Af­flic­tions of a bleed­ing so­ci­ety (2)

Sunday Trust - - SERMON - By Rev. Fr. Em­manuel Ojeifo Fa­ther Ojeifo is a priest of the Catholic Arch­dio­cese of Abuja.

In the story of the Last Judg­ment (Matt. 25:3146), Je­sus high­lights the im­por­tance of the cor­po­ral works of mercy for our sal­va­tion. Those who en­ter heaven will be those who give food to the hun­gry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, shel­ter to the home­less, and those who visit the sick and im­pris­oned. Those who will hear the words, “De­part from me,” will be those who fail to carry out these cor­po­ral works of mercy. Here, Je­sus is def­i­nitely not speak­ing in metaphors. He is speak­ing plainly. When you be­come rich like the woman of Shunem, don’t raise your stan­dard of liv­ing by buy­ing new cars, new phones, new houses, etc. Raise your stan­dard of giv­ing. The more God blesses you, the more you should bless the lives of oth­ers. God has en­trusted the good things of life to your care so that you can put them at the ser­vice of oth­ers. How of­ten do we say, “I worked for what I have. I didn’t steal them.” But the truth is that we are merely ste­wards, “use­less ser­vants,” as Je­sus said in Luke 17:10, who are en­trusted with what is not our own.

Some­times, we hear the call on so­cial me­dia and on ra­dio and TV invit­ing us to show love and kind­ness to some­one in grave need of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. Most times, these calls are for peo­ple who need ur­gent med­i­cal pro­ce­dure to save their lives from a rav­aging ail­ment. For in­stance, “Mr X ur­gently needs N10 mil­lion

1. A man and a woman (not women, not two women or two men) brought duly joined to­gether spir­i­tu­ally and legally. There is no place in the Bi­ble for live-in lovers.

2. A union of two ma­ture adults. Mar­riage is de­signed to be a union of two adults or ma­tured in­di­vid­u­als and not chil­dren. God did not cre­ate chil­dren first; in­stead, He made two adults and brought them to­gether. “For this cause shall a man” -not a boy, leave his fa­ther... Ma­tu­rity is not just about age but about wis­dom, prin­ci­ples, re­la­tional and other skills etc. Peo­ple should de­velop them­selves spir­i­tu­ally, men­tally, etc. be­fore en­ter­ing into mar­riage. How many books have you read on the sub­ject?

3. A union of two spir­i­tual and God-lov­ing peo­ple. Spir­i­tu­al­ity is sim­ply liv­ing ac­cord­ing to the Word of God. It says, “…who de­lights greatly in his com­mand­ments.” Psalm 112:1-3. A Chris­tian should not only marry a Chris­tian but en­sure they have high re­gard for the Word of God run their lives ac­cord­ingly. They are com­mit­ted to for a kid­ney trans­plant to save his life.” Very of­ten, the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of such cam­paign are os­cil­lat­ing be­tween life and death; and the ear­lier good-spir­ited peo­ple re­spond to the call, the bet­ter for the sick per­son. Sadly, in many cases Mr X is un­able to raise the money for his med­i­cal pro­ce­dure, and he dies. Do you know that all we needed to have done to save the life of Mr X is 10000 com­mit­ted Nige­ri­ans who are will­ing to do­nate N1000 each? The in­verse would be 1,000 hu­mane Nige­ri­ans who can part with N10000 each. Are there not such peo­ple in any one sin­gle lo­cal­ity in Nige­ria who can make this sac­ri­fice? Are there not mil­lions of Nige­ri­ans who can do­nate N1000 each with­out bathing an eye­lid? Why is it so dif­fi­cult for many peo­ple to make this some­what sim­ple sac­ri­fice?

The an­swer is sim­ple and you know it: We are a com­pas­sion­less and care-less so­ci­ety. Mr X is nei­ther my fa­ther nor my mother. He is nei­ther my brother nor my sis­ter. He is not my son or my daugh­ter. So why do I have to give a damn about his med­i­cal con­di­tion? Is this not how many of us think? But this our at­ti­tude to Mr X, is it the same at­ti­tude we put up when our blood is in­volved? No. If it were my mother or my fa­ther, my brother or my sis­ter, my son or my daugh­ter, would I not do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make sure I raise the money for his or her med­i­cal treat­ment? So how come we don’t feel we should treat other hu­man be­ings with the same love, care and sen­si­tiv­ity we show to our own blood? The an­swer again is that we sim­ply don’t care. Ev­ery­body imag­ines that some­body would help. Some­body thinks that ev­ery­body will help. In the end, no­body helps any­body. This at­ti­tude is partly re­spon­si­ble for what has made us a haem­or­rhag­ing so­ci­ety. Nige­ria to­day is like the woman with the is­sue of blood in the Bi­ble. We are los­ing so much blood and so many in­no­cent lives on a daily ba­sis, hu­man be­ings who have no rea­son to die. In a cer­tain way, this has also made us a vam­pire so­ci­ety that feeds on the blood of its in­no­cent chil­dren.

There are mil­lions of wellto-do Nige­ri­ans who live in stink­ing af­flu­ence. They can af­ford any­thing and ev­ery­thing that tick­les their fancy. They can go for sum­mer hol­i­days in the posh lo­ca­tions of the world. But they live their lives solely for them­selves and their im­me­di­ate fam­ily. Love and com­pas­sion is not the sort of word you find in their dic­tio­nary. They’d rather pre­fer to buy a tooth­brush that sells for N10,000 in the posh su­per­store in town than to buy the same tooth­brush in a kiosk where it is sold for N100. That is how they mas­sage their ego. It is al­ways a thing of pride to them that they shop in the most ex­pen­sive stores and malls, where they do not have to bother about pric­ing the goods they want to buy. But these are the same peo­ple who would hag­gle back and forth with a poor widow sell­ing ba­nanas in the hot sun to feed her fam­ily. They throw their wealth to those who don’t need it and de­prive those who need it.

In his 2016 Mes­sage for the World Day of Peace, Pope Fran­cis says that the rea­son our world is suf­fer­ing from com­pas­sion­fa­tigue is be­cause the cob­web of in­dif­fer­ence is grow­ing in our hearts. Many peo­ple are just in­sen­si­tive to what is hap­pen­ing around them. They are tired of do­ing good. They close their hearts to the needs of oth­ers and close their eyes to what is hap­pen­ing around them. They have no sense of in­volve­ment in what is hap­pen­ing to oth­ers. They are not both­ered. Their hearts are never moved by the sight and plight of peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing. If it does not touch them di­rectly, it doesn’t con­cern them. Al­most with­out per­ceiv­ing it, we grow in­ca­pable of feel­ing com­pas­sion for oth­ers and for their prob­lems. We have no in­ter­est in car­ing for them. We feel that their trou­bles and suf­fer­ings are their own re­spon­si­bil­ity and none of our busi­ness. When we are healthy and com­fort­able, we for­get about oth­ers. Our hearts grow cold and hard like ice. Even the most touch­ing sight of hu­man suf­fer­ing is un­able to melt our frozen hearts.

In the Parable of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan (Lk. 10:25-37), Je­sus teaches us that my neigh­bour is any­body who needs my help, any­one I en­counter on the way. My neigh­bour is that per­son who has no one else to help him but me. He is that per­son who may never get help if I do not help him. A neigh­bour is not to be de­fined by re­li­gious, cul­tural, or so­cial ori­gins, but by com­pas­sion for the other. Thus, Je­sus teaches us to open our hearts and be moved to do some­thing when we come upon some­one in need of help. That per­son who needs my help, who­ever the per­son is, is my neigh­bour. There is no ques­tion of na­tion­al­ity, tribe, creed, lan­guage or so­cial sta­tus. The real ques­tion is I come upon a per­son like me, cre­ated in the im­age and like­ness of God.

Some­time ago, I found a very in­spir­ing video story on Face­book. It was about the great Al­ba­nian mis­sion­ary, Mother Teresa of Cal­cutta. Speak­ing at her award cer­e­mony for the No­bel Prize for Peace in 1979, Mother Teresa nar­rated how on one oc­ca­sion she brought a girl child from the street to her home for des­ti­tute chil­dren. Mother Theresa nar­rated: “I could see on the face of the child that the child was hun­gry. God knows how many days she had not eaten. So I gave her a piece of bread and the lit­tle child started eat­ing the bread, crumb by crumb. I said to the child, ‘Eat the bread. Eat the bread.’ She looked at me and said, ‘I am afraid to eat the bread, be­cause I’m afraid when it is fin­ished, I will be hun­gry again.’” Mother Teresa con­tin­ued: “This is a re­al­ity. Maybe we are not hun­gry for a piece of bread, but maybe there is some­body there in the fam­ily, who is un­wanted, unloved, un­cared for, for­got­ten. Love be­gins at home. For love to be true, it has to hurt. This is what I bring be­fore you. To love one an­other with great love.”

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