Thursday, March 05, 2020

Good and evil

Gospel for Holy Communion: Matthew 7:7-12

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~ Jesus

Good and evil. We love to compartmentalise things, to put people in boxes. There are evil people: [paedophiles; immigrants; if you live in America, socialists]. And there are good people: [for many of us, read, People Like Me].

Jesus will have none of it. It is simply a matter of fact, to him, that we are all evil. The word he uses has its roots in ‘pain-ridden,’ a pain resulting from toil or struggle. And we all know how human beings inflict pain on one another, unintentionally as well as intentionally. We all live with the struggle, and its attendant exhaustion, of trying and inevitably failing to do no harm. We recognise that, in the sense that Jesus uses the term, if not in the way we have limited its meaning today, I am evil, and so are you.

And yet, Jesus says, human beings, in their human condition, are capable of doing good, of giving good gifts to others. The word he uses is agatha — once a familiar girl’s name, now considered old-fashioned — and it means, inherently good. We are all evil, and we are all doers of that which is inherently good. All of us.

This is the paradox Jesus, and the Bible as a whole, demands we hold in tension.

Many of us believe that we are good, and not evil. Others of us believe that we are inherently evil, incapable of amounting to any good. Certainly, we like to believe that of others.

And we really struggle to come to terms with the revelation that a (hu)man like Jean Vanier, who gifted the world with such inherent good in creating communities of nurture for those with learning disabilities, could also cause so much pain, sexually exploiting six of the women who came to serve to make that inherently good dream a reality.

The season of Lent invites us, once again, to see ourselves and our neighbour with sober judgement. To see ourselves as God sees us — as beloved children, on whom he has compassion. And to depend on him for all that we need to share with one another.

For what inherently good thing do you need to ask today? Forgiveness? Healing? A lifting of burdens? Sobriety in how we see ourselves and speak of others? The creative order that brings chaos into harmony?

Don’t give up. For those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and to those who keep knocking the door will be opened.

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