Opposing Evil without Doing Evil
One of the important questions of our time (and of all times really) is how we can oppose evil without causing more and greater evil. If this is a perennial question then it is not surprising that Jesus would address it and shed some light and wisdom on it. Such is the case with today’s Gospel of “The Wheat and the Darnel.”
Today’s Gospel follows The Parable of the Sower we had last week. Then, we reflected that the primary focus shouldn’t be on the individual and the type of soil they provide for the seed of the Word of God, rather the focus should be on the Sower who indiscriminately sows seed everywhere on all human beings who find themselves in all kinds of soil conditions. The Sower just keeps broadcasting the seed everywhere knowing that a good harvest will result in the end.
But what about the darnel, the weeds, sown in the middle of the night by the enemy (the Evil One)? The question is asked of the owner of the field, should we pull them up? And what does the owner (God) say: No. For in pulling up the weeds you will also pull out some good wheat. Let them grow together until the harvest.
This teaching of Jesus is perhaps the most important for our own time. Yes, people are doing real evil in the world and we want to stop them, but what if trying to stop them we do even greater evil to good and innocent folks. Two examples, of many, come to mind: Pearl Harbor and September 11th. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused the deaths of over 2500 people, mostly military, and set in action a horrific war that caused many more casualties. But to end all the evil done to us, we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and caused the deaths of over 250,000
people, mostly civilians. On September 11th, 3500 people tragically lost their lives in the Twin Tower attacks in an hour and this set in motion a plan of revenge (based on inaccurate information and lies) that resulted in years of warfare and killed over 350,000 mostly innocent people, and the deaths and maiming of thousands of our own soldiers. Doesn’t Jesus’ teaching of letting the weeds grow alongside the good wheat make sense? This may be hard for us to hear and accept, but I now realize what Jesus means when he says “Let those with ears, hear.”
The Evil One only has to sow a few weed seeds to mess things up and doesn’t have to do anything else. Good people will do the rest. In the effort to get rid of, or respond to the evil done in the world, good folks will do the work. The problem is that this creates more evil in the world, more death, to the enjoyment of the clever Evil One, successful in causing more pain, suffering, and death than ever.
We need Jesus’ wisdom to not try to root out evil in the conventional ways it has always been done: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This is not Jesus’ way at all. But, many say, that statement is in the bible! They take it out of context completely. Jesus said
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone want to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
This is the wisdom of Jesus in the face of evil: let the evildoer be shamed in front of everyone who will surround the victims with love and compassion. People are always watching (especially today!!) so, if someone backhands you on the right cheek, offer the left for a regular punch. If someone demands your coat, take off all your clothes, down to your underwear. If someone forces you to go a mile, go two miles (a Roman soldier could force anyone to carry his heavy pack one mile) and let everyone see what a real wimp the soldier is. Let the evildoers be shamed, but don’t cause more evil yourself by responding with hate and revenge. This is a passive response. A second response is more active: “Let the weeds grow until the harvest.” The Greek word for “let or permit” is aphete which comes from the same root as apheimi which means “forgive.” Real forgiveness and love of the perpetrator of violence puts us under God’s power and ultimate victory.
Sadly, sometimes we are called to endure suffering for a greater good (causing less evil). The Good News is that God does have our back, just as he had Jesus’ back and raised him up after Jesus suffered evil. Let’s conclude with St. Paul’s reflection from today’s second reading:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8)
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.