We are back to ordinary time! In the ordinary experiences of life, at one time we have moments of joy, and a moment of pain at another; we find ourselves before kind persons, at one time; and at another before persons whom we think they could be kinder. Yes, alongside experiences that uplift us; there are also those that shatter us, they are a kind of evil. But what does this evil come from? Legitimate question, certainly! But I invite you to reflect with me on a different question.
Bible readings Genesis 3: 9-15 Psalm 130 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5: 1 Mark 3: 20-35
Events that we would name as evil are quite abundant in the media, on TV or in the social media, and in our own lives too. That’s why at times we wonder: where does this suffering come from? And when will it end, if ever it will? Well, the word of God for this Sunday accompanies us in the reflection on this question.
It sounds like a classroom question, doesn’t it? Be assured, no single and correct definition is expected, nevertheless, even in the absence of the pression to give a correct answer we can still attempt the question. In fact, whether we have, or not, the clear definition of evil; we have a clear feel of it because we have a clear feel of what’s just and life-giving. We have a sense of what is human so much that we don’t need another person to explain to us.
There are moments when we just find ourselves shading tears at the sight of an action which we esteem to be full of humanity, or on hearing words spoken simply, but full of beneficence. We may shade tears also not because something is marvellous, but because we feel something isn’t just right. Like when members of a family or friends, who were once united, begin to tear one another apart; when a human person is treated like a rug; persons starve to death amid abundant riches of the earth; or when those who own business boast of big profits, yet, their workers not only labour in deplorable conditions but also wallow in poverty. Something is not right! And there you may appreciate that the question: what’s evil? is not about giving a school definition; rather, it carries with it the sensitiveness of the contrast between what’s humane, and what’s not.
Evil, perhaps, it’s a loss of harmony
From the examples above, we may speak of evil when we lose certain harmony in our relationships: with our fellow humans, with God, or with nature. When our relationships are no longer just and genuine, what follows doesn’t leave us indifferent. But where does this evil come from? The question comes almost naturally.
But if we approach the first reading with the same question, I’m afraid, we risk bypassing the Good News. It’s better, then, to pose a question that connects us to the message of hope.
Gospel in Miniature
In the first Reading, God meets the human persons after their sin, and we see the successions of shifting the responsibility: it’s not me, it’s the other one. Adam throws it onto Eve, and Eve onto the snake. However, the interesting part is what God says: “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.’”
If we look closely, we discover the gem in what appears to be a simple curse. In the enmity between humans and the snake there’s something interesting. The snake will strike humans, but only their heel. That may not be that dangerous. On the contrary, humans will strike the head of the snake. That sounds fatal! Can’t we conclude, then, that those words of curse hide within them an assurance of victory over evil? That’s the Good News!
But how will such victory come about?
Well, in the Gospel, Jesus is in action. He heals, acting in the manner that gives life; and he has been casting demons to stump out the root cause of evil -not even his distractors, the Pharisees, will stop him. Besides, his zeal is so much that his relatives worry about him -he’s perhaps out of his mind. Indeed, Jesus announces the Good News by words and deeds -striking evil on the head.
We are his brothers and sisters when we listen to his word, and more so, when we participate in his action in stumping out whatever dehumanises the human person. That’s why, inspired by him, we can then reframe our question. We are no longer interested in asking only where does suffering come from, rather, we evaluate what we do: what are we doing to strike evil on the head?
Practically, it involves speaking and acting in the manner that gives life.
Begin already giving life by sharing this word with someone you care!