What does evil look like? I suppose most of us could, with relative ease, respond to that question without much hesitation. The 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the senseless deaths of hundreds of innocent people - that is evil. The torture and murder of a gifted young teacher in New York City apparently for his ATM card - that is evil. The stray bullets of gang rivalry that strike and paralyze a small child in its mother’s arms - that’s evil. And, of course, the quintessential example of senseless death and destruction at the beginning of this century, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York that took the lives of thousands of individuals, that’s evil. In each of these and countless other situations which sadly confront us on almost a daily basis, we find ourselves looking into the face of evil and wrestling with the all too human response of “Why?”
For those in our society who might wish to dismiss the reality of the demonic as merely the foolish holdover of a pre-scientific age steeped in superstition, they need only open their eyes to seethat it tragically surrounds us. It has seduced our personal and national consciences. It lurks in our cities, in our families and like a cancer is eating away at the heart of our society.
After sketching out this rather bleak picture of evil and society today, some of you might be saying to yourselves - “Gee, Monsignor must of had a lousy week! I didn’t check out his Blog post for bad news - I have enough of that all week. I’m here for good news!”
And your right, we all come to God’s Word and Sacrament, week after week to be renewed and transformed by Good News. Yet, that good news that comes to us in Jesus will never truly take root in our lives - will never truly be the transforming and life-changing gift for us - if we fail to acknowledge and humbly claim the fact that we are all sinners and that each of us is in need of that change of heart called conversion.
In today’s Gospel from the 3rdchapter of St. Mark, we encounter a phrase that has fueled theological questioning and speculation down through the centuries. In it, Jesus sets before us both good news and bad news. The good news is that “every sin will be forgiven as well as all the blasphemies which we might utter in life”; however, the bad news is that one who “blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, he carries the guilt of his sin without end.” I’ve often asked myself the question, what such blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would look like. What kind of action could you or I do to merit this sole exclusion of God’s forgiving love?
Perhaps such an unforgivable sin is believing that evil in the end will have the final say in life. Perhaps, the ultimate blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to be so seduced by the power of the demonic in our world that we come to believe that God’s transforming grace could never bring about a change of heart in conversion.
An example here, might be helpful. Let’s take Timothy McVey, the perpetrator of the terrible bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. At his eventual trial, the jury’s verdict was unanimous as they convicted him beyond a reasonable doubt of the most horrific act of national terrorism. There’s a part of me that empathizes completely with those who say if ever there’s a candidate for capital punishment, he’s the one. Let the law of the Old Testament with its “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” be fulfilled. However, Pope St. John Paul II, in his masterful Encyclical Letter on “The Gospel of Life,” challenges this mentality which in the end has perpetuated the cycle of violence in the name of justice. Quite frankly, for many, it’s far easier to hear and accept John Paul’s passionate defense of pre-born life than it is his sobering challenge and critique of capital punishment.
As Christians we are called to carry a hope in our heart that every person possesses the possibility of repentance. We believe that no one is excluded from the transforming power of grace that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord - no matter how scared or depraved their life may be. To do otherwise is ultimately to believe that evil is stronger than good, that darkness will overcome the light, that the power of the Holy Spirit - the giver of life and love is limited and conditioned. But to do so is ultimately to blaspheme against the Spirit which in the end is unforgivable.
As we gather this Lord’s Day, let us rejoice in the Good News that continually reminds us that we carry within ourselves an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. In the face of so much “bad news” let our own lives be seeds of hope and promise in a world that is desperately in need of believing and knowing that God is in our midst. Let us pray that the power of His Spirit continues to work through us, who remain the mother, brothers and sisters of the Lord in our world today.