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Shun Greed, corruption: Fr Dominic Emmanuel

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altNEW DELHI, FEB. 09:  Some readers might take the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew so literally that they would easily give up on them rather than try and find their real meaning to see how they could draw something out from it for life. The words, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5: 29-30), can clearly not be taken literally.

What the words mean is that the eye or the hand or for that matter, the foot or the tongue, never perform their actions on their own volition. They only obey what the mind commands them to do which is itself based on the tendency that the mind has developed or would cultivate into a habit if sufficient care is not taken. Thus before falling into the addiction of any kind of wrongdoing, generally associated with sin, if people were to consider the advice seriously, individuals would certainly ponder twice before taking that action.

Among hundreds of evil human tendencies, the instance of taking or giving bribes and stealing come to mind which is commonly known as sleaze and corruption.

Angered, tired and fed up with this practice of those individuals who have no qualms of conscience in asking for bribes and stealing money, a movement of sorts, called ‘India against corruption’, saw nearly 25,000 people gather at the Ramleela grounds in Delhi last week.

According to the organizers, such rallies were organized in 55 cities across the country. Among different estimates available, according to one estimate there is about 500 billion dollars worth of Indian stolen black money stacked away in foreign banks.

This certainly raises a valid question that in country like ours which has strong religious and spiritual traditions, how did our own brothers and sisters let themselves fall in the trap of greed and avarice that made them completely blind towards this evil? They certainly had no fear of that hell that Jesus speaks of in the passage above or indeed as the Bible admonishes its readers elsewhere. In the gospel of Luke Jesus tells his disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come but woe to him through whom they do come. It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17: 1-2).

In the Book of Proverbs for instance the author reminds the reader, “He who gets stores of wealth by a false tongue, is going after what is only breath, and searching for death” (Proverbs 21:6). It is possible that those of us who easily give in to the temptation for acquiring endless amount of something which is as transitory as money, do not look at it as that which causes us to sin. As a consequence of that sin others suffer great poverty, injustice, hunger and disease and the one committing it being actually lead to moral and spiritual death.

It is said about Alexander the Great that during his last hour alive, he told his generals, “After my death, when you put my body in the casket, let my arms hang over the edges with my palms wide open, so the public can see my empty hands while I am leaving the world.” When surprised dignitaries present at his funeral asked questions about this unique scene, a wise man told them, “Oh! People, Alexander the Great is telling us that when he ruled the world, great treasures of gold, silver and wealth came to be under his possession. Yet, indeed he is leaving the world empty handed.”

The Bible is clear in condemning greed, which is the primary motive in bribery and corruption. Because of the condemnation on bribery, those who participate in it are also condemned: “For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes” (Job 15:34). The Psalmist pleads with God, “Do not gather my soul together with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands is a sinister scheme, and whose right hand is full of bribes” (Psalm 26: 9-10). 

I am certain other scriptures admonish their followers as well to be honest, sincere and truthful. Can we take help of our sacred scriptures to clean up our society of this great menace?

(Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, SVD, is the Spokesperson of Delhi Archdiocese.)

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