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The sermon of Bishop the Rt Rev Ian Ernest for Remembrance Day service at St James Cathedral MAURITIUS 2013 10 NOVEMBER .
 
MAUEN 131111-1
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

Prophet Isaiah:

“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

denominations.

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

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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

these.

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

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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

things.

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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

our solidarity.

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

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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:

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“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.

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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.



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