Theme: Sin by any other name is sin
While defining the word name William Shakespeare said that whatever we call a rose, by any other name would smell sweet and whatever we call sin, by any other name would still be sin! In our contemporary society, we tend to minimize sin by calling it other names. There is a tendency to ignore evil and to behave as if sin is dead. The truth is that sin has not disappeared; it has simply changed its name. Much of sin is now called crime, immoral and illegal. Sins like murder, robbery, adultery and lying are simply defined as criminal acts. Because of this paradigm shift, many of us are unable to see sin as a disaster.
First reading: Genesis 3:9–15
The reality of human sin has been dulled by calling it other names such as crime, illegal, thus granting it a permanent stage to reign. Because of this, signs of sin such as feeling guilty and getting shamed before God and humanity are diminishing. The truth remains that the fall of humanity from grace is a consequence of sin. When we become accountable and then start to think and act rightly, then we start making a way out of our mess. Discrediting and repudiating the truths can never grant a solution. Smart people do not simply get rid of sin phobia by ignoring it; instead, they look for the cause and deal with it to the end. Sin is not simply recognition of unnecessary and artificially imposed inferiority, but true guilt and fear of what happens when humanity declares a successful “coup et detat” on the scale of values.
Regardless of how craftily sin and guilt may be defined; thinking people who are in touch with reality and humble enough to recognize the truth when it slaps them in the face, will understand the message of today’s first reading. The story of the fall reminds us of the fact that human beings have been created as free agents by God. Instructed in the ways of goodness, men and women are nevertheless have been capable of rejecting this goodness in favour of their own willful and proud desires thus inheriting a permanent misery for generations.
Our consolation is that, even when free human choices cause things to go crooked, God does not abandon us; instead, he comes searching and calling “where are you?”Genesis 3:9. When face to face with God, sinful humanity becomes aware of itself and its deeds and gets shamed. In God’s presence, no alibi can substitute the truth. Adam blamed Eve and indirectly accused God that “the woman whom you put here with me” Genesis 3:12. Eve in turn blamed the serpent, yet all were in collusion to defy God. In the process of accepting accountability, the serpent accepted to be the original seducer associated with evil an image that represents the ongoing struggle between good and evil. Due to sin all of humanity has been affected; not because it is genetically transmitted but because of subscribing to false solidarity. Only solidarity with God can fully enable us to redeem our lost glory who assures us that goodness will never be overcome by evil.
Second reading: 2Corinthians 4:13:5–1
René Descartes the teacher of the impossible stated ‘Cogito, ergo sum/I think, therefore I am’ Le Discours de la méthode 1637. For Descartes, the consciousness of himself as intelligent and rational helped him to deduce his existence, the existence of God and the physical universe as clearly necessary to a coherent whole. For Paul, it was the belief that was foundational. Centring the meaning of his existence on a higher plan than rational thought, Paul claimed that his beliefs impelled him to speak cf.2Corinthians 4:13. His faith in Jesus’ dying and rising necessarily issued forth in a proclamation of that good news and enabled him to put his trust in an unseen future of everlasting glory.
By faith, Paul was certain that human existence was not an unfortunate series of coincidences but a life ordered to the benefit of humanity by God. Paul believed that with God’s grace bestowed in abundance, any believer was capable of facing the exigencies of life with self-control and gratitude. Even where death was evident, the resurrection of body was a permanent remedy since it would break camp and rest secure in God’s home in heaven. In our daily struggle to cope with sin and evil, we are not alone; God’s grace is ever present.
Gospel: Mark 3:20–35
When humanity comes face to face with selfless love, the obvious reaction is doubt, criticism and mistrust. Jesus who is the fullness of love dared to confront evil with truth by pointing out erroneous rituals and traditions which left him vulnerable to scorn and rejection. When Jesus went about doing good and proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of God, some of his closest relatives thought he was out of his mind cf. Mark 3:21. Although they remained concerned about him, his family was hard pressed to understand how he had chosen to live his life. He had left his home at Nazareth along with the carpenter business shifting camp to become a healer and a street preacher. In their eyes, he had thrown away security and safety and chosen a path which appeared to be on a collision course with the civil and religious authorities of his day, a choice that was by all standards dangerous.
The Pharisees less sympathetic with him accused him of being possessed by a demon and attributed his power to do good as being sponsored by Satan cf. Mark 3:21, 29. Jesus would term their failure to discern the presence of the Spirit as blasphemy that can never be forgiven. The trouble with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is that it is a perversion of mind which chooses to call light darkness. Persistence in this perversion makes one resistant to any movement of repentance and closes one to forgiveness. This is the original sin of self salvation.
Appealing to those who attacked his goodness and in answer to the family who thought he had lost his mind cf. Mark 3:20-22, Jesus explained that those who claim to be his relatives by mere words are not in any privileged position, it is rather those who listen to his word and accept it as truth and put it in practice that are genuine relatives. All those who acknowledge his divine origin and are able call God as father are family members. To sustain this we are encouraged do the will of God, sharpen our sensitivities to sin and live true life.
The main way to win God given freedom is by looking hard at sin and call it by its name; if not, sin will systematically destroy us. Sin as a struggle between good and evil is an activity that is becoming impossible to sustain. We need God’s grace to gain courage so as not to lose heart in this struggle. In today Jesus is accused of being in collusion with Satan and even being out of his mind, yet it is humanity which is perpetually in bed with evil and out of sound mind. Putting evil in its place and pointing it out by its name is the only way to defeat it.
Fr Paulino Mondo