Noel A Ihebuzor
The readings today deal with sin and its consequences, the first reading in particular. Sin leads to death. Iniquity leads to death, some slow on-set, some instant and some others gradual, and yet some others death by increment and accretion, often times invisible to the eye. And by death here, I mean death in its several forms – physical, emotional, spiritual, economic social and communal death. There is also the death of the conscience, a death that then unleashes other forms of deaths and which spawns unimaginable deviance. Sin and vice in whatever form lead to destruction, decay and death. In communities, they lead to a decline in social capital, the destruction of bonds, the extinction of trust, the erosion of values and the suffocation of good sense, decency, equity and balance. Bad becomes good, good is mocked at and derided, social pressure draws more converts to evil, evil is praised and sin and its proceeds are celebrated. Man, “homo superbus” reaches for the dial on the control box and dims the voice of God, snuffs out the light of truth and puts shades on the candle of love. The voices of victims of violence and violations are choked, the innocent are injured by the mighty and impunity is unleashed and struts around a demoralized world. Look around you for proofs of these very broad statements that I have made. The wages of sin is death. Whilst sin is a violation of God’s statutes, its immediate consequences are always social and are felt in the here and now in this material earth. For every sin, there is a spiritual loss followed by a socio-economic debit. When you sin you offend God and hurt man.
Righteousness redeems a nation and a people. It leads to life. Righteousness is simple. It simply consists in knowing God and in living His living and life giving words. The sinner who renounces his/her life of sin, of cruelty, of stealing, of lying, of defaming, of distorting, of purveying partial truths, and packaging opinions to the unwary as if these were truths and returns to God is readmitted to God’s favors and God’s love and to Life. But this return, repentance and reconciliation must go beyond theatrics and verbal display. Words accompanied by action, action driven by the spirit of God and His laws. Love God, Love your neighbor. If you love God, you will not break His commandments. If you love your neighbor, you would not cheat him/her, you would not tell lies against him/her. If you love God, you would not commit idolatry. Demoting God from the top of your value system is a form of idolatry. Putting money and power at the pinnacle of your value system is a form of idolatry as these become your new gods. These new gods lead you to all forms of aberrant and emptying behaviors – they lead you to things like election rigging, graft, rent seeking behavior, cronyism, grabbing public assets, false declarations, looting, importing sub-standard items, free-riding behavior, contract inflation, unprofessional project monitoring/evaluation, biased audits, skewed and dishonest Op-Eds etc. Let me give a very trivial example concerning love of neighbor – If you love neighbor, you will not drive in such a manner as to push him or her off the road, but most of us who come to public podiums to sound off on the ills of society do this on end! When last were you polite to the other road user? If you loved your neighbor, you would demonstrate courteous road behavior. In the work place, you would be polite and fair to all your staff, you would deal with an even hand with all. The second reading contains a listing of attributes that conduce to a life free from sin – humility, kindness, compassion, mercy, saying no to selfishness, resisting vainglory behavior and recognizing the needs and the rights of others.
Christ reminds us in very strong words of the need for a return to God in word, in truth and in action. His strong words underlie the importance of true repentance. The truly repentant reap the rewards of paradise. Let this assurance challenge and drive us to turn away from the evils and iniquities of this world. Let it challenge us to reject the false and cheap values of the devil and to embrace the eternal and life giving values and laws of God, the summary of which are – the discipline and mastery of self based on and driven by a love of God and neighbor. May we set about achieving this critical, live saving and spiritually elevating behavior change from this Sunday – and may God’s spirit guide, strengthen and animate us in this venture, Amen!