15 March, 2019

…Those who repent, believe, and do good deeds: God will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful.

~ Qur’an 25.70 ~

The call to repentance, faith and good deeds crosses all the great faiths. As the quotation from the Qur’an shows, we are called to a faith that drives us into action. With humble faith in God we are to live our lives in radical service and not to do evil. In the sura [chapter] from which our text is taken, God warns that those who sin will endure divine punishment. This is consistent with today’s readings – from Ezekiel (18:21-28) and Matthew (5:20-26). Yet in all three great faiths we are reminded not to take pleasure in the punishment of the wicked, but to rejoice rather when a wicked person repents.

I fear many of us actually take delight when the ‘wicked’ are exposed, and most of all when they are punished. I know many who can’t wait to read about the next political crisis, the next corruption case, in the newspapers. For those who have always resented, or been sceptical of, our new democracy, the delight is mixed with an attitude of “I told you so!”

This is not the way we should behave. It is quite right that political and economic misdeeds should be revealed – and it is sad to see how often people seem to wriggle out of being made to account for their actions through the all-too-frequent ‘lost evidence’ or simply bungled police procedure. It is also infuriating to see how a number of convicted felons have been let off the hook on the ‘compassionate grounds’ of sudden terminal illness – only to be seen out playing golf within a week or so of release! (Though it is encouraging that the Presidency is finally starting to signal a shift in this regard.)

The Gospel, I think, offers us a twofold way to deal with this. The tone of Jesus’ speech is quite angry and uncompromising. And I think, in the name of good governance and a society based on the rule of law, we are entitled to be angry when justice is subverted, particularly when there seems to be two standards of law – one for the powerful, and another for the rest of us.

The second aspect we need to consider is Jesus’ injunction to each one of us: unless our righteousness surpasses that of those who hold power, we shall not enter the Kingdom. Our great temptation in the face of the double standard is to develop a cynical attitude and do as we like –then, when caught, we excuse our actions by appealing to the bad examples within the elite! Corruption, as I’ve noted earlier, is pervasive. It is pervasive because we let ourselves be corrupted. The result is that we become part of the problem, and not an example of the solution.

Let us, this Lent, combat corruption at every level – starting with wherever it might be in our own lives.



challenge us

to live

by your example

and not

by the

bad example

of the corrupt.

Help us

to seek

what is right

and to follow

our consciences.



Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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