In a week, we will have completed forty days of fasting, which we call Great Lent, as a penitential preparation for ten days of intense meditation and recollection on the passion and death of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, and for His crowning victory over death by His resurrection. It is now fitting for us to go through some relevant and pertinent thoughts as we conclude this Great Lent.
The daily Lenten prayers of all Eastern Churches, particularly the Syrian Church, clearly bring to our attention the enormity of our sinfulness and the need of penance and reparation for our sins. Those canonical prayers often remind us the sinfulness of Nineveh and how she was saved from the wrath of God. One of the areas this writer would like to highlight in this editorial is that every sin has its definite consequence.
St. Paul teaches that the wages of sin is death. Every act of sin is a rebellion against God the creator and His authority. The natural and moral consequence of rebellion against God and His authority is death of the offender. Out of His mercy, such extreme punishment may not be executed always, but other forms of less extreme punishments may be administered to give more opportunities for sinners or the sinning generation so that they may correct their path of destruction by repentance and penance.
We hear about food shortage and water shortage around the world. For example, it is said that north India would be hit by severe droughts as a result of the drying rivers, such as Indus, Ganges, Yamuna, and Brahmaputra, which flow from the ice-caps of Himalayas. There are reports that that some South Indian States will face intense shortage of water within a few years. This is not just a case in India alone. Many countries in the world are facing and about to face intense shortage of drinking water.
We often hear that food prices are going up everywhere in the world. No country is an exception in this area. America once had the reputation of being called the bread basket of the world. America exported food commodities to many countries, or sent wheat, corn, milk powder, egg powder, cheese, oil and other edible items to the poor countries as part of their philanthropic activities, because America had surplus food. Compared to the food prices in other countries around the globe, American consumers bought their food items at a much lower price.
In February we heard the report that food prices are going to go up at a much higher level. Some of the food growing states in America, (including Texas and Oklahoma) experienced severe drought during the last summer. There was little supply of grass and water even for the cattle. The cost of feeding hay went up from $80 to $200 a ton. The cattle inventory went down to its smallest size since 1952.
We can imagine how this affects the prices of grains, milk, beef, egg, vegetables and other food items. They are expected to climb about ten or more percent soon.
Scientists and meteorologist have their explanations. In India they blame global warming that melts away the ice-caps without forming additional layers of ice to replenish what was lost as water that runs in the rivers coming from the Himalayas. Some of them blame deforestation as a reason for shortage of water. In America they blame the La Nina weather pattern or a cool Pacific Ocean as culprits. Some would attribute this problem to some latest solar phenomena that are adversely affecting the weather systems on earth; some would say it is due to burning too much coal or fossil fuels. Many weather predicting scientists say that this trend will continue.
Look around the world. Is there any corner in the world that enjoys peace? There is no peace in families. Divorces take place at an alarming rate in countries where everyone considered marriage as a sacred bond between a man and woman. One could blame an economically independent wife, or infidelity of a spouse, alcoholism or an egocentric spouse as the reason behind this social evil. Children are caught up in this fight between husband and wife. There would be no one morally responsible for raising children. The sanctity of the family which is the basic unit of the society thus compromised.
Nations enjoy peace between each other only peripherally; every nation is suspicious about the intentions of the other. That is why each of them is vigilant about the spy network thrown over by others. Peace is the greatest gift of the Spirit given to the children of God. If they do not have peace, it is indicative of their alienation from their filiation with God.
Our sick population has increased although we have better medicines and the span of human longevity has been extended considerably. But our suffering due to sickness is not reduced much. We suffer more mentally and physically.
Often we blame others or the weather for the problems we encounter. This writer urges every Christian, every Orthodox Christian, to pause a moment and look for the real cause of our troubles. We seldom point the finger to ourselves. We are the culprits behind our troubles.
Go to the Israelites of the Old Testament. In almost every book of the Old Testament there are warnings and admonitions to them not to violate God’s law; and if they violate His laws there are severe punishments depending on the severity of the offense. We know how God punished the entire human race with the exception of the family of Noah, who were righteous. The history as well as the geography of the Middle East tells us about Sodom and Gomorrah that were terribly immoral and disobedient to God and His laws. Those two cities were destroyed with fire and brimstone; even now the air over and surrounding the Dead Sea cannot retain normal life due to the intense smell. How many thousands were destroyed in that divine intervention to establish God’s law!
We read in the Old Testament about the exiles of God’s chosen people from their own promised land which God had given them through God’s covenant with Abraham and later through their exodus from Egypt after several centuries of slavery and persecution by the instrumentality of Moses the high priest and prophet. Actually the stories in the Old Testament are about disobedience of God’s chosen people and its due punishment inflicted on them. In other words, God will not permit anyone to transgress Him and His ordinances. Some He would punish individually, some collectively; some punishments are lighter and some are capital. Every act of sin is punished based on its severity of offense. No one is exempted from the natural moral consequence of his offense. We read that even Moses the His high priest and prophet had to bear the consequences of his apparently negligible suspicion on God’s omnipotence in bringing about supernatural miracles for providing sustenance of the people of God in the wilderness. Although what Moses had in his mind was a silly thing in our minds when it is compared with capital offenses, the fact of doubting God’s almighty attribute and his delay in obeying God’s command were serious enough for His punishment.
Look at our generation. It is not just the atheists and unbelievers who, without knowing God’s purpose for the human race, violate God’s commandments and commit sins against nature. Actually Christians and Jews, who received the word of God and God’s explicit will regarding human conduct, are the violators of God’s law. There is no remorse for unlawful possession of our neighbor’s property. There is very little scruple to covet money through illegitimate and immoral means. Drug trafficking is not the only sin now; human trafficking for immoral motives is done without the guilt of conscience. The purpose is to make more money. Children are not safe anywhere, not even in their homes; a good number of them are sexually abused. Young girls are transported across national borders to become sexual commodities. Marital fidelity has no value any more due to the permissive ethics of the day that devaluates all virtues related to human sexuality as mere normal expressions of human nature. Thus chastity, purity, virginity and modesty are all worthless virtues. Even the very theological concept virtue is ill-defined.
Recently we received a report on a progressive-minded priest who is conducting graduate studies in Psychology; he counseled an Orthodox Christian young lady that she should not sublimate or control her sexual urges, but rather should yield to her desires so that she would not become a victim of repression and would not develop any abnormal behavior! Let us exhort our young people to run away from such priests like fleeing from contagious diseases. This instance is a classical example of what happened to our clergy who are supposed to uphold and defend high morals demanded by God in His Word. Since the onset of Protestant Ethics, a system of ethics that erupted from Reformation and later augmented by the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, pleasure has become the ultimate value in life. Hence, whatever leads one to pleasure is ethically justified. Thus morality has been redefined. The result was the expulsion of the traditional moral norms expounded by the Decalogue and evangelical precepts and Pauline moral teachings of Christianity.
As a result of this ethical relativism or alienation from traditional ethical norms, our generation is suffering from a severe moral cataract that disables us to discern what is wrong and what is right. Our generation has developed an amoral approach to life and human actions. John Dewey’s Pragmatic expediency is the key phrase that determines moral rectitude. The result? There is no concern about sin or sinfulness in our public life. Sin does not exist any more. Thus we have many new theories, such as: You can make money through any means, as long as that money can make you happy. You can practice marital infidelity as long as your partner does not know about it; and it is even more pleasurable to keep such a relationship if your partner agrees to it. It is laudable to keep a homosexual marriage; and it is legal to call it a marriage! Fornication and promiscuity are expressions of human sexuality, and therefore there are no moral implications to such behaviors; masturbation (self abuse) is just a solitary expression of one’s sexuality with no moral consequences (in contradiction to God’s command that sexuality is a gift to be shared by a man and a woman for the purpose of keeping the twofold creative and unitive purpose of human love). Lying is acceptable, as long as it does not take one to imprisonment… The list of our permissive attitude in an ethically relative environment goes on.
We are all guilty of one or more of these sins. And we complain that the weather is bad, the ice cap is melting; it is not only Sahara that burns in drought; our diseases find no cures; our food inventory has been reduced to its smallest size since many years; the number of starving stomachs is steadily rising…
There is no sudden solution for such problems no matter how we try to solve them. Humanity has become a direct enemy of its creator.
Let me quote from Leviticus: “If you walk in My ordinances and keep My commandments, and do them, then I will give you rain in its season, the lands shall yield its produce, And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. War shall not pass through your land, and I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; and I will utterly destroy the bad wild animals from the land. You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by slaughter before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to fight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. For I will look upon you and make you fruitful, and multiply and establish My covenant with you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people… (Lev. 26: 3- 12).
This is the promise given to us by our God if we are obedient to Him. Sadly we have become sinners and we deserve punishment.
During the past few weeks, the Holy Church put her children into constant prayer, fasting and penance for reparation of our sinful humanity. None of these actions will bear fruits and bring compassion from God unless we repent about out sins and resolve that we will not go back to our sins again. From top to bottom, we have sinned against God. We urge you Holy Church, whether you are a patriarch, hierarch, a priest, a deacon or layperson, to genuinely repent about your sins. Go to the mystery (sacrament) of reconciliation and confess your sins to a priest of your choice and get God’s absolution for your sins and get reinstated in the love of God so that He “will walk among you and He will be your God”. Then the Lord will fulfill His promises for you as they are mentioned above.
May you all have a rewarding Lenten Season!
God bless you our readers!