Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
In today’s readings, the epistle of James presents the unambiguous diagnosis that the root of evil lies in human passions, in what forms and how these desires are made manifest.
Though it is obviously normal for any human being to express what it needs or yearns for in life, the problem starts when a person or a social entity deems itself free, uninhibited and with relatively little accountability to decide what it wants and how to obtain it.
There is an uncomfortable fuzziness between what one must justly need and what one unjustly wants, thereby breeding contradicting claims and irreconcilable conflicts that would inevitably taint the promises of an “economy of prosperity for all.” It raises the perpetual question on whether justice or injustice does not exist.
But it still remains our duty as world citizens and followers of the Spirit to tame our desires as best as we can. We can start with the simple consideration of our every desire in relation to another person’s needs: Will the satiation of my “wants” also satisfy the “needs” of the other?
To the best of our knowledge and abilities, we must strive toward the goal of allowing all people to acquire what they need so that no one is in despair for any or all that is necessary for growth and development.
We must remember that there is more than enough for everybody, because our Abba has always guaranteed sufficiency. But the very dynamic of our finiteness on a fragile yet abundant earth demands that we have to learn to share with one another, to take and give back for the continued thriving of succeeding generations.
Plainly speaking there is no other way, for creation runs on a physics of interdependence: One cannot be sustained without eventually sustaining; one cannot have the right without the responsibility; and for every unbalanced action, there may be a more violent counterreaction. It is in this sense that our Lord exhorts us to be the “servant of all,” to cater to and help fulfill each other’s potentialities, while remaining as “little children”, humbly surrendering ourselves and our futures to the graces of God.
On the other hand, when one begins for whatever reason to covet more, to become first or to be independent from God; when one starts having a much higher opinion about himself or herself, on “deserving” more than what others who are “undeserving” crave for, then evil would have also begun showing its deceptive head.
For why would we share, sustain or be responsible for those who are “undeserving?” For why would we need to ask or beg, when we can just take what we “deserve?” But in this setting up of ourselves against God and others, to possess what we think we deserve, we will soon face the paradoxical risk of losing everything to an uncontrollable social chaos. The tragedies of human history can be traced back to this illusion of an inordinate passion for “what is just and right for oneself.”
The problem of evil does not arise because there are rich and poor people; it arises depending on what rich people think about or do to poor people. If “those who have more” will have more compassion and obligation – in direct proportion to their accumulations – to tax themselves of their excesses for the sake of “those who have less,” then we will have accomplished with God the elusive harmony of his kingdom.
Justice is constituted less through an equality of “the end” but more in an equality of “the means to the end:” each one of us must have the chance of being nurtured by what has passed, and to nurture what is to come.
The problem of evil also arises depending on what rich people think about or how they engage God. Anybody’s success must not leave the impression that they are triumphant in spite of him, and that whatever has been given to them, did not come from him. If “those who have more” will have more humility and sense – in direct proportion to their accumulations – to realize that we do not own anything, then we will have understood with God our true role as stewards of his creation.
Charity is constituted less through “what I can do for him whom I love” but more through “what he whom I love has done for me:” each one of us must be both a cheerful giver and receiver of his forgiveness and blessings.
Evil has led us to the crucifixion of the Christ. It is because of our evil ways that we have condemned a righteous man to a “shameful death,” but is it not to our own “shameful deaths” we are bringing ourselves?
His memory will continue to haunt us for as long as our pride and selfishness exists. But when we do change and turn away completely from the evil that we do, through holy humility and selfless service, by patiently and obediently following him in his sacrifice, then his cross will become a treasure in times of trial, and our deaths a glorious entry into his sacred eternal presence.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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