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ALL IN SEVEN [7]

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, the omnipotent and gracious God has bequeathed on us the gift of life to journey through this month of July. We were blessed in the previous month with a lot of celebrations at the heart of the Church’s life. This is the beauty of the Church that is our Mother, never failing to care for all her children and drawing us all into the Paschal mystery of our Lord and saviour.

The number seven is the most prominent number throughout the whole Bible. The word ‘seven’ and its derivatives such as ‘seventh’, ‘seventy’, appear a great number of times in the Bible. The book of the Bible that uses the number most frequently is the Book of Revelation. Considering that July is the seventh month of the year, it strikes my mind to look at the number 7 since it is a Biblical figure, significant for completeness and perfection. A lot of instances relating to the number seven or its derivatives have been talked about by many theologians and biblical scholars but I wish to highlight three of them and situate them within the context of our own lives as Christians and as a Nation.

Seven [7] and Mercy

One of the best models of conversion in Biblical History till date is the woman celebrated on the 22nd of this month [Mary Magdalene], appropriately called Apostle to the Apostles.

Luke’s Gospel chapter 7, acquaints us with ‘the sinful woman’ even though she is not named in this chapter. She is branded in a degraded way as a ‘public sinner’ and Simon, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his house, felt a great level of shame and disgrace that she had found entrance into his house. To make matters even sorer, it seemed to him that Jesus had no prophetic power because “if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” [Luke 7:39]. Luke gives us a deeper insight when in the next chapter he chronicles that some women accompanied Jesus and among them was “Mary called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out” [Luke 8:2].

As it is said, “she [Magdalene] possessed all the qualities of mind and body and all the gifts of fortune that can, lead one to the worst excesses.” She was deep seated in sin. The biblical number 7 appears again to show the depth of healing and forgiveness that she experienced; it was whole and total. About this woman, St. John Chrysostom says: “thus the harlot became then more honourable than the virgins.” The one who once gave her entire self to corruption has been changed, she now gives herself totally to God.

Analysing this story wisely clearly shows that multitude of sins is not too great for the power and mercy of God. Magdalene is a classic example of one who may have been like us or maybe worse off yet she was absolutely redeemed. God’s mercy is not partial and He never stops until we are made whole. This is also a way by which we can understand what the Church teaches on purgatory – it is not a place of endless pain, but the means of God’s complete and entire purification of the sinner into becoming a Saint. Think about this and give yourself over to the mercy and healing of God that you may be pure and holy. He is the one who cleans us up and gives us our dignity. So we can pray: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of your mercy. Amen.’

Seven [7] and Wisdom

Proverbs 9:1 states, “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up her seven pillars.” This is obviously a figurative picture, since the same Scriptures make us know that wisdom is personified. What then are these “seven pillars” that wisdom has erected?

Numerous interpretations exist concerning the seven pillars of wisdom in this passage. However, one idea is that, since the number seven often expresses completeness in Scripture, the passage communicates that the application of wisdom results in a complete, orderly, structure that lacks nothing. Pillars are very important for the durability of any structure that has been erected. It is a symbol for the strength and / or the sustenance of that structure without which a disaster is bound to occur. The word is used in different expression usually referring to a person, a theory, an idea and in a more generic and spiritual sense, in reference to God.

The verses of Proverbs 9 emphasize a central truth: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” and this is found in verse 10. The emphasis is on seeking wisdom, avoiding folly, and finding this wisdom in the Lord. All endeavours without the wisdom that comes from God alone, is not bound to align with the ultimate will of God. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – it is wise therefore not to be averse to will of God.

Wisdom in general seems to bring our minds to someone with much experience in an area or someone who makes good judgments. Nonetheless it is pertinent to state that having Wisdom is different from having knowledge. Knowledge is defined as having information through experience, reasoning or acquaintance while wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right and just.

In the bid to make ends meet, we do not need to employ strategies and tactics that are dehumanising, we do not have to be short-sighted, focusing only on our immediate circumference and neglecting the common good. Within the context of our reflection, the seventh position of this month and its biblical significance should steer in us the quest for personal and national convictions that are unprejudiced. As John F. Kennedy once said “Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. Those whom God has so joined together, let no man put asunder.” The wisdom of the Lord is one that enables us to judge wisely and helps to put our knowledge to good use. So we can pray: ‘O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Amen.’

Seventh [7th] Commandment

In the book of Exodus chapter 20 we find the very well-known Decalogue given to Moses by God, for the religious and social interaction of the Israelites. The seventh one states “thou shall not steal.” This commandment as it is popularly understood forbids primarily the unlawful taking of someone else’s property. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, theft is “usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner” [CCC 2408]. Looking at this commandment in a larger context it involves more than just the ordinary. It also includes defrauding, appropriating to oneself, lost items that may have been returned, unlawful suppression of a just wage, falsifying accounting records, tax evasion, placing workers in brutal and dehumanising conditions, doing a substandard work and demanding inappropriate remuneration and more but to enlist a few.

Stealing is against justice. It deprives people of what is rightfully theirs. It is a factor that contributes to the deep level of poverty in many nations. Nigeria has been hit by many men and women who have blatantly flouted this commandment. You can ask why will an infinitesimal fraction of the populace appropriate to themselves what should be generously shared? They are not more human than others, they are not more ‘Nigerian’ than the rest of the Nation. Why then should this be? It is even sadder to know that Christians who participate in the politics of the Nation or administration of various institutions are not interested in injecting the ever beautiful Gospel tenets into these structures.

Come to think of this, God has entrusted to everyone and not a few, a rich earth that could offer all men sufficient food and living space. Yet there are whole regions, countries and continents in which many people have scarcely the bare necessities for living. Greed and theft makes it difficult to enable the poor to share from these God given gifts. St. John Chrysostom says: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs.” The world would be a much better place if only people learn to eschew amassing for themselves what belongs to all, if individuals realise that we do not have to wilfully deprive others of what is theirs for our gain.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

† Alfred Adewale Martins

Archbishop of Lagos.

 

 

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