It is easy to notice the big things… the terrible crimes that make the Evening News. And we deplore those awful crimes against the Innocent of this world. But, thank God – Thank God! – it is not our job to face such blatant and dangerous evils. Indeed. Thank God.
But can it also be that some wickedness – some sins that seem so very little yet twist in the gut like a sudden stab – can be that they’re just plain hard to notice? Can it really be that we often encounter wicked people doing their little wicked things so very subtlely? They and their little deeds are oh-so-easy to ignore, aren’t they? Let’s face it, we are busy with our own lives! We have people to meet and things to do. But the consequences of being so willfully ignorant!
I’m not talking about the consequences of being wicked! I’m talking about the consequences of us ignoring wickedness… Ezekiel said, that God said that, if we ignore the wicked, if we don’t even bother to tell them that they are on the Wrong Road, then we will be held responsible for what happens to them!
There’s a quote by somebody (see the footnote * if you really want to know by whom) that really applies here: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Hey, wait a minute! We’re good people! We don’t run red lights on purpose, we don’t gossip much, we pay our taxes mostly on time! How can it be said that evil triumphs because we don’t do anything about it? We do stuff! We point it out to our spouses and children. We rant (just a bit) about how awful it all is… We tell our family and friends not to do it.
The thing is, we’ve got families, we need to keep our jobs, our friends respect us and they… well, they’ll make fun of us if we actually – Well, YouKnow. If we go up to some not–so-nice-person and tell them that they should be a so-nice-person instead of a not–so-nice person. Gosh. YouKnowWhatIMean. Right?
Yeah. But. The consequences of just letting that person get away with being not-so-nice is pretty steep, I guess. Pretty steep, all right. Yeah… We’d be responsible for whether they go – YouKnow – Up or Down when they die. We’d be responsible… us. I mean… that means that not doing something Right is just as bad as doing something Wrong! It’s – YouKnow – Logical… but it’s not fair! It’s really not! Well, you’re right, I guess. We are all in this together. The Holy Spirit whispers to us, too; not just to priests, and such. Well, how in the world are we supposed to do this, anyway?
Like in this Sunday’s Gospel? First tell them kinda private-like. If that doesn’t work, then get a couple of our buddies to go with and tell them again – Now we’ve got witnesses and things can’t be twisted around. If that doesn’t work, we take it to the church – to YouKnow – to the Boss. And if that doesn’t work, don’t ever say another word to them and never, never invite them to lunch at the office cafeteria again! Then we can count on having done all we could do to set them right… All I could do… so now we’re not – YouKnow – responsible anymore. After all, they have free will just like we do… And now they can’t say, “Oh, I didn’t even realize… “ Now they have to decide to either do the Right thing – or at least stop doing the Wrong thing or to just… Well, YouKnow.
I mean, one try at setting them straight would have been enough to settle our minds, I think. It sure was hard to do – YouKnow… face-to-face like that. But I wonder why-in-the-world we kept going at them. Because we love them? Oh. Come. On! Do you really think that? Really? It is the truth that we don’t want them going YouKnowWhere. We really don’t! Is that loving our neighbor?
* This is the footnote I was talking about up there. This saying about how evil triumphs is often attributed to Edmund Burke. But he didn’t really say it. This is its earliest form, said by John Stuart Mill in 1867: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
Ms. Cathie Lambert, OP