7th Sunday Reflection: The Fight Against Evil
Franciscan Reflections From The Hermitage –
Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time Year C – (Luke 6:27-38)
Holy Scripture commands that we work with God to aid our brothers and sisters, to correct their view, to change their minds (metanoia), and thereby change their actions towards the ‘good’. If we fail to see and acknowledge that God is the instrument of transformation, we take on ourselves the role of judge, assigning to others wicked intentions and evil deeds. Jesus warns us, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”
When we have taken this first step into self-righteousness, we come to see our actions as good and Godly, and therefore ‘condemnation, just like death, is for other people, not for us’. This is not only a great danger for our spiritual journey but leads us to create injunctions, slogans, and idioms that may have the sound of Holy Scripture, but utterly oppose the teachings of Jesus.
These slogans may give us a mantle of seeming purity and holiness to fight against that perceived evil that would destroy us, destroy our way of life, and rob us of security. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” quoted by the USA president John F Kennedy in 1961, based on the writing of John Stuart Mill, who said in 1867: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
How do we fight evil? Is evil even a real thing, with substance and power? Is it perhaps no more than the absence of truth, a vacuum of reality, darkness, a negation of light, as proposed by many of the early church fathers? If evil has the substance of reality, then how could God have allowed it in Gods’ world? But if evil is only darkness, how is it possible for darkness to defy light?
Traditional views hold that the sources of evil are the world, the flesh, and the devil. This model illustrates the three sources of evil and thus violence; the world at the bottom of the spiral, the flesh in the middle, and the devil at the top. If evil and institutionalized violence go unrecognised at the first level, the second and third are inevitable. Sex is always seen as the game-changer. This is the blame game that started in the Garden of Eden, as Eve blames the serpent, “the devil made me do it”, and as Adam first blames Eve, and then turns his finger towards God, “it is the fault the woman that YOU gave me”.
Evil is perhaps too close to us to see clearly; too painful to place a label upon. We feel that we are callously justifying the horrors that have befallen good people. Perhaps we are rationalising God, and ourselves, letting evil-doers off the hook. But, on the other hand, without any grasp of what evil is, how can we be expected to fight against it?
In Scripture, the metaphor for evil is darkness, the absence of truth, the void of reality. Like darkness, evil has no power of its own. Left to its own devices, evil will devour itself. From where, then, does evil derive the power to cause so much pain and suffering in the world?
We confidently declare that in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, death, and evil are overcome. We pray every day that God deliver us from evil. Yet, with each spoonful of worry, anxiety, and fear we foster it; every glance of trepidation, every concession we make from our lives to acknowledge its threat, it grows until evil rises brazenly to attack us with our own devices.
Through our fear, evil becomes real and takes on our power. Without that power, evil must devour itself and fall into nothingness, into non-being. Once we have found evils’ secret, we know how to deflate it. Look towards the good and magnify God’s light within us. The strategy is almost identical, whether it be the evil that sweeps the globe, within our communities, or that evil lurking in the darker recesses of our heart, waiting to terrorise us at any chance. It is not a simple solution, because we have already nurtured so much structural evil and institutionalised sin that now thrives and evolves each day.
On a global scale, evil is not something to fear, much less negotiate with. That only gives it more power. Stoop to conquer evil and we invariably end up in its sordid squalor. Against evil, we must march to battle on the incense of forgiveness, blessings, and love. This is the injunction of Jesus!
That is why it is so important today for us to create more hope and light. Even a little light pushes away a lot of darkness. For every shadow of darkness we have seen, we must produce megawatts of blinding light.
Just as those possessed by evil did the wild and unreasonable, beyond that which the craziest doom-sayer could have predicted, so, too, we must do kindness beyond reason. Each of has a calling to become another Gandhi, Mandela, Teresa of Calcutta, another Arch Tutu, another Francis. Begin by praying for those who have hurt you, those whom you fear; sending out blessings and good-will.
Against that light, love and blessings, evil dissolves in surrender. Jesus calls on us to fight evil with beauty; to defy darkness with infinite light, love and blessings. Greet all people by acknowledging the light within them, “Good day good people”. This is the simple path that Francis followed.
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