Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Sunday, 12 November 2023

The conscience is still absent

Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader :

Humanity is still glued to television screens, watching the live annihilation of a people, which invokes repulsion, while viewing the screaming helpless children. As I write these words on the plane and listen to the laughter of children accompanying their families on trips that could be recreational, for work, or for visiting relatives, I also listen in the depths of my heart to the crying of the children of Gaza, who miss the beautiful aspects of life, the most important of which are fun, tranquility, a comfortable family atmosphere, and schools. What is globally saddening that I feel nowadays is that the cardinal absent factor is conscience. It is essentially an invisible being, yet it possesses something which armies—that attack the tranquility of people by sea, land, and air--do not possess.


I go back more than a quarter of a century, when late Fr. Ramzi Ni’meh taught us at the Catholic Seminary in Beit Jala with a special and long reference to the word conscience. I recall that he said that the word “conscience” is completely devoid in the Hebrew language and in the Holy Bible’s Old Testament as well, as it is replaced by the terms spirit, soul, or heart. As for the New Testament, Saint Paul uses it several times in his letters, while Lord Jesus Christ uses words that implicitly refer to it, such as an implicit motive and a propellant to do good, which is namely the interior, the heart, and the eye. He says, “Your eye is the lamp of your body, when your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light.” Consequently, this applies to the conscience for if it is sound and perfect, then the person’s life will be like that, while if it is a corrupt, then the entire life will be so.


The word conscience in Greek is "syneidesis" which means inner admission of sin. It is the voice of God within humans that helps them know and follow goodness as well as to know and avoid evil and the feeling of compunction in case of violating rules or committing a certain sin. The Latin word "conscientia" refers to this "innate knowledge" of good and evil. The Church knows that if one wants to reconsider one's deeds and be accountable for what one did in the past, one must undertake a frank and deep “examination of conscience,” to see where one succeeded and where failed.


I made these remarks to say, where is this wonderful thing, namely the conscience which the Italians refer to as "the relaxed conscience is a soft pillow" which makes one sleep with peace of mind, comfort and reassurance, while someone who suffers from a compunction stays awake all night  while being unable to fall asleep?


However, one of the positive aspects of these days is the awakening of the conscience of peoples all over the world, after they had become drowsy, sleepy, and even blind (with reference to the relevant remark made by Jesus Christ while compared it to the eye). Furthermore, the living, alert, active, and the sensitive conscience of the people’s leaders are still asleep, and the world’s alarm clocks have not been able to awaken it. Indeed, the perverted conscience has turned killing and intimidation into a sacred act. Lord Jesus Christ said one day, “In fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think that they are offering a service to God.”


The Almighty God never condoned killing, neither in His name nor in the name of any moral value. That is why Pope Francis has shouted from the window of his office last Sunday saying, “In the name of God, please cease fire.” On that day, the echo of this conscience reverberated through the screaming of child Elijah Tarazi from the heart of the Church of the Holy Family Church, while the missiles were raining down. He prayed or rather screamed with the faithful repeating his words, "O Lord, save us from evil." What is more important is save us from the death of the conscience." The voice of the child Elijah, which is the same name of Prophet Elijah who was born in Ajloun, will continue to reverberate by calling on the world never to surrender to a status quo in which the conscience dies because with this the entire humanity will have died in light of the war crimes committed in cold blood and with an absent conscience.


O conscience, wake up…