Fourth Sunday in Catholic Ordinary Time: “Evil, Me?”

Good_vs_Evil_by_umerr2000It’s great to be a sinner. I’m glad to be a sinner.

How much of our lives are in search of a sinless existence?  “Someday!”  “Just one more rosary!”  “Just one more indulgence fulfilled!”  “Just two more good deeds and I’m sinless forever!”  There’s only two recorded cases of sinless people as far as I know (and only Catholics believe one of them is Mary, although the majority don’t really think about it much.)

But we are sinners.  And throughout our lives we lament, remorse, guilt-ridden, harbor and fight with ourselves over what, our nature?  We do not have a sinless nature, otherwise we were not born from the loins of Adam and Eve.  But we were.

I wouldn’t want to be sinless.  Know why?  Because then I wouldn’t know what evil or wrongdoing is like.  I’d be immune and oblivious to it because I would only know good.  (Are my wings and halo showing?)

We ought to be celebrating our sins because it leads us daily to God.

Sinless folks don’t worry about a union with God since it is already present.  We, however, in our sinful, nefarious ways and behavior know all about sin, transgressions and other sordid selfish acts that cause us to discover and rediscover a forgiving and loving God.

Does a sinless person rely on a forgiving God?  Of course not. Why would he/she?

Today’s gospel (Mark 1:21-28) presents a problem that has always puzzled me.  It is always the demons and unclean spirits that recognize who Jesus is and what he’s about.  “Get away from me, Jesus of Nazareth!” and “What do you want from me?” are strewn throughout the gospels.  It is because of their evil that they know and question the good. It is because of the evil they have chosen.  You can only choose if you have a choice.  Sinless people have no choice. Evil people choose not to do good, to be good.  It is because of their evil that they’ve become uncomfortable, unsettling roaming spirits with no place to call home.

When I visited the Dachau concentration camp it was a haunting experience.  I knew what to expect but I couldn’t help but wonder with Munich, a major metropolitan city, only a short 30 minute train ride away what it meant to those German citizens during those dark, evil years.  As Christians, they knew about the goodness and love of God…most of our famous Christian theologians are German.  Yet…yet… and I don’t have an answer, only the question.

Why?  Because I’m a sinner too!  How else could I know what warped and skewed thinking they were thinking when Christian tolerance condoned and even encouraged outrageous acts.

The prayer between the “Our Father” and the concluding doxology still bothers me in the new translation of the Mass.  It says, “free us from all sin.”  I don’t want to be free from all sin.  I don’t want to be sinless.  I want to keep sinning in order to know about the good or evil that I can choose to discard and when good is forgotten to feel the forgiveness of God.  I want to keep sinning so I can recognize evil when I see it and then call it by its proper name.

I want to keep sinning so that I can tell the difference between good and bad.

The beginning of the Easter Vigil has that beautiful, sung prayer when the priests sings, “Oh, happy fault of Adam’s sin.”  How happy we can be in the forgiving and powerful peace that God offers us each and every day.

I don’t know about you but I know about me.  Right after Mass I most likely will commit a sin between 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.  Why?  Because I’m a sinner and I like that.

I sin, God forgives.  It’s not an endless cycle unless you want it to be.  It is called moving from an unclean spirit to one that is trying his best to know the difference between evil and good.  And then choosing the good.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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