Shadows of Evil

Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 17 (year B), September 2, 2012
“from within the human heart”

When I was four or five years old I was playing outside with kittens on a farm belonging to our Michigan relatives. Twilight turned to night and the only light came from the kitchen window. One of the kittens scratched me. I was so angry I grabbed the kitten and ran into the darkness and threw it in the well.

Fortunately, the well had a cover on it. That evening, and for days and years afterward, I thought about how it was possible that I’d almost killed a kitten. Even before I went to kindergarten I discovered the evil just beneath the surface of my good little girl self.

I’m not at all shocked when Jesus says, “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

All these things cower just below the surface of a good life. If you don’t think so, ask yourself what shadows of evil are you projecting onto other people or vulnerable populations? Who do you hate? And why?  If you do not know that you are capable of evil, it is much more likely that you’ll act upon it.


Cain and Abel, Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1425-52, bronze doors of the baptistry in Florence

One Response to “Shadows of Evil”

  1. Martha Says:

    I very much appreciate your calling attention to the evil in us just beneath the surface. Recently I have encountered the shadow in two people with whom I had relationships; it was stunning to see their woundedness as expressed through the shadow in control. It made me even more wary of my own shadow, lurking in me.

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