Taking evil with good
How can the perpetrators of a killing, which the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate had determined to be premeditated, have charges against them downgraded, then be reinstated to their jobs in the Philippine National Police? How can a Korean businessman be killed right at the national police headquarters, and his police killers subsequently extort ransom money from his family as if he were still alive? How can the mayor of a Bohol town be murdered by her own husband, himself a government official, who in the account of his cousin, shot her and dumped her body into the sea? How can thousands of suspected drug dependents and pushers be summarily executed in the streets without due investigation by a government that appears to openly condone extrajudicial killings?
Jesuit Fr. Jose “Jun” Embile began his homily with these musings in the Mass I attended at Cebu City’s Sacred Heart Parish last Sunday, and he got me thinking. The gospel was on Jesus Christ’s parable of the farmer who, upon seeing many weeds among his crop of wheat, instructed his workers not to uproot them. Let them grow together, he said, pointing out that the weeds can be separated from the wheat at harvest. Yet every good farmer knows this is not a good idea, as the weeds would take valuable soil nutrients away from the good crop. But, Father Jun said, “Jesus reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways. He wants to show us that he is patient and forbearing with the sinner, and warns us not to be less patient than God himself.” God is concerned with everyone’s salvation, not with their destruction, he said. “No sick person is not worth being given a healing hand. No sinner is beyond forgiving. No drug dependent is beyond saving.”
There is indeed so much evil in our midst, to the point that we are often led to feel that our society rewards and reinforces doing wrong, while those who do good are the ones who suffer and become victims of an unjust, corrupt, and even evil system. We grit our teeth when we see patently dishonest, incompetent, or arrogant officials strutting about in the government, enjoying and brandishing their power, while good ones get kicked out, are made to suffer dishonor, and even imprisoned. We feel unjustly oppressed when the government raises new revenues by penalizing obedient and compliant taxpayers with more taxes, while big-time tax evaders continue to escape paying their due share. On the streets, we all hate it when undisciplined motorists cut in front of us, or create an improper counterflow lane in a long traffic queue while we diligently and patiently wait in our proper place, and they manage to get ahead and get away with it.
The message of the gospel is not easy to take, but it is about exercising patience and showing tolerance for other people’s faults or imperfections. Christianity teaches that it is not for humans to pass judgment on fellow humans, for that prerogative is God’s alone. Are we to tolerate evil and wrongdoing around us, then? Not at all, asserted Father Jun. “We must abhor sin, but we must never stop loving the sinner. We need to put a stop to what destroys our human dignity and wellbeing. We need to put a stop to violations of basic human rights because every human person has a right to exist, including criminals.”
Weeds are everywhere, even in the choicest of plots. We are scandalized by the many hypocrites in the Church itself. There are Pharisees who beat their breast and pray on their knees, including priests and ministers who live a shady private life behind their saintly public face. Many people go to church on Sundays and holidays without fail, give generously to the church, but live lives that belie the very principles they profess. Indeed, one can be certain that there is no church, of any religion or denomination, that can claim to be pure and devoid of hypocrites. But that should not deter us from doing good, and aspiring to be the good harvest among the weeds.
In the end, we are accountable to our God for the good and evil that we do. One thing is sure: God gives us all the chance to turn from evil to good. And it is not for us humans to deprive anyone of that chance.
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