|The sermon of Bishop the Rt Rev Ian Ernest for Remembrance Day service at St James Cathedral MAURITIUS 2013 10 NOVEMBER .
November 11, 2013
[Diocese of Mauritius - Indian Ocean] Remembrance Sunday – 10.11.2013
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
To mark Remembrance Day, we shall as we have done in the past
decades pray for the prevalence of justice and peace and more specially
to give thanks to God for all those men and women who have sacrificed
their lives for the cause of relieving our world from despair and confusion
that are brought about by the evils of injustice and aggression.
This act of commemoration therefore provides us with a wonderful
occasion to deeply think over on how we who cherish values like justice,
truth and peace respond positively to what God requires of us. This
requirement is clearly spelt out in the first reading we heard earlier from
“Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression”
Therefore the justification for our gathering this morning is to let
ourselves be inspired by insights of a spiritual nature so that we may
develop and identify a moral and spiritual pathway for our societies.
But, before I expand in detail on the divine mandate given to us to do
good, to seek justice and to correct oppression, I would like to extend
to all of you a very warm welcome. May I also respectfully present
my salutations to His Excellency the President, Hon. Mr Rajkeswur
Purrayag, the Honourable Prime Minister and Mrs Ramgoolam, the
Honourable leader of the Opposition, Mr Berenger, the highly esteemed
members of the Ex Servicemen Association, Ambassadors and High
Commissioners and our brothers and sisters from other religious
As I speak to you this morning, a question comes to my mind. “What
are the biggest problems in the world”. By this, I mean, what are the
problems that “cause the most suffering today, that put in peril our
future”. I wish to refer here amongst any other things, of the challenges
of global poverty, alienation, environmental destruction and the
increasing level of, and potential for, violence in to-day’s world.
And my other question as a follower of Jesus is to ask what Jesus Christ
has to say about these global problems. As heard in the reading of the
Gospel according to St Matthew, Jesus has certainly much to teach us
about how we should live in a world facing such enormous problems of
The answers to my questions can be found in the words of Jesus who
describe the values and priorities he wishes us to adopt.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
rust destroy, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. You cannot
serve both God and Money.”
A few weeks ago, I had the joy and privilege to visit the house where
Mahatma Gandhi lived in Delhi. I was struck, while reading on the walls
of his house his statements, by the extent to which the teachings of
Jesus Christ shaped Gandhi’s, outlook and Mission. The teachings of
Jesus left an abiding shaping impression on him.
The sermon of the Mount has had a considerable impact on him. In his
autobiography “the story of my experiments with truth”, Gandhi wrote:
“The New Testament produced a different impression, specially the Sermon
on the Mount which went straight to my heart”. (Else, we would not have
had the famous Pietermaritzburg episode).
It is very clear in the Sermon in the Mount that Jesus expects us who
would follow him to live in ways that are clearly different from the popular
culture around us. Jesus urges on us to avoid the hypocrisy of the
religious when we pray, fast and give alms and that we should avoid
the materialisation of the irreligious when we are engaged in the public
business of the world. He expects us to have different priorities, different
values from those who live around us.
In the passage read to us in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus describes
how we should relate to wealth and property which is certainly at the
centre of global issues such as widespread poverty, environmental
destruction and increasing violence.
From the Gospel, 3 choices are given to us as they enable us to fight
against injustice, aggression and greed.
1. We are to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than
treasures on earth
2. We are to have sound and healthy eyes, living in the light rather
that in darkness.
3. We are to serve God rather that wealth.
Friends, what are we to understand when Jesus tells us not to lay up
treasures for ourselves on earth? Firstly, we have to be clear about
what he does not mean. He does not mean that we should not have
possessions, nor does he mean that we should not make provision for
the future nor does he mean that we should not enjoy the good things
that God has given us to enjoy.
Jesus is asking us not to possess goods for ourselves. He is forbidding
extravagant, wasteful, luxurious living. In the past months, we have
seen that some of us have even used corrupted devices in order to
enjoy extravagant and luxurious living. Jesus is also opposing the level
in indifference and contempt that fails to feel compassion in the face of
the tremendous sufferings of the world’s poor. He is rejecting the foolish
fantasy that the life of a person is being measured by the abundance
of his possessions and that one’s worth should be judged by what one
owns. He is condemning the materialism that limits our hearts to earthly
Friends, the problem is not the world’s after all, the world was created
and found good by the Creator (Genesis 1). God loves the world. (John
3.16) But God grieves over the pattern of the world. The “pattern of the
world is the pattern of power”. Its divine counterpart is love.
God implanted the essence of his justice by creating us in his image and
his likeness. God’s justice is the right to be full-fledged human beings.
So, when we are focussed on God’s justice, we seek to do good and
correct oppression. Godliness and religious bigotry cannot coexist.
God call us to unity. Unity presupposes diversity. Unfortunately, in the
past years we note that God has been however, used and abused as
a alibi for division and disunity. Friends, divine attributes – love, truth,
justice and compassion – transcend all religious barriers and ghettos.
Focussing on them, will help us deepen human fellowship and promote
The second choice is an appeal to live in the light rather that in
darkness. Everything depends on our ability to see – both in the literal
and figurative sense. Jesus is saying that just as a blind person’s life is
darkened by the malfunction of the eye so the life of a self-centred
person who amasses his wealth is darkened by his failure to deal
generously with others. When our eye is sound, when our hearts are
fixed on things of eternal value, we live in the light and our lives are full
of meaning and purpose. By our trust in God we can be generous and
compassionate in our dealings with others. Light enables us to see –
see especially human needs. Our dealings with the most vulnerable
should not be paternalistic. The National budget for 2014 seems to lay
emphasis on the need for empowerment. This is indeed important as we
have the obligation to respond to the needs of the poor not through
charity but by empowering them to work. One of the grievances against
Corporate Social Responsibility and the way that some of us use it, is
that it is geared towards developing a culture of self-indulgence – That is
satisfying one’s own need –doing some charity for self satisfaction. But
our duty is to empower and equip people so that they may share in the
riches of the nation. We should not be afraid of giving warnings against
aberrations of acquisitiveness. We must advocate for a responsible
stewardship of the resources of the earth. I will plead on the government
to develop furthermore an economy that is based on justice rather than
the generation of wealth. Whatever we may say or write, I can sense the
emerging growing allergy to the poor. The culture of consumerism is
aggressing us. Our children are unfortunately growing in a culture of
fierce competition, aggressive marketing, and an abundance of at times
erroneous information. It is time that parents and educators be aware of
their responsibilities to fight against this prevailing wind of the worship of
Mammon. Indeed as Mahatma Gandhi, said in a lecture delivered at the
Muir Central College Economics Society in Allahabad in 1916 “the test of
orderliness in a country is not the number of millionaires it owns, but the
absence of starvation among its masses. So, there is a need for a reform in
the way we mentor our children”. In this speech, Mahatma also warned
the audience about “the moral depravity and social order that are sure to
result from the pursuit of wealth without social justice”. So to correct
oppression, we have to correct the process of learning which today
focusses only on achievements for one’s own benefits. In one of his
encounters with the youth of his day, Jesus answered a young man who
had asked him the question of how to gain eternal life. He said that
observing all the religious laws was not enough. He told him – Go, sell
whatever you have and give to the poor. The young man was suddenly
overwhelmed by sadness and went away from Jesus.
So, when our eye and hearts are fixed on things that pass away, we are
in darkness and will never realise the full potential of our being. And here
I wish to bring to light the plight of those who have survived the Second
World War and who are today in their eighties. I received a letter from
some of them last week – I wish to share it with you:
“Around 30,000 Mauritians and Rodriguans left the islands to help and
serve the allied force during the 1939-45 War and Peace time periods.
Today only 3,000 of them are still alive and most of them are 80 years
and over. Almost all of these survivors are unfortunately still struggling
for survival, victim of soar illnesses and deeply engraved scars of war.
Some have one limb, some are one eyed, some blind or have one arm
left, just to name some. We only hope that all the stakeholders of
our country bear testimony upon the fact of historical evidences that
contributed greatly for the upbringing of our today’s Republic, and
pay tribute to the elders, with due reverence and recognition together
with a more decent revenue package, so as to end this chapter with
dignity.” I do hope that this compels us to be attentive to the needs
of this group and to act upon it.
Finally, Jesus comments that are to serve God and not “Mammon”. A
choice has to be made. This comment is indeed challenging for us who
live in a context where the pursuit of wealth and privilege seems to be
on the priority list of our objectives in life. But as we look around and see
how greed and bad governance have brought about the Global Financial
Crisis and how corruption as a social evil undermines the well being of
a nation, a question arises: “what is it that I value most? What sets my
priorities and determines my choices in life? We always boast in this
country of the religious nature of our people but ultimately does loyalty
lie with God or with our possessions?”
Our achievements, our status in society to a degree have become idols
in our lives. But we know that we cannot serve God and Mammon. The
problems that we face today lies with the fact that we at times have not
set our priorities right.
A professor of Theology had this modest proposal for peace: Let all the
people of faith through the world agree that they will not kill each other.
Unfortunately this seems far away as a few weeks at the Anglican Parish
of All Saints, in Peshawar, Pakistan 85 people died in a terrorist attack.
But my hope is that we here can become for the world an example of a
nation of faith that agree to work, walk and progress together.
This will then take us to correct oppression, do good, and seek justice
if as a nation of faith we are able to choose to store up treasures in
heaven rather than on earth. We should agree and pledge ourselves to
be servants of God rather than slaves to Mammon.
If we take the words of Jesus to heart, if we make his priorities our
priorities and follow his teachings, many of the world’s greatest problems
will be solved. And as far as followers of God in the way of Jesus, let us
set the example by serving God and not money, wealth or possessions.