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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Meditation for Sunday: Deliver Us from Evil

by Fr. Tom Collins

The Temptation of Christ: 12th century mosaic at St. Mark's basilica

In Mark's Gospel, we read of Jesus encounter with the devil in the desert immediately after His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus went into the desert to confront Satan, the Father of Evil. It is important to note that evil is not merely a danger, a defect or a shortcoming. Rather, it is a virulently aggressive threat to our character, lives and eternal destiny. Thus it is that Satan and his minions seek to seduce us, so that we adopt attitudes, perspectives and actions, which are seriously detrimental to our lives and relationships. They desecrate ourselves and others. At the same time, they blind us by excuses and resentments to the redemptive graciousness of divine mercy.

In our own age, this has become shockingly evident in the attitudes, perspectives and actions of
Islamic jihadist groups, such as ISIS, Al Q'ueda, Hammas, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab. Yet more
importantly, the vivid portrayal of evil given to us by these groups is merely a reflection of the evils Americans have chosen to embrace over the last half century. While we condemn ISIS for brutally butchering and beheading Christian infants, Catholic politicians and jurists have little or no compunction about promoting and subsidizing the dismemberment and beheading of pre-born children in the womb.
Likewise, ISIS insists that human rights are not inalienably bestowed on each person by God. Rather, following the teaching of the Q'uran, they assert that any human "rights" are actually only privileges graciously but tentatively granted to a person by the government in accordance with Sharia Law. Similarly, progressives in the United States assert that a pre-born child's right to live is derived exclusively from the consent of that child's mother, as long as that child lives within the jurisdiction of its mother's womb. Likewise, many elected officials in our Federal government, supported by activist judges, feel little or no compunction about denying basic human rights, guaranteed in the Constitution. By using bureaucrats to develop a maze of regulations to incrementally degrade our basic civil and human rights, they assert that such rights are not to be recognized and respected by the government, but rather determined by the government in a manner that suits the agendas of politicians and their supporters. Thus politicians have few qualms about abusing the authority entrusted to them to attack, violate or limit our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, whenever the exercise of those rights threaten their political power and agenda.
Many of our government officials, unfortunately, are also in harmony with ISIS in their understanding of morality. For ISIS, morality is determined on the basis of whether a particular action will help to establish an Islamic caliphate. Lies, torture, beheadings, slander, ridicule, rape, kidnapping, narcotics trade and human trafficking are all morally permissible, just so long as they promote the spread of Islam and the establishment of Sharia Law. Their basic code of morality, then, does not consider any action, in itself, to be immoral. Rather, the morality of an action depends on who is doing the action and what agenda such an action is supporting. In America, many of our political leaders have accepted the same moral standard. They assert that it was wrong for the KKK to suppress voting by African-Americans, because such suppression was done by members of the Klan. At the same time, they find nothing wrong with threats of violence being used by the Black Panthers to suppress white voters.
And when a politician, who is pro-choice, commits a crime, the crime is dismissed as of no consequence, with such questions as "What difference does it make?" or "How dare you question me about my private life?". But if that politician is pro-life, the routine use of slander to destroy his/her political clout is "morally permissible". In short, they allege that an action is only morally reprehensible when it is done by someone who dares to question or challenge the ever-evolving progressive secularist agenda.
In Mark's account of Jesus and His desert encounter with Satan, we read that He lived among the wild beasts. But He did not adapt Himself to become a wild beast. Rather, He conscientiously and consistently chose to abide with the holy angels, God's messengers of mercy, hope and righteousness to our world. And He comes out of the desert to proclaim a repentance. Such repentance opens the way for all of humanity to access the mercy, wisdom, reconciliation and peace through faith in Christ and fidelity to the whole truth of God proclaimed in the Gospel. Jesus proclaimed that we are called to live as God's children, not as Pavlov's dogs. By responding to life with truth and love, rather than reacting to life so as to protect our agenda, we can, even now, share in the peace and joy, which this world cannot give.