Do you remember that movie? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. One of the great ‘spaghetti westerns’. I love it. I love it for the shooting. The silence. Of course I love Clint Eastwood, and no, I am not forgetting the music. Unforgettable, thanks to Ennio Morricone. I guess we are so used to the title we could easily gloss over it, but it’s a great title for a movie, or a book.
The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. Three distinct categories. Three uncompromising labels or titles. The Good. These are the people we are happy to meet. These are the people whose company we seek. Sometimes you will hear a cynical voice suggest that there are not too many good people around. I am not convinced of this. I actually think there are a lot more good people than we might imagine.
What about the bad? Bad people? I am equally not so convinced about bad people. I mean is there such a thing as a bad person? I think we will all agree that bad things happen. People do bad things. However because some people do bad things does it automatically follow that they are bad people? I am reminded of yet another movie. This one is pretty old, so if you know it, like a good wine, you are of a certain vintage. The movie I am reminded of is, Boy’s Town, starring that magnificent actor, Spencer Treacy. It was a great movie about the famous Irish born, Fr. Flanagan and his extraordinary work with disadvantaged children. I am reminded of this because of his famous phrase, ‘there’s no such thing as a bad boy’.
Flanagan accepted some children were misguided, disturbed, perhaps to the point where they do bad things, however he drew the line at labeling they themselves as bad, or worse still as evil.
In a way this looks after the third category, the ugly. In other words we are saying: ugly deeds, ugly actions yes, but ugly people, no.
As we begin the month of November, which is traditionally the month when we remember the dead I have been asking myself what would it be like if we took a fresh look at people, the dead but also the living. What would it be like if we looked at people afresh. What would it be like if we looked at people with a view to giving them a second chance. What would it be like if we were to take another look at people, this time with the eyes of mercy. How would the Good, the Bad and the Ugly look then?
When we apply this criteria then we can safely say the Good are in Heaven. The Good in this context are those who have gone before us. These are the people who did their best to lead good lives. These are the people who regularly failed. People with good intentions who were not always able to translate these good intentions into actions. Nonetheless these are people who consistently did their best. These are the people who modelled God’s love for us. I think of my primary school teacher and the old Canon. Once we move into the realm of God’s Kingdom we need to strike a note of caution. We need to be open to being surprised. The Surprise of the Lord. It may well be that we find ourselves surprised at some of those included among the Good, or indeed some of those omitted!
What of those whom we term the Bad? Here we are speaking of people who had a pattern of wickedness in their lives. Selfish people. People who abused power. People who made other people’s lives a misery. I think of an old couple I knew at home. He was Victorian in his attitudes, keeping a vice grip on the finances, reducing her to more or less having to make a case for getting her hair done. The oul rascal! Sadly his lovely wife was little more than a glorified slave. Even though she was nearly eighty when he died I am delighted to tell you she got a whole new zest for life after he had gone. It often brings a smile to face when I recall what a ball she had well into her nineties! Of course it’s in the Bad that we might well get our biggest shock. It’s here the Lord will outdo us. It’s in his mercy and compassion we will see his real generosity. We are small minded when it comes to forgiving others. It is here as in other areas that the Lord outdoes us.
And finally what of the Ugly? Discussion of this group can be easily dispensed with. What I mean by that is, that we need spend no time on this group because they do not actually exist. There is no such thing as an ugly person. That’s worth repeating, there is no person who warrants the label, Ugly. Neither the very tall or very small, the very thin or the very heavy, none of these require, nor deserve the name Ugly. The only thing that renders us as ugly is sin and thanks be to God this is temporary. The ugliness of sin temporarily disfigures us but only until we are smoothed and beautified by his loving mercy.