Lectio: John 3: 13-21. This passage is precious in its entirety — for example it includes John 3:16. But for purposes of this journal entry, I’ll copy only the following: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Theres a boldness required by commitment to the light, to truth, to leading a life of integrity, devoted to the Good. It is a life dedicated to Jesus Christ — that is, the intentional surrender to the sacrament of life in and through God, as manifest in the incarnation, death and resurrection. Most important for me at this point is the conviction of its necessity. This entails the full acknowledgement of my inherent sinfulness — not just “I’ve made so many mistakes”, but that, in some sense and in part, I embody sin. It requires my acknowledgement of my profound cowardice, such that I cannot overcome it alone. Divine intervention is needed, and will not be provided without my voluntary assent, which requires profound humility and surrender — not just in principle, but in the specific and mundane moments of my life. The moments of failure have been many.
The Stoics teach that no man consciously does evil — rather, evil actions and choices are the result of delusory beliefs, even when actions have evil consequences. Recently, I have argued in favor of that point of view, using as examples such extreme cases as Hitler and Trump. It would all be a matter of pathology, not evil intent, not knowing evil, even when it is apparent that others think one’s actions are evil.
And yet: “For every one that doth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
Whether or not certain high profile evildoers were merely ill, rather than willfully evil, I need to consider my own case. I can catalog numerous instances where I chose to do “wrong”, fully aware that I had chosen against virtue. Am I the only one who has ever knowingly told a lie? Used alcohol or illicit drugs to my detriment? Acted to the detriment of others, even those entrusted to my care? I could go on and on.
Often, at such times of conscious choice to do evil, I rationalized it in the name of some imagined greater good. After all, one might virtuously choose to lie to protect a child from abuse by a tyrant, for example. But there were situations in my life when my evil choices were “justified” by the desire to shield myself from inconvenience, discomfort, embarrassment, material loss etc.
It appears that I have sometimes consciously committed evil, and for identifiably dubious intent.
A compassionate reader might charitably excuse these cases as relatively minor; I might want to do the same. Yet I know the damage done to others by my choices.. And, even if nobody had been hurt, would my choices deserve automatic pardon? No, because the stain on my own soul would remain. There is no doubt that I have repeatedly and systematically failed in the duty of stewardship for this one little life entrusted to me by God.
It is only through Christ’s mercy this taint can be absolved — yet with the only reward that I am cleansed enough to continue on the path to do better, hopefully choosing no longer to abhor the light, but stepping boldly into it with dependence upon the Holy Spirit for guidance.