (and I see it lurking in me even when I don’t feel tempted) I realize that I’m seeing God as a rival, and it *does* ‘prevent [me] from falling truly, deeply in love with Christ,’ as you said. OY! With St. Paul, I cry out: “Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24)

    Your fine article also reminded me of something our priest said in yesterday’s homily: “The grace of this season [of Advent] is the grace of deeper conversion.” Hurray, ‘cuz I could sure use more of that!

    Jennifer, this series was a GREAT idea! I caught some of the articles, but I want to go back and read all the ones I missed. Thanks for this series!

  3. Kimberlie

    Excellent article! It’s true that I often will excuse the “evil within” with the justification that I am not an evil person doing truly evil things. I sometimes forget, sin is sin no matter whether it’s big or small. God hates it all because He created us for good.

    Thank you Jen for this series! I truly looked forward to each installment.

  4. Nancy

    Your words reminded me of Os Guinness’ excellent book “Unspeakable.” He examines the nature of evil, God’s role in allowing it, and what our Christian response can be to it. He is one of the best thinkers and writers, intellectual and challenging — I thought you might like to know about him.

  5. LuAnne

    This – this really sums it up so well…

    “It’s only in hindsight that we realize what heavens we have lost through our sin.”

    Big sin, little sin – each one brings us the loss.

    Great post – thanks for sharing it!

  6. Michael

    Evil may be the last word…but it does not have the last word. 😉

  7. Joanna Miller

    Hi Jennifer (and Betty!),

    I lurk about here – and am deeply fascinated and convicted by what you write – but I have long been perplexed by something and was wondering if you knew. I’m Protestant (gasp!) :), and we finish our Lord’s Prayer out with “For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” In college, I sang in my University choir, singing for many different church services, and my first experience with this was when half of the choir automatically kept going one morning during Mass, and were pretty shocked and embarrassed as we all dwindled off abruptly because the congregation was staring at us. (Looking back, it was actually pretty funny…) Do you have any idea of why this is? Either why we finish it, or why you don’t? Thanks!

    • BettyDuffy

      Joanna, A quick response to your question is that the Gospel Passages (Matthew 6:9-13) that give us the Lord’s Prayer do not include the last part, called the Doxology. Catholics do, however, say the doxology just a little bit later in the Mass.

  8. Heather

    This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read. Thank you. Please pray for me that I can let go of the sinful habits that I claim as part of my “personality”. God bless you:)

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