4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year “B”
Does Evil Exist?
When it comes to the reality of the existence of evil spirit and demonic
possession, there is hardly any agreement among Catholic scripture
scholars. While some consider evil as a phantom of our imagination,
others consider the existence of evil as real. No matter where one
stands on this issue, one thing is clear, if the Gospels do testify that
Jesus drove out demon from people and even commanded unclean
spirits and they obeyed Him, then, there is enough reason to believe
that evil and demonic possession is more than a phantom of human
However, the problem is what we mean by the existence of evil. The
common belief among the Jews during the time of Jesus is that sickness
is caused by evil spirits. To suffer from demonic possession
means that there is something in the person that prevents one from
experiencing wholeness of being. Evil is a disorder or anything that
deprives the human person the joy of experiencing the freedom of the
children of God in the world.
Evil is a deprivation of the good in the human person. It could be a
moral, spiritual, physical, psychological, or emotional deprivation of
wellness. Evil distorts the beauty of the human being created in the
image and likeness of God. Hence, the blind, the lame, lepers, the
sick, the poor, an angry person, murderers, etc. were believed to suffer
from demonic possession.
In this world view, evil does not possess a substantial nature. It enjoys
only an accidental character. It is the absence of the good. Evil may
enjoy continuity but lacks an identity. Evil has no being of its own but
prevails in the absence of the moral, spiritual, physical or psychological
good in a person. To be morally, physically, emotionally or spiritually
depraved of what is good and noble is to suffer from evil spirit.
Evil is a parasite. It lacks an independent existence. In its proper essence,
evil does not possess a being like a human person. It is a deprivation
of the good. Evil is something that destroys the beauty and
complete nature of a person. Since evil is accidental in character, it
can be destroyed, changed or removed without destroying the substantial
quality of a person. This is similar to changing the color of your
car from white to red without changing the nature of your car.
In its true essence the Jewish tradition aims at the well-being of the
human person, but, the institutional nature of these Jewish traditions,
which is built around the Sabbath, rather than destroy evil, seems to
protect it. Acts of mercy and forgiveness were sacrificed on the altar of
the sacredness of the law. Hence, the law was exalted high above
human well-being. The human person destroyed by evil cannot find
salvation from these Jewish institutions and the laws as it was interpreted
by the Scribes and Pharisees. Hence, the people that listened
to the teachings of the Scribes remained in the bondage of sin, ignorance
Jesus comes with a new power and authority. Power and authority
were exercised by Jesus in a manner which has never been seen
before. The power of Jesus word does not lie in the perfect interpretation
of the law but on its appeal to the human heart. The teachings of
the scribes were unable liberate people because the Scribes did not
have an intimate communion with God which Jesus enjoys in abundance.
Jesus preaching evolves from His Being. It is a personal testimony
of His intimate relationship and communion with God. By being
one with God, Jesus message becomes the message of God (Jn
It is like the phrase “I love You.” People can make a singsong of it,
write books on it, use it in poetry, movies, etc. and it will not make any
difference in your life. However, whenever the same phrase “I love
You” comes from a sincere heart, it makes a great difference in the life
of the one that hears it.
Jesus’ word not only appealed to the human heart, He focused His
message on the spirit of the law, unlike the Scribes who focused on
the letter of the law. The ultimate aim of the Gospel message is not
simply to explain the world but to change human life for the greater
glory of God. The original intent of the Sabbath is for the good of the
human person and not for the protection of unjust structures that promote
evil, injustice and human bondage.
Doing good is not seasonal. It is a lifelong project of every baptized
child of God. The Sabbath is meant for the good of the human being;
hence it is not against the mind of God to do good on the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is the day we stay away from manual work in order to
serve God and do God’s work which consists of a radical and preferential
option for the poor and needy (Jn 5:17).
The change of heart which Jesus calls for in the Gospel today is not
simply the feeling of guilt or regret for our sins but a radical commitment
to the removal of those evil forces and unjust structures that
deprive human beings from experiencing wholeness, peace and joy in
Rather than wasting our time arguing about the existence of evil in the
world or trying to identify the nature of evil and demonic possession,
we should aim at destroying all dehumanizing habits and unjust structures
that keep our fellow human being in bondage. The existence of
pain and suffering in the world means that we have work to do. And
like Jesus, we shall keep working even on the Sabbath until the civilization
of love in the world becomes a reality experienced by all and
not just a privileged enjoyed by the few who are protected by unjust
structures imposed by the agents of the devil in the world.
Therefore, the time we spend arguing about the existence of evil is a
wasted time. The evil that destroys us is not the evil with two horns,
which comes from the sky but the hatred in our hearts. Like St. Francis
of Assisi, let us pray that God may make us an instrument of his
peace, so that where there is hatred we may sow the seed of love ....