God sees your mind and heart - 12th Sunday in the year 2017

Friends, today it feels like we are living in the last days. Idolatry and all types of hypocrisy seem to have taken over the world. Capitalism tyranny has created a world in which the only approved value is nihilism and worthlessness. Humility, faithfulness, truth, honour, integrity no longer win people's heart. Many people today suffer from a "widespread ignorance and deny only the teaching of the Church but also the Scriptures and the existence of God, heaven and the hell. Those who do not live in Scripture and know its images first-hand are more likely to see the biblical language as irrelevant or Inflammatory. Open profession of Christian belief seems be a crime in many countries. The Bible and its teachings appear to belong to past and no longer useful nowadays. Nevertheless, God's word stands for eternity. It does not matter what you and I think, feel or believe. God knows our heart and mind.

The prophet Jeremiah, who was called at the age of 22, was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. Jeremiah lived at a difficult time in the history of the chosen people. Israel, the northern kingdom was defeated by Assyria 721 BC. And the people were taken into exile. Judah, the southern kingdom survived until 587 BC when Babylon took it and sent its people in exile. The prophet Jeremiah believed that the sins of the people had caused this punishment. For forty years, the prophet Jeremiah told the people of Judah not to abandon God's ordinances. Jeremiah is also called 'crying prophet' because he had great compassion with the people of Judah like God. He wept for them and wanted them to listen to avoid the tragedy that would befall them. Many laughed at him and wanted to kill him. Israel and Judah had denied God and said, "The Lord does not see anything" (Jeremiah 5:12). Israel and Judah must repent. Jeremiah warned King Sidkiah not to betray King Nebuchadnezzar or to revolt against him and his army because the consequences would be enormous for the whole people. The people refused to worship God. Sidkia did not listen, so it had incredible consequences for all the people. They were taken in exile and deprived of their freedom for 70 years. Sidkia believed he could do as he wanted. Humiliated by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. Yet God did not forget his people.

Jeremiah's experience finds echo among many inside and outside the Church (Jer 20: 10-13). Many people are suffering in the Church for standing up for truth and justice. Many are persecuted, censored and given negative names such as ‘rebels and so forth. Last Thursday, I read an article by Matthew Schmitz in the Catholic Heralds on Cardinal Robert Sarah, and his enemies. Cardinal Sarah is a Vatican Curia member, the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. During the last family Synod in Rome, the Synod Fathers were torn between the competing demands on how to stretch hands to those who feel

marginalized by the Church's sexual teachings and proclaiming the truth to a hostile world. Cardinal Sarah challenged that the Church still must proclaim the truth for these two major challenges. "On the one hand, the idolatry of Western freedom: On the other hand, Islamic fundamentalism: Atheist secularism against religious fanaticism." Sarah has been criticized, mocked and attacked from even bishops because he had challenged the fathers of the synod to adhere to the word of God and the tradition of the Church. I find similarities in Jeremiah's life and how Cardinal Sarah is mocked and attacked by some Church leaders. On the one hand, fear of religious oppression induces some to worship an idolatrous freedom. On the other hand, attacks on human nature tempt some to embrace the false assertion of religious fundamentalism. He believes that every evil is tempting those who fear it to succumb to the opposite. As with communism and Nazism in the 20th century, both must be resisted. "The Church would commit a mortal mistake if she dared to give a kind of social face to the modern world unleashed by free-market capitalism, "he observes.

It is remarkable that Sarah has suffered these series of attacks with such grace. In his recently published book, The Power of Silence, we hear him on his experience:

"I have painfully experienced assassination gossip, slander and public humiliation, and I learned that when a person has decided to destroy you, he has no shortage of words, spite and hypocrisy. Falsehood has an enormous ability to construct arguments, evidence and truths out of the sand. When this is the behaviour of men of the Church, and especially bishops, the pain is still deeper. But … we must remain calm and silent, asking for the grace never to give in to rancour, hatred and feelings of worthlessness. Let us stand firm in our love for God and for his Church, in humility.”

People of this age, want to give free reigns to their passions, preferences, their aggressiveness, all their desires. Clearly, it is not honest to give in for every momentum. This was what tempted Apostles James and John when they asked Jesus: "Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven that destroys them?" (Luke 9: 51-62). St Paul counts self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).

For anyone who is falsely accused, blackmailed, publicly humiliated because of their faith in the Lord, it is comforting to hear what Jesus says in today's gospel: "Do not be afraid. There is nothing hidden that will not come to light and nothing hidden that will not be known. "(Matthew 10: 26-33). Loving and fearing the Lord's holy name, not allowing anything to separate ourselves from God's love and fatherly care is a difficult challenge for most Christians today. If somebody wants to walk in my path, he/she must deny self and every day take up one’s cross and follow me. From experience, I know that all people are tempted and tried. I also know that, as Christians, we often find it hard to trust Jesus. This may have something to do with the wrong image of God we have. It happens that we often reduce faith to only our feelings and therefore act on this basis.

Have you ever been accused of what you have not done? Have you become victim of fellow human's cruel and ruthless attacks? Have you been misunderstood and attacked by people you thought worked for the same purpose as you? Sometimes we can become victims of cruel and indiscriminate deeds of those who consider themselves to be our opponents or enemies and spread false rumours about us. This type of people always consider themselves right and cannot imagine themselves being wrong. Some of them may look so innocent that they often fool good and intelligent people to believe their stories. Many of these people are always convinced that they are right and they never ask for the forgiveness of those they have violated even when the opposite is proven.

Have you been acquitted of all accusations and criticisms? Then you know and understand what the prophet Jeremiah says today: "The Lord our righteousness." There is an advantage in being accused and criticized. There is always an advantage in having opponents and enemies. The purpose of this is not to say to you that it is pleasant when someone accuses us false or conspires to put a case against us. Never is it easy for the person who is exposed to this to go without losing many sleepless nights. But when we are accused in this way, it can keep us awake and help us pay attention to the signs of time that are essential to a successful life. Should we wish the death of our enemies and opponents? Not at all. Like Jeremiah, we should present our case to the Lord. It is important to pray the Lord to always give us an obedient heart so that we can distinguish between good and evil and make us willing to act for good no matter whatever the circumstances.

Through his cross and his blood, Jesus has made all righteous. It is a fact that the covenant has been concluded with the blood of Christ. It is through Him that we receive our righteousness (Romans 4:25). We receive our righteousness as a gift from the Lord. The Hebrew word Tsidkenu (sid-kay-nu) comes from tsedsk meaning 'straight' or 'right' and possessive pronoun (spring) - Yahweh Tsidkenu - God our righteousness. To understand the meaning of the word, it is important to first look at God's qualities. God is righteousness himself.

Criticism is always legitimate but must be based on the will to build up not to destroy. When criticizing and challenging with bitterness, criticism does not find any ear. Can you imagine yourself to be wrong in your criticisms and allegations? Then all the criticisms must be performed with love and humility for it to be constructive. Love is the only power that can transform the human person for good. The motivation for the criticism is crucial to how it is received. "He who is not against us, He is for us," says Jesus. Even among the saints sometimes misunderstandings and criticism prevailed. They did not always agree. Peter and Paul did not always agree on missionary strategies. St Bonifacius reported St Vergilius, mathematician and naturalist of the 700's to the pope, Sakarias for Virgilius had taught that the earth was spherical and that there would be people on the other side that go up and down in relation to people on earth. Bonifatius's concern was since these people could not be derived from Adam, and thus could not share in the original sin. As a result, they would not be saved by Christ. Therefore, he reported to Virgilius who had no problems but was appointed bishop of Salzburg and later canonized by Saint Gregory IX in 1233.

Someone who really loves eternal life must be prepared to take his or her cross and follow Christ and if necessary sacrifice his or her life as Christ did. Jesus uses the word ‘Son of man’ forty times in the gospel, a title that goes back to the Old Testament. We are called to daily carry our cross and follow the Lord. Throughout the ages, there have been countless people who suffered and died of martyrdom for Christ's sake. It may mean to tolerate a crazy spouse or husband, troublesome siblings or friends and relatives. In addition, it can mean seeing with love and forgiveness on those who hate, violate and discriminate us at work. We will experience injustice and people who bear false witness against us. It may also be that we are confronted with adversities, feel mentally bad, with perhaps different forms of anxiety, obsessive thoughts, suicidal thoughts and much more. Then we must dare to trust in the word of God. Those who earnestly yearn for God receive His blessing.

Today, many Christians have an à la carte attitude to God's Word. We choose what suits our lives and reject or deny what does not suit us. In this way, we cut God apart. The world's sin, for the most part, is its self-sufficiency. The hatred of the Christian faith is strong. We need to satisfy ourselves with the word of God and not with our own preferences and agendas. A source of peaceful joy is awareness and acceptance that existence rests in the hand of God. The road to joy is not to give in to the desires of life.  Joy is in our innermost, and our innermost part is always close to us, in abstinence and being in the word of God. Joy is in our docility to the word of God, who sees the mind and the heart. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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