Headline: LENT AS MEA CULPA SEASON?Posted on: 2017-03-01
It all began with Adam and Eve from whom humanity inherited the finger-pointing ailment. When these first human beings, according to Scripture, broke God’s commandment, neither the man nor the woman showed the courage or sincerity to admit responsibility for it. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake. If the snake could talk, it perhaps would have blamed the tree. If you did a vox pop in Nigeria and asked questions on bribery you would hear millions blame the entire population for taking bribes but hardly anyone who would admit to collecting it. It is always someone else who commits the crime. You could then wonder how an entire population could engage in bribery without anyone being available to collect it. This finger-pointing strategy for shifting blames also happens internationally. Powerful countries typically blame less powerful ones for problems that occur. Western world countries always try to collocate the source of diseases and epidemics in the developing world. Very often, whoever has the bigger voice is the one who gets to name who the culprit is.
So said the archbishop
The great Archbishop Fulton Sheen put it even more graphically. He once wrote: “Our modern world is very fond of passing the buck. That is to say of denying responsibility….Children blame their parents, people blame their pastors, pastors blame their curates; the curates blame their pastors. All blame their bishops, and bishops blame their congregations. Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts blame the grandfathers and grandmothers. They blame the want of sufficient playgrounds. They blame bad instincts. No one is responsible, and so the buck is passed on”. Have you not noticed how people speak in the passive voice whenever something goes wrong? “The glass broke; money was stolen, the man was killed”. Ask then who did all that and it usually is more difficult to decipher.
The two penitents
The parable of Jesus about two men who went into the temple teaches powerfully on the right attitude to have. The penitent who laid bare his own shortcomings went home more justified than the one who spent his time accusing the other of sundry sins while playing up his own virtues. The period of Lent is a period in which everyone must learn to do more self-examination of conscience. The importance of this for a country like Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Practically everyone here declares that corruption is pervasive in Nigeria, affecting every segment of the society, but hardly anyone would openly admit being involved in it. More and more today, Nigerians in their helplessness, rather than do an examination of conscience on any matter, would rather ask: “What is government doing about this? What is the Church doing about that?” Often, questions asked of the Church do not even come under the purview of religion. When people ask what the Church is doing about treasury looting, ritual killing, armed robbery, kidnapping or terrorism one understands that such outbursts are borne of deep-seated frustration at the inefficiency of the security system in the country.
Who has ears to hear!
Of course the Church has an important role in the shaping of society and the formation of people. But the Church has only the pulpit, the means of communication and the witness of life of her own agents of evangelization to accomplish the task. Beyond these, the Church can really only pray about the challenges of the society. Indeed she has shouted herself hoarse on many ills that assail peoples and nations in the world. Even in matters that directly concern worship and the practice of faith the Church speaks incessantly but is left at the mercy of only those who listen and follow her admonition. Like Jesus himself had to say in the gospel, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13: 43).
“But the hens are gradually coming home to roost! In some European nations, stubborn political authorities are turning to religious leaders to help them revamp their ageing populations by encouraging married couples to have more children. For many years the Church has preached against the selfish “no children attitude”, the contraceptive culture and the liberal stance on abortion which has been preferred and practiced by many in those countries. She did not get much attention then. I recently heard a preacher in one of the new-age Churches condemning frivolous creativity in worship among other anomalies. She told her congregation that merely putting the name of Jesus in a song does not make it a church song. She then asked pointedly: “What makes R. Kelly or Whitney Houston spiritual singers? I said, “Well, well, here is a sort of Balaam’s donkey” because these are the things which the Catholic Church leaders have emphasized over decades albeit like a lone voice in the wilderness.
Lent is “mea culpa” time
Our dear Pope Francis recently proposed eleven ways of fasting during Lent in order to have spiritually fulfillment. These include fasting from hurtful words, sadness, anger and the like. In my view, acknowledgment of sin which we call the “mea culpa” is perhaps even more central to change in the period of Lent. I therefore humbly submit that a twelfth way of fasting would be from finger-pointing in order to find space for true self-examination. When our own eyes open to our own omissions our hearts open as well to take Jesus in. That, at Lent would be a worthwhile achievement!
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