In the 2014 American fantasy film Maleficent, is the character of Maleficent evil or good?
Some film critics have warned parents of the offensive moral message of the movie. They see in it a subtle drive to present evil, personified by the character Maleficent, as loveable after all. Hence confusing the minds of the young about the nature of evil and influencing them to accept or at least tolerate whatever is evil in life.
I do not share the same view. On the contrary, I see in the movie and, in particular, in the character of Maleficent, the celebration of faith in the fundamental goodness of every being. We all experience the ambiguity that characterizes our earthly existence; there’s good and evil around us and within us. I think the film has shown that we can all be surprised by the capacity of our hearts to overcome what’s evil in us and around us by listening to our deepest invitation to love which is but the natural inclination of our hearts. True love and, hence, goodness is the fundamental calling of every being amid painful experiences of betrayal and the aching hunger for revenge. Goodness triumphs as we make a choice to be true to our calling.
The parable of the Weeds and the Wheat in today’s gospel reading (Mt. 13: 24-43) is of similar theme: The reality of the existence of both good and evil in the world and within us. Allow me to highlight three invitations presented to us by the parable for our reflection this Sunday.
Do not judge others. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees (which means “the separated ones”) dreamed of Israel as a society of “pure” believers. So they tended to separate themselves from the sinners; hence, creating an exclusive circle of righteous and respectable men. They excluded those whom they judged as sinners many of whom are the poor. The parable of the Weed and the Wheat is presumably addressed to them to caution them against their judgmental attitude. In the parable, the Sower, who represents the Son of Man, refuses to uproot the weeds as doing so may also result in uprooting the wheat. He suggests allowing them to grow together until harvest. Then it will be clearer which are the weeds and the wheat for judgment.
The parable invites us too to refrain from judging others. Of course, externally we can morally evaluate an act as either good or bad but we can in no way ascertain the spiritual and moral state of a person who is acting. We cannot label a person as sinner and exclude him in our Christian community. After all who among us has not sinned?
Pope Francis invites the Church to be like a “mother with an open heart.” The church should be the house of the Father with the door always wide open. The Church is the community of both saints and sinners. God searches the sinners and brings to his house the outcasts. He draws them to his goodness and invites them to be good. Let God be the judge, not us.
Choose always the good. In our earthly journey towards the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God we experience in a very real way the ambiguity that characterizes our existence. Just as the weeds grow together with the wheat in the field, we experience both the presence of evil and good, sin and grace, curse and blessing in our world and in our hearts.
When it comes to our conscience, we are always led towards the good. We are fundamentally inclined towards the good as we are created good. We struggle with our evil inclination because of the presence of sin that has distorted our nature. Hence, it has not become always easy to decide for what is good. But we are wired to choose what is good. When we allow the grace of God to work in us, we become more empowered to turn our back to what is evil and embrace what is good. Even Maleficent is surprised that she possesses the power of true love.
There will always be ambiguity in our hearts as we journey in this earthly life, but we have been enabled by the grace of Christ to embrace goodness as our fundamental option. We may falter from time to time in this journey because we remain sinful, but our hearts beat for God. Let us allow our hearts to seek the Lord and to choose what is good amid the ambiguities of our human existence. Our daily decisions and choices chart our fundamental orientation. Let it be towards the good, towards God.
Trust in the Goodness of God. God is good. The parable reveals that the sower planted only the good seed, the wheat. He is not responsible for the weeds. The enemy sowed them. We experience in life the suffering wrought by sin. There are many forms of this suffering. Sometimes they befall us and we get confused. We begin to question the goodness of God. Does God care?
Yes. He does care. He loves us. God is good. He did not spare even his Son in order to save us from the suffering and death wrought by sin. We need to trust in the goodness of God.
I was once in a conference in Manila when I received a text message from a certain mother back in Zamboanga requesting me to visit her child who was confined in a hospital and who was in danger of death because of dengue. I would have easily referred her to another priest since I could not attend to her request; but something deep inside me prodded me to ask the name of the child. The mother texted me her name and I assured her of my prayers for her child and comforted her. Then in the corner of the vast conference hall where I was seated, I prayed ardently for the healing power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the child. After entrusting to the Lord the concern of the family, I continued with my active participation in the activities of the conference throughout the day.
The following morning, I was seated again for the conference. I received a text message from the mother of the child saying: “Thank you for your prayers, Father. God is good. My daughter is well now!” I felt a sudden surge of gladness in my heart because of the good news. Teary-eyed I texted her back: “Let us praise God for He is good!”
Again, weeds and wheat grow together. In our earthly journey, let us not judge one another; judgment is God’s task not ours. But let us help one another to embrace what is good and to make goodness our fundamental orientation. This we can certainly do for we have a God who is good. Let us trust in his goodness.