Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Recognizing Evil

Today’s first reading speaks of sin.    But what is sin, really?    We should consider the “big” and meaningful sins Jesus addressed. 

Jesus was principally concerned about the sins of those with power and influence – those in control of the Jewish society and found at the top of the social ladder – those with the riches always seeking more wealth especially in the form of land taken from dispossessed peasants forced into debt with no way to repay, except by selling themselves into slavery as servants.   They tilled and harvested the land they previously owned for the benefit of the new owners (some would say cruel manipulators).

We all have personal sins when we miss the mark – when we disobey God’s commands again and again.  So we ask for forgiveness.  But the biblical meaning of sin is richer than individual wrong-doing.  As Marcus Borg stated in his 2011 book Speaking Christian, “The Bible speaks about, to use modern language, institutionalized sin, systemic sin, sin built into the structures of society.  There is collective cooperate sin causing systemic injustice and systemic violence.”   This is the sin so very difficult to root out with no one asking for forgiveness for the harm they have done.
Consider these statements from Pope Francis who has witnessed some of the worse injustices and violence:

“Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.

In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter.

The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them. These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible. Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual." 

Our Pope recognizes evil when he sees it, and he asks us to do the same.

Deacon David Pierce

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