DULLNESS OF MIND


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [GEN 6:5-8; 7:1-5,10; PS 29:1-4,9-10; MARK 8:14-21 ]

When Jesus was on the cross, He said this prayer for those who asked for His death and the executioners who brought about His death, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Lk 23:34)  Indeed, this is the secret of God’s forgiveness.  If Jesus could forgive His enemies, it was because He was convinced that they were ignorant of what they were doing, even though objectively they did grave injustice towards Him by condemning Him to death for a political crime, or for that matter, a religious crime that He did not commit.

Indeed, this is true for us as well.  If we cannot forgive those who have hurt us and even if they hurt us grievously, it is because we really believe that they did it deliberately and purposefully.  Logically, no one in Singapore should commit a crime, especially of molestation, rape, murder or fraud because the chance of being caught and receiving a heavy sentence is almost certain.  Yet, why do they take chances, smuggling drugs and committing crimes, hoping that they could get away?   At the bottom of all human actions is the lack of perception.  It is our ignorance of the depth and folly of our sinful actions that we commit sin.

Indeed, sin is deceitful and this is why many of us are tempted to sin.  This is what the letter of Hebrews tells us.  “Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  (Heb 3:12f) Again, the book of Wisdom makes it clear, “wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.”  (Wisdom 1:4) And the prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse – who can understand it?  I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.”  (Jer 17:9f)

If we are foolish, it is because of ignorance and the dullness of the intellect, which is the consequence of original sin.  Adam and Eve were tricked by the Devil to eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden so that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God.  Indeed, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”  They lost their innocence and their ability to see goodness in everyone and in everything.  Instead, their minds dulled, they must now choose between what is good and what is evil.  Because they lost the preternatural gift of infused knowledge, they could not distinguish clearly what is good and evil, much less the power and capacity to do good when they know it.

Indeed, this was the case of the first generations of the human race.  After the sin of Adam and Eve, sin increased.  From the sin of Cain, it grew until man became so wicked.  “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that the thoughts in his heart fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long. The Lord regretted having made man on the earth, and his heart grieved.”   God, who is the God of love, cannot but feel sorry for humanity when He saw how they were hurting each other and destroying themselves, just as parents feel grieved for their wayward children.  The regret of God was not so much that He regretted creating man but that man did not respond to His invitation to share in His love and life.  Is not this how we feel when our loved ones go astray? We try to save him or her but they would not respond to our love.  We cause so much grief to those who love us when we continue to choose the wrong path.  However, no one grieves as much as God because His love for us is complete and unconditional.

Nevertheless, not only those who sinned are ignorant.  There is a more insidious and subtle form of sin in disguise under hypocrisy.  This is another form of ignorance, of oneself and one’s motive in trying to be good.  Jesus warned the disciple of the sin of hypocrisy. He said, “Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”  The Pharisees in truth were actually good people.  They may be likened to our priests, religious and all the pious and holy men and women in our church.  They sought to live the commandments of Moses.  They sincerely wanted to live a righteous life.  They knew that they could not fulfill the commandments themselves.  They too broke the law.

But it was rather difficult for them to admit that they were sinners.  After all, they were the ones preaching and teaching others to observe the laws.  As a result, they lived a double life.  In public, they appear to be holy and righteous.  However, in their personal life, they live a life of sin.  This explains why St Paul told the Jews, “you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself?’  (cf Rom 2:17-24)  This explains the hypocrisy among priests, religious and so-called pious Catholics.  It is embarrassing to admit before others that we are sinners, that we have sinned and broken the commandments.  This is because we want people to respect us and think well of us, just like the Pharisees.  Without acknowledging our sins and confessing them in humility, we cannot grow in life.

Then there are those who are impatient and ignorant of the mercy and love of God.  We think that the best way to rid of evil is to get rid of evil people and remove them from the face of the earth.  The attempt to purify the world by getting rid of evil men from the face of the earth obviously did not work. The Lord said, “I will rid the earth’s face of man, my own creation and of animals also, reptiles too, and the birds of heaven; for I regret having made them.”  The truth that even in the most evil of worlds and even of men, there is a tinge of goodness as well.  We read that in the midst of so many evil men, “Noah had found favour with the Lord.”  So the world will never be completely without grace and good holy people, just as we cannot avoid the presence of evil and sinful men.  God said later, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”  (Gn 8:21)  We must therefore allow good and evil to co-exist and let them be purified by each other till they become perfected in Christ.  The master said, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” (cf Mt 13:24-30)

However, not only were the sinners and the Pharisees ignorant, the disciples were no better because they could not yet come to understand that Jesus was their Lord and master.  Jesus reprimanded them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?” “They answered, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?'” They were so blind that they could not recognize that in the multiplication of loaves, the New Moses was before them, feeding them with the New Manna from heaven, the bread of life.  Jesus was their teacher and was delivering them from slavery to sin and bringing them to the Promised Land of grace and salvation.

So let us ask the Lord for wisdom and understanding so that we might be patient, longsuffering and merciful in the face of sin and evil.  With the psalmist, let us “give the Lord glory and power; give the Lord the glory of his name.  Adore the Lord in his holy court.”  Only God who is all mercy and wise, will in His providential plan somehow redeem creation and restore it to its pristine order.   He will purify us through the waters of baptism.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved


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