Moral evil is too widely recognisable to be dismissed as merely a religious notion. It thrives precisely because so many choose to ignore its existence. Like the Psalmist, we recognise our complicity and seek forgiveness.
But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate."
Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate." The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication. (R./)
If you, O Lord, mark iniquities,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered. (R./)
I trust in the Lord;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the Lord. (R./)
For with the Lord is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
and he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities. (R./)
Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture - "I believed, and so I spoke" - we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Jesus came to the house with his disciples; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" - for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
Evil is not easily routed from our lives. The serpent raises its ugly head elsewhere. Satan is alive and well, in the interminable conflicts of our world, and in the drug-gangs that ravage our streets with heroin, cocaine and other drugs. The old maxims are often vindicated by events. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." We can also recall the Shakespearean maxim: "The evil men do lives after them." It never ceases to astonish us how in a Nazi Germany or a Stalinist Russia, or in the promoting of the "Arab Spring" is how so many people, seemingly decent and well-motivated', can be got to connive in violent and divisive policies. And as Edmund Burke once said: "For evil to triumph, it is enough that good men do nothing." Too many people are content look the other way, while refugees throng in camps or are sent back to places of destruction. In a visionary poen Yeats expressed this tragic sense: "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity."
It has become fashionable in our time to reject the doctrine of original sin, which, the catechism said, left us "prone to evil." But in myriad ways our daily newspapers confirm this doctrine. Four times each day, morning, midday, evening and night, newscasters chronicle in words and pictures the spectacle of man's inhumanity to man. Through our mass-media, no generation was ever better informed than ours of the effects of original sin. We can think of many spectacular examples. Our own sins may be less newsworthy but nonetheless deadly. The psalmist speaks for all of us. "If you, 0 Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive? But with you is found forgiveness:For this we revere you."
The threat of evil in human existence is deep and widespread. The Genesis text deals with the origin of evil — it comes both from outside man (as the Serpent-Tempter) and also from within. The human condition with its experience of disharmony in human relationships and in our relationship with God is presented as a fall from the ideal, and this disharmony which is the essence of evil, is the result of sin.The homily might develop the notion of evil from contemporary examples — e. g. of political and social discord fragmenting societies with oppression and violent revolution, disharmony in family life, and the resulting chain reaction of bitter responses. Just as in the case of Adam and Eve, sin is never a private affair; it always has social implications, for others are affected.
The parable of Jesus about disharmony has a wider resonance than just a single household: a house divided cannot stand. Equally we can see that a humanity radically divided and fighting against itself cannot survive, since the ingenious creativity of science has produced enough destructive power to render our world totally uninhabitable. One of the paradoxes of the human situation seems to be that the more control we develop over the world and the more goods we can produce, the more the possibilities for evil also proliferate. This is the Achilles heel, the radical flaw in our fallen human state.
This ambiguity is suggested in Genesis where it says: "He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Human achievements are so often flawed; we can build our towers to the heavens but they become a Babel of confusion and races. What hope is there then for us? The Gospel provides a way forward. What was hinted at in Genesis came to its full revelation in the ministry of Jesus, who worked to fully overcome the power and influence of evil. What he revealed in action was God's power restoring creation — healing women and men and making them whole again. From here on our humankind is no longer left on its own in a hopeless struggle against evil. It is now possible for us to share in the new creation, if we belong to Christ.
The best gifts of God can be rejected, as we can see from the Jewish leaders' cynical reaction Jesus. Pride, the desire to make oneself the arbiter of all that is good, motivates them to see in Jesus not the visible power of the Spirit of God, but a trick of the devil. What seemed to be good they could not deny but only reinterpret, in order to cling to their own fixed position. Such a closed mentality is censured by Jesus - for we must be ready to see God's goodness in unexpected places. Our road back to the new creation involves openness and humility. It is a journey that does not involve positions of guaranteed privilege. Even the blood relatives of Jesus have no special standing in the kingdom. To belong to Jesus is equally open to all; the only condition is our readiness to commit oneself to doing the Father's will. This was the commitment that Adam and Eve failed to make but which is opened up to us in Christ.
The account of these events in this Gospel passage has a strong flavor of realism about it. We can imagine members of his family wanting to take charge of someone they think has lost touch with reality and is exposing himself to public scrutiny. He is running the risk of incurring the wrath of public officials and that can't be a good thing. And what will the neighbours be saying after he leaves? These events also give us an insight into what kind of person Jesus was, his radical approach to things and what appears to be his bluntness. Because you and I identify ourselves with what Jesus taught, we naturally want to know more about the real Jesus who did the teaching.
How much of the real Jesus can we find in the Gospels? After all, the evangelists had a purpose in mind and it wasn't to give us the character of Jesus as if they were writing a biography. They were expressing their faith in Jesus as God's Son and trying to share that with us. We do get an almost shocking glimpse of the reality of Jesus' life in today's Gospel. At this moment, they thought that he might be a bit crazy, an exaggeration perhaps, but at least eccentric to the point of being a danger to himself.
Why do we want to know about Jesus? We can't be exactly like him, since our circumstances are very different. But we would at times like to react as he would react were he in our place. In the Gospels, it was more the message than the man that the writers were interested in. The theological side of Jesus is that he is God's Son who became like us. But notice the difference in how that is portrayed. In John Jesus is, "The word became flesh and dwelled among us" and that is John's Christmas story. Mark has no Xmas story and all the stuff for our Christmas cards comes from Matthew and Luke.
We see the warm humanness of Jesus when he told us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and find the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was not just theology speaking, it was his humanity. Each time his words motivate someone to go out in the city streets and find a place for the homeless or collect money for the poor and opening shelters and soup kitchens, it was less the divinity of Christ and more his humanity that was the motive and it has been doing this for the last 2000 years since his death. Jesus did say that whatever we do to the least of his sisters and brothers, we do to him. This is how we show the love of God and share in the redemption of God which Christ made possible.
The thing that amazed those who knew him and heard him was how he spoke with authority. This did not referring to the manner in which he said things. While the statements were authoritarian in tone, what he said made such eminent sense and was so obviously right, that it was the ideas themselves that possessed the authority and not so much Jesus and his credentials.
A special characteristic of Jesus was his intimacy with God. He refereed to God as his Father. He said the two of them were in fact one. But the reality is that because of that and the vocation of Christ, you and I are capable of being one with God and for eternity. We can now become more intimate with God. We have God portrayed to us as having unbounded love, providence and forgiveness. We can see all these things as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us. The Father's Kingdom is on earth as well as in heaven. He provides daily bread, forgives in the same proportion as we forgive. He is able to deliver us from evil. We have Jesus to thank for that prayer and those insights.
As we do with most human beings, we want to judge the effectiveness of Jesus as a person. We simply have to ask, what was the outcome of his ministry and teaching? After two thousand years you and I are still living what he taught. These years since he died on the cross have seen people, motivated by Jesus: preserving knowledge and education in monasteries during ages some people call dark, founding institutions to care for the sick and the dying, inspiring some of the greatest art, music and architecture. And today we hear his family thinking that he had gone mad. You and I can smile when we hear that. It was a madness driven by zeal and love. It was madness, we know now, not in the sense of gone mad but in the sense of mad about. He was mad about us and about the Father. In his humanity he express compassion in so many ways.
Bear in mind that the writers of these Gospels knew the end of the story. They had experienced his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the Pentecost and seen how rapidly the early Church began to spread. Many of the things they tell us were colored by that Knowledge. But through it all, if we read between the lines, the real Jesus comes through with his humanity as well as his divinity. In this passage he portrays himself as considering you and me to be his mother, brother or sister. There is little that could make him more attractive to us than that. (WJH)
Is deacair an ruaig a chur ar an donas as an saol seo. Ní leasc leis an nathair (an diabhal) a cheann gránna a ardu in áiteanna eile. Tá Satan beo agus go faoi bhláth i lár coimhlintí leaúnacha an tsaoil, sna handúlaigh drugaí a siúlann na ár sráideanna le heroin, cóicín agus drugaí eile. Is minic go mbíonn fírinnne na nathanna cainte is na seanfhocail ins himeachtaí a fheicimíd ar an nuacht gach oíche. Bíonn na mílte samplaí de "Truailliú cumhachta" ann. Is féidir linn tuairim Shakespeare a thabhairt chun cuimhne freisin: "A t'olc a dhéanann daoine ina saol, fanann sé beo ina ndiaidh." Is iontach linn mar a tharla sa Ghearmáin fad a bhí Hitler agus na Nazis i réim, nó sa Rúis le linnn do Stalin a bheith i gceannas nó iadsan a chuir chun cinn "Earraigh Arabacha" - an oiread sin daoine, réasúnta agus dea-spreagtha, , curtha i ngleic le polasaithe foréigneacha agus dúnmharfach. Mar a dúirt Edmund Burke tráth dá raibh: "Chun go mbéadh an bhua ag an olc, is leor neamhchúram na ndéanann daoine córa." Tá an iomarca daoine sásta breathnú ar an mbealach eile, fad is atá eachtranna ag dul isteach sna campaí dídean nó iad siúd a seoltar ar ais chuig áiteanna scriosta. Chuir Yeats an tuiscint tragóideach seo in iúl: "Tá an taoide fola saor, agus i ngach áit / Tá searmanas na neamhchiontachta báite; Idir an chuid is fearr, tá easpa iomlán creidimh, agus san chuid is measa Tá siad lán de dhéine paiseanta".