ERADICATION OF EVIL
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 8:6-13, 20-22; PS 115(116):12-15,18-19, 29, 22-23; MK 8:22-26 ]
The story of Noah and the Ark is an illustration of how God sought to remove the scourges of evil from humanity. From the very beginning of time, the world was plagued by the sins of humanity. All kinds of abominable wrongs were committed against each other and against God. We read that God grieved upon seeing the sufferings caused by the evil in humanity. To remove further sufferings for the sake of the future of humanity, He decided to wipe off all traces of evil from society. Hence, He told Noah to take only the good people into his Ark and as for the rest, the Lord would destroy them through a natural disaster. And so it was. After five months of rain and flood; and five months for the water to subside, it was about time for Noah to begin a new life and a new chapter in humanity.
This is also how we think evil and wrongs should be dealt with. When we are appointed to renew or restructure an organization, we think that the best way to move the organization forward is to remove all difficult people and to install new ones. This might help at the beginning of the renewal process. It is good to have fresh blood and new people to relook the strategy and plans. Yet, let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that the new team would have no problems and that everything will progress smoothly. Given some time, the new team will manifest problems as well. Regardless of whichever team or members we have, there will also be problems and difficulties.
In other words, evil can never be wiped off completely from this earth. The reign of evil and good will continue. God came to realize this stark truth Himself when He remarked, “Never again will I curse the earth because of human beings, because their heart contrives evil from their infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done.” The psalmist puts it succinctly, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Ps 51:5) St John also wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8) Thus, we see in the history of humanity and the plan of salvation, the cycle of sin and grace, punishment and redemption. God apparently was resigned to this fact when He said, “‘As long as the earth endures: seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
The way to overcome evil is to follow the path of Jesus. The healing of the blind man is but a way to describe the blindness that we are in. Like the blind man, we cannot see the truth. We are lost. Indeed, this was the prayer of Jesus on the cross as well, when He prayed to the Father for His enemies, ““Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34) Blindness can be deliberate, like the Jewish leaders, because of pride and fear; or simply due to ignorance because we cannot see the wider picture. How, then, did Jesus heal the blindness of the people? Through dialogue and engagement!
Firstly, He demonstrated His sensitivity and consideration for those who could not see. “He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.” Jesus was very respectful of the need for privacy. He did not want him to be shocked at the presence of so many eyes staring at him when he could see again. That was why He too him away from the crowd and out of the village. Jesus knew that he needed time to adjust to seeing again. He did not want to shock him or be embarrassed in front of the crowd. We, too, in dealing with people who are not agreeable with us in our faith, doctrines or the things we do, we can explain to them in a way that they are comfortable with. A good teacher or a doctor is one who is able to feel and identify with the fears, anxieties and worries of his students or patients. By entering into their minds, he begins to see, feel and think as they do.
Indeed, we can only effectively help those people we understand or empathize with. People who are judgmental, dogmatic and harsh are those who are not in touch with the sufferings of others. We cannot implement new ideas unless we know what people really want. But when we are able to put ourselves in their shoes, we will be less judgmental because we see through their eyes and identify with their hearts. Only from that vantage point can we appreciate where they are coming from so that we can respond effectively by alleviating their fears.
Secondly, Jesus healed the blind man using means that were common during the primitive time, namely, the use of saliva. The human saliva has healing elements. Dogs and other animals will use their saliva to heal those parts of their body that are injured by licking the wounds. So, too, when Jesus used spittle to heal the eyes of the blind man, He was accommodating Himself so that the healing would be more effective. Indeed, the whole ministry of Jesus was done in this way. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, His teaching was direct to the point, based on daily life examples and not dependent on some convoluted philosophy. He used parables so that His audience could identify with what He wanted to say almost immediately. For that reason, even the simple people could understand Him. The irony is that only the so called wise and intelligent people of the day could not understand Him!
In our dialogue with those who cannot understand our faith, doctrines or positions, we too must speak in a way that they can understand. Connecting with our audience using a language that they can identify with is crucial in communication. Our young people feel estranged from the Church because we speak in an ecclesial language that they cannot relate with. Whilst ecclesial language might sound profound, theologically correct and philosophically impressive, it often goes above the heads of the ordinary person. By not coming down to their level, they will not pay attention to what we are saying. One of the reasons for the popularity of Pope Francis is his candid, straight forward manner in speaking to his audience. He did not use deep theological words or delve in profound abstract philosophical thoughts. His words are always concrete, practical and down to earth in dealing with the daily life challenges at hand. Sometimes, we use abstract words and thoughts to hide our lack of personal contact with life issues. That is why sometimes managers and bosses fail to grow their businesses because they are not looking from the perspective of the needs of the consumer but from what they want to give, tell or sell. A leader or teacher must walk the ground first and not just sit on his high chair, meting out solutions without a first-hand knowledge of the ground issues.
Thirdly, we are reminded of the patience of Jesus. In other miracles, the cure was instant and complete. But in the case of the blind man, it took several stages. “The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly.” In helping people to understand, we too must be patient. Not everyone can understand immediately and clearly. Some of us have higher IQ and EQ. Some of us are blocked by our past experiences which prevent us from seeing new experiences with a docile heart. So we must allow time for growth.
Truth is not something we grasp totally in one lesson. Some take a longer time to grasp the fullness of the truth. So we should not imagine that the same truth spoken will be grasped with the same knowledge and understanding by all. This is an important reminder for us all. No one becomes a mature Christian overnight. No one becomes a real priest just because he has been ordained. Just because we are baptized, ordained and appointed to an office does not mean that we know everything or have become a full-fledged Christian and priest. Growth is a process and we need to accept the process. Just like in a marriage, growing in love for each other is a lifelong process. Marriage is just the beginning of love. Baptism is the beginning of a long journey to grow in faith in Christ and in discipleship.
Finally, when all that is done, there is also a warning from the Lord. “Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’” Those who are healed and can see now are under a greater obligation to live righteously. Those who are ignorant and blind could be forgiven. But if we know the truth and yet go against it, then the punishment would be even more severe because we cannot claim that we are ignorant. We will have greater difficulties in forgiving ourselves, not so much on the side of God. So once enlightened and healed, we must walk the new path shown to us and not go back to our past, the “village” that conditioned our minds and paralyzed us. Instead, like the psalmist, we give thanks to God by living a life of justice and truth. “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name. A thanksgiving sacrifice I make to you, O Lord. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people. O precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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