Overcoming Evil

In the last scene of Star Trek: Into the Darkness, Captain James T. Kirk said in his commemoration speech:

“There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we loved are taken from us, but that’s not who we are. We are here today to rechristen the U.S.S. Enterprise and to honor those who had lost their lives. Nearly one year ago, when Christopher Pike first gave me his ship, he had me recite the Captain’s Oath – words that I didn’t appreciate at the time. Now, I see them as a call for us to remember who we were once were and who we must be again.” 

For those who are Star Trek fans, one would agree that the mission of the Starfleet Academy and Commands is to seek and preserve life, not to destroy it. I believe that both messages are important and relatable to what is going on in and for our time.

Is there evil? Yes. It had been present ever since the existence of Adam and Eve, and it continues to be at work even until now. One of the first crimes in the Scriptures is fratricide, which, if you think about it, is a very grave sin against a tribal and family-oriented society. Throughout our world history, our human family has also seen its shares of many evils and crimes against humanity. Our history has never been perfect, either as a society, nation, or the world. We still struggle nowadays with many existential and human problems against popular opinions, secularistic, pragmatic, and utilitarian ways of thoughts. We still struggle a lot as post-modern people to understand human dignity in light of progress. Evil comes in different forms, but it always plays itself out in ways to make us turn against one another. It often excuses itself with objectification and manipulation of people for a personal, social, ideological, or political purpose, or as a disrespect of our God-given dignity through war crimes or progressive advances at all costs. It justifies itself well by blurring the detailed understanding of the means or processes to get it wants in the end. It often makes us focus on the what’s and how’s to get things done without really understanding the real why’s, purpose, and mission of why we are called to do the things that we do. It loves to remove the God-given, eternal and everlasting values as to appeal to the immediate gratification or success now.

Evil is always with us, and even with our best intentions, we often end up hurting one another due to the effects of original sin in our lives. Moreover, even with our best intentions, it is very easy for us to be blind-sighted by our ego or become self-centered in our decisions or perspectives. While these realities are disheartening, we do have the power to rise above what has been ruptured by original sin and easily tempted by the Devil and his minions. We have within us as Christians, baptized by grace and strengthened by the holy sacraments, the power to fight off evil and selfish tendencies. The grace of God can and will help us rise above the things that are lies and destructive if we turn ourselves to Him and allow Him to work in and through us. God is real, as with His powerful grace, for those who seek Him and His everlasting truth. Within us, we have the life-changing power given at Baptism to live out our life as children of God.

Overcoming the evil begins with forgiveness as we choose to rise above the temptation to revenge and take retributive actions. Evil begets more evil, and only with forgiveness and love can we overcome what is humanistically natural to do when we get hurt. Alexander Pope in his “An Essay on Criticism,” which talked about the proper, gentle, and Christian ways to avoid immediate retribution and negativity, said:“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” It is in our human nature to remember and hold on to the undesirable actions of others which had impacted us and feel resentful towards those who have given the woe, yet Christ has taught us the ultimate lesson of forgiveness when we prayed for His enemies and forgave them. (Cf. Luke 23:24)

Just like what I have said earlier (not considering vicious, intentional acts of evil), even with our best intentions, we can humanly err and end up hurting people around us unintentionally. Even if a person had done evil against us, we are called to forgive the person just as God has forgiven us. I remember my spiritual director in the past had said: “Khoi, many of us have good intentions, but sometimes when we put things into words or actions, the Devil tends to get the best of us by manipulating our weaknesses, which made us end up hurting others. It is important, then, to forgive and pray for one another!” He also said, “Even if someone has dealt you an unnecessary and uncomfortable hand, choose to forgive and pray for him/her, for the sake of your sanity, spiritual health, and freedom.” With his wisdom and patience, he helped guide me through a very tough time in my life and taught me how to pray through the storm and hurt.

It was not easy, but my spiritual director helped me not to focus on the humanistic desire of resentment and vengeance but to learn to pray for the person. As I found myself feeling sickened and hurt by what happened, toward the point that it was affecting my mental focus, psychological and physical health, and even my daily routines, I had to learn to not focus on the negative energy. He taught me to use the negativity and prayerfully transform it. He helped me to see this is, too, a person and a child of God who is struggling through life just as I am — similarly and in a different way. It is important, therefore, to pray for the person that God’s grace is at work in his/her life just as He is in mine’s. I also had to look at myself to learn from my own mistakes and the situation that I was in. It taught me how to grow in prudence and in wisdom by looking at my own self and how I could have unintentionally portrayed myself or perceived to be. He taught me that everything can be used for good and we can grow much with what has been given to us — even what hurts us. From that lesson, I have learned to look at every situation in life as to respond with prudence and prayer instead of the immediate reaction that might intensify the pains even more.

I was taught this prayer by a good friend of mine, which I am now sharing with you.

Lord Jesus Christ, I choose to forgive (___name___). I lay down my judgment on Your Cross. Lord Jesus, I give (___name___) a free gift of forgiveness. I forgive them just as You forgave me. I choose to live in the freedom You have given me. Thank you, Lord, for your mercy. Amen.  

With this prayer, I would like to end my reflection by asking you to put into practice what you might get from this small exercise. We have the grace of God working in and through us, empowering us to seek the truth that is grounded in love and forgiveness. That is why to forgive is divine! In and through forgiveness, especially our willingness to rise above the negativity, pain, suffering, or evil given to us, we participate and radiate in the love that Christ Jesus has taught us on the Cross, lovingly received by the Father, and sanctified by the power and working of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, let us choose to forgive and overcome the temptations of evil with the grace of God through our willingness to participate in the love that He has for us.