For quite a long time now, a little story we were told in our Catechism class, keeps coming to my mind. It is a well-known teaching of the Catholic Church, that a person, who steals or robs something from another, is bound to return the stolen stuff to its owner, if he/she is to obtain forgiveness of the committed offence. Failing to do this, and restitute what has been stolen, the sin or offence is not forgiven, even if one goes to confession and confesses the sin to the priest-confessor. Restitution is a must, a ‘Conditio sine qua non’.
Evidently, all, Catholics are expected to know this. As a matter of fact, in the Catechism classes, we were taught that even the devil is aware of this condition to obtain forgiveness of the sin of theft. He who dared to tempt Jesus, is not going to relax and leave us in peace. (Mt. 4:1 ff) And so the story goes that, as penitents queued up in a Church to make their confession, the devil was seen moving about in the midst of the people who were going to make their confession. The priest-confessor, who was known to be a saintly priest, approached the evil one, and asked him why he was going about the Church, and disturbing the penitents. The saintly priest saw that the evil one was going and whispering something into the ears of the penitents. And so, the priest asked him, what he was doing. The devil, knowing well that the priest was a holy man, tried to excuse himself by saying that he was well aware that the obligation of restitution was a must for the penitents. And so, he said that he had come to restitute to each one of the penitents, what he had stolen from them, when he led them into sin. He was talking about the sense of shame, which the devil steals from us, when he leads us, and we commit a sin. And when the sinner goes to a priest for confession, the devil comes to restitute the sense of shame, so that the sinner, in shame, may hide the sin from the priest-confessor, thereby making the confession an invalid one. It is known by all Catholics that a confession, in which a penitent hides a sin from the priest, out of shame, renders the entire confession invalid, and adds a sin of sacrilege to his list of sins, for having approached the Sacrament of Reconciliation in an unworthy manner.
This story comes to my mind again and again, as I see many of our legislators, political leaders, and even judges and other leaders going about in shameless ways. I have been praying that they may be given back the sense of shame, which perhaps, the evil one has stolen away from them, as they went about their sordid activities. This story, this thought and this prayer have been coming out from my mind and heart since a long time, as I hear about so many things shamelessly done by our political and other leaders. For example, they have been shamelessly and unscrupulously crossing over from one party to another, hungry for power and money. One wonders if they have any notion of the ideology of the party they are supposed to be belonging to. And, to make matters worse, they show scant respect for the mind of the voters, who voted for them because they belonged to a particular party. At this ‘shameful’ rate, we could be having a person, belonging to a particular party at breakfast time, then going on to belong to another party at dinner-time!! Did we not have cases like this in our political life? I appeal to the voters never to vote for such turn-coats.
True Conversion and “conversions”
Turn-coats like the ones mentioned above are people who should be penalized by law, and also by their voters for “converting” themselves shamelessly and unscrupulously from one party to another, at the drop of the hat – or so it would appear, because often times we do not know what goes on behind the curtain and under the table! Unfortunately, these are the kind of people who, then, accuse the Christians of “converting” people! They do not seem to want to understand that Religious Conversion is a very serious matter. It is God who converts people, introducing them to a faith, never imposing it on anyone, but only proposing it to them, as a path to Himself, and as a way of life.
This is why the Catholic Church is very careful never to be too much in a hurry to receive people in its fold. The candidate interested in embracing the Catholic faith is tested to make sure he/she is not intending to join because of any pressure from any quarters, or for any other motives which are not worthy and acceptable. Jesus Himself would do the same. For example, when Jesus was teaching his disciples about the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, namely, that in it He would give them His body and blood to be their spiritual nourishment, many who refused to accept this teaching, preferred to leave His company. Instead of coaxing them to stay on, Jesus asked His disciples if they would also like to go. Cf. John 6:60 ff. He wanted only the genuine ones, those who truly believed in Him and His Word, to stay on. The Catholic Church does the same as her Master did. Very obviously, she could not be and do otherwise. It would be good for those who shamelessly and often maliciously, accuse the Catholic Church of converting people, to know what is the truth. It would be nice and laudable to have strict rules like this in our political life too, and follow them to prevent people from leaving a party and joining another shamelessly and unscrupulously, with an utter disregard to the voters, only for false and perverse reasons. I pray: “Lord, open their eyes and restored to them the sense of shame and sin.”
Since the time we read about, and watch on Television the pathetic and sad images of thousands of people who are walking hundreds of kilometers back to their homes because they have lost their jobs on being retrenched by their employers, frequently the same thought and prayer come to my mind. “Lord, open their eyes, and restore to them the sense of shame, the lack of which prevents them from seeing the damage they have done to those poor people, who are citizens of our country just like themselves and like other citizen. Each time I see these images, tears brim my eyes. Who would not be touched by these scenes we watch on television, and read about, of people walking hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometers, having had nothing to eat or drink. Often times we see them carrying their children, and sometimes even their parents on their shoulders, together with their meager belongings. We read about pregnant women giving birth to babies under the trees, after having walked hundreds of kilometers. Why could not those who are at the helm of affairs think and plan a little better? Lord, give them a heart and a sense of shame.
Whose heart would not break seeing these sad scenes, no matter how broad their chests and shoulders are. It is a different matter, of course, if there is no heart inside those broad chests. Unfortunately, we do seem to have people like this, with broad chests and no hearts inside. Why else would people not foresee these difficulties, be proactive and plan ahead? Now as these heart-rending scenes unfold before our eyes, I hope they realize their shameless and unscrupulous way of going about, and repent for their wrongdoings, albeit belatedly. That way they will resemble David, who had Uriah put to death, to shamelessly make the latter’s wife his own. And when the prophet Nathan was sent to him by God to open his eyes, he was ready to jump on the man, who had done this, not realizing that it was he himself who had committed the sin. Although late, David realized his sin, and repented for it. 2 Samuel 12 ff. I pray for the grace of repentance for those responsible for the sufferings inflicted upon our brothers and sisters.
Public Service and lost files
Another reason why I pray that our people in authority, may shamefully, albeit belatedly, understand that their authority means nothing else but service. And because very often we hear that they tend to lord it over the people whom they are, actually, called to serve, I pray and request all of you, our readers, to pray that they be given back their sense of shame, which has been stolen away from them by the Evil one, when they were blessed with a government job, which brings with it power and a fat salary. Very often we hear that they treat the people with scant respect. Lord give them qualms of conscience and sense of shame.
A friend of mine, who is intending to build a house, is being mercilessly punished by being called to the concerned office many times, and for no reason, except to harass him. He is an honest and hard-working person, who goes whenever he is called, only to be told to come another day! On two occasions he was told that his file is lost!!! He and I would have believed that the file was really lost. But the ‘file getting lost’ twice in four days, we thought a little too much to be swallowed!! And, of course, we also knew that “files getting lost” in these offices, is a rather common happening. In fact, it happened to me once, when I was called to the office at 9 a.m., and was kept there till 5 p.m. because my ‘file could not be found, and they were looking for it!!’ It must have been like the search for the weapons of mass destruction, by the team of American experts in Iraq --- a search, we know, proved futile, because the weapons were never found!! In my case, my file was found, yes, but at 5 p.m., after a long ‘search’ of eight hours, and that, too, after a perverse officer shamelessly told me that in that office, files don’t move unless money changes hands! Out of some ‘respect’ for my clerical collar, the officer said to me: ‘Father, files don’t move here unless you let money do some talking. Of course, I was not going to let that happen.
And to strengthen the doubts about the “missing file”, in the case of my friend, was the way the people in the office dealt with him. That is the way people in the offices often deal with people who come to them for all kinds of little and big jobs. They look like, and act, as if they and all their family members have been infected by Corona Virus!! They don’t look up, they do not smile to greet you. They do not seem to remember that they are being paid for being good and helpful to the person who is standing there. And to make matters worse, they seem to forget that the person who is expecting to be helped, is actually the one who is paying them, with his tax money. There is no trace of the ordinary decency and etiquette that would be expected from any human being!! They seem to be worse than the colonial lords, of yester-years!!! I pray that the awareness of who they are, and what is expected of them, be restored to them with a good dose of the sense of shame, long stolen from them by the Evil one.
I could have gone on and on, writing about the times when the prayer “Lord restore to them the sense of shame, and open their eyes” needs to be said. It would be too long a Litany, and you, our readers, would have to keep on repeating the above response in prayer! But the greater difficulty would be that the “Indian Currents” would have no space for us in its pages.(Published on 1th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 23)