At one point in his last discourse to his disciples Jesus warns them: In the world you will have hardship.”  But he immediately adds words of encouragement:  “Take courage, I  at l We have no problem seeing the warning verified.  No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of hardship/suffering.  It is those words of consolation that leave us with a problem.   How exactly has Jesus overcome the world?  Clearly Jesus has not overcome the world in a military or political sense.  One author suggests it is by recruiting a company of believers from among those dominated by the world and worldly concerns. St Augustine proposed: “Hence, if our personal pleasures do not hold us captive and if we are not frightened by brutality, the world is overcome.”

According to one interpretation of Jesus’ statement he was telling his disciples the world would do its worst to him, crucifying him, and still could not overcome him.  Rather, by his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the world of sin and death. Followers of Jesus share in that victory.  It is as though Jesus was saying: “The world can do its worst to you and you can emerge victorious.

In his first letter, John speaks of the world in negative terms. (I John 2:16) “Do not love the world or what is in the world.  If anyone does love the world, the love of the Father finds no place in him.”  That passage also makes clear what John means by the world: ”because everything there is in the world – disordered bodily desire, disordered desires  of the eyes, pride of possession – is not from the Father but is from the world.”

It seems that if we have overcome those disordered desires, pride and selfishness, we have overcome the world or, perhaps better, Jesus, living in us by his grace, continues to overcome the world.

In John’s first letter (5: 3-4) we read; “Nor are his commandments burdensome, because every child of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

Only through faith can we accept the idea of Christ’s victory over the world.  Any answer to the mystery of evil proposed simply on the basis of reason ultimately proves less than satisfying.

We would do well to make our own the prayer of the man in the gospel: “Lord, I believe Help my unbelief.”