HomeCommentaryCo-existence of Good and Evil

Co-existence of Good and Evil

The Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat reminds me of an embarrassing blunder I committed when I was still a seminarian. I was then one of the writers for our newsletter and I was instructed to write a short notice on a book written by my spiritual director, Thomas Greene.

The book is entitled “Weeds Among the Wheat.” The instructions were simple: The notice should include the title, the author, and a summary of what the book is about. But carelessness got the better of me and I wrote “Wheat Among the Weeds.” Fortunately for me, the author was too magnanimous to reprimand me for the mistake.

What difference does the order of words make? To make this simpler, let me substitute bad eggs and good eggs for weeds and wheat respectively. Should it be “bad eggs among good eggs” or “good eggs among bad eggs. The sentence structure is similar but the implications are different. In the former, we can imagine a basket full of eggs, majority of which are good although a few bad eggs can also be found. In the latter, most eggs are bad although one can still use a few good ones.

Although I readily admitted my mistake, I was also led to ask, “The sense of the parable is that originally the world is good but evil managed to enter. But in the real world where good and evil co-exist, are the good more numerous than evil?

Jesus tells us that it may be difficult to determine with certainty who is good and evil, so much so that it is more prudent not to pull up the weeds for the wheat may also be uprooted in the process. It is better to wait for harvest time.

Our Lord is not telling us not to fight evil. But over-zealousness in fighting evil to such an extent that the process is no longer respected, is in the ultimate analysis counter-productive.

Indeed, history is replete with examples of persons who were thought to be weeds but proven to be wheat by history. Let us cite some of them. Socrates was executed for raising questions and for scandalizing the youth of Athens. Today, he is revered as a wise man. Teilhard de Chardin was exiled to China for trying to reconcile the theory of evolution with the Christian faith.

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Later, his thoughts became influential in the Second Vatican Council whose understanding of divine revelation is more evolutionary. Muhammad Ali was labelled a traitor to his country for refusing to join the Vietnam war. Today, he is revered as an American hero. Too many to mention were the prophets of old who were persecuted by kings for speaking the word of God. The kings are now relegated to the dustbin of history while we continue to read and honor the prophets.

But the best example of a person deemed a weed during his lifetime but now considered a wheat is the person hanging on the cross. Jesus was a seen as a criminal and was executed in the most humiliating way. But billions of people now worship him as their Lord and savior, and even non-believers are moved to tears reading his message.

On the other hand, there were those who were heroes during their lifetime but now seen as villains. Hitler can be a prime example.

Discerning who is good to be emulated and evil to be shied away from is difficult enough. After all, evil is not evil if it cannot disguise itself as good. But it is made even more difficult today by historical revisionism. Trolls are paid to vilify authentic heroes and honor the villains. And the less discerning would swallow this revisionism hook, line and sinker.

In the recent past (and to a lesser extent, still in the present), thousands have died in the so-called war on drugs. In the desire to hastily pull up the weeds of society, they have also uprooted the wheat. How many of those who were “tokhanged” were not drug peddlers? Technically, they were all innocent since they have never been convicted in a court of law.

There is now an attempt to present a more gentle face in the war on drugs. This is a tacit admission that the drug was of the past was wrong, and even a failure. But the one credible way the current leadership can fully differentiate itself from the drug war of the past, is to allow the investigators to investigate. Let not the dirt of the past be simply swept under the rug.

The co-existence of good and evil does not simply mean that in a particular point of time there are good and bad eggs. That, of course is true. In the 20th century for example, there were Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and Marcos. But there were also Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Albert Schweitzer, and Maximilian Kolbe.

But there is more: The co-existence is present within ourselves. We are capable of self-giving heroism, and also of utter selfishness. We can use power for our own selfish ends, while we can also forget our own selves in the service of others.

The co-existence will always be there as long as we remain humans. But while waiting for our purification at the end time, we can do well to starve the evil and feed the good.

Fr Ramon D. Echica is the Dean of Studies of the San Carlos Major Seminary. He obtained his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) in 1998.

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