In our early days at school, we were often asked to name the basic necessities of life. We were taught the value of duty and service. We were taught the value of honesty and respect for human dignity. We were taught that the village community rejoice in the sharing of the elephant that is killed by only one hunter. Back home, the elders reemphasized these values with stories, riddles and jokes. I still recall the beautiful story of Ọvhabumhẹ (Greed or It is not enough for me) among the Etsako that was used to teach children how greed caused hunger, pain, death and all forms of evil for human beings. I perceive this as the Etsako contextual version of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2).
After creating everything, God created human beings and made the earth human paradise. God provided every food from the sky which was close to the earth in a way and manner that all that a person needed was to take food (eko) and what he needs from the sky. God made sure that the sky was within the reach of human beings to demonstrate that every human being had the right to access the divine providence. However, God forbade human beings to waste or hoard food. God commanded that only what one needs to consume should one take from the sky. The emphasis was need and not wants. The sky also symbolized God’s presence and nearness to human beings.
The loss of this paradise was caused by a woman called Ọvhabumhẹ. She collected seven baskets of bread (ẹko) from the sky. She could not finish the food and could not share with those who needed the food. Rats ate from the remnants whereas her fellow human beings could not have access to the food. God was angry and caused the sky to go far away beyond the reach of human beings. It became a proverb that greed drove away the sky: Ọvhabumhẹ ọkh”okhui ye.
Consequently, human beings had to labour for the food they eat. Pain, suffering and all forms of evil came upon mankind. In Genesis creation account and Etsakọ story of Ọvhabumhẹ the appetite caused the fall of mankind and the loss of earthly paradise. Till today the insatiability of man still inflict suffering in the world. Human beings are no longer content with what they have. Everybody wants one more of everything not for the immediate need but for either fear of scarcity in the future or for his future generation. (Cornelius A. Omonokhua, Human Life, Here and Hereafter, Eschatology and Anthropology in the Judeo Christian and Etsako Religions, Lagos, Hexagon, Page 64)
The happenings and experiences in our world today call for so many questions. The experiences of some “rich” people who have amassed so much wealth and properties for their children and grandchildren who grow up only not to appreciate their efforts show the stupidity in accumulation of earthly wealth. Their numerous buildings are now being occupied by ants, termites, cockroaches, reptiles and all forms of animals. Some abandoned buildings have become abode for kidnappers and people of the underworld. Some people have so much money that could put a smile on the face of their immediate community but what do they do with the money? Unfortunately, not many people question the sources of this wasting and wasted wealth. We live in a world were thieves are celebrated with titles and honorary degrees. Fighting corruption has become akin to fighting a monster. The victory over corruption does not seem to have a warning light, talk less of a green light. The reason could be that the root of corruption has not been traced. Do people still believe that “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Fear of the future has been addressed in hymns, prayers and scriptures. Some people have suggested that one of the reasons for clerical celibacy is to free the Cleric for the service of everybody. For some people, Celibacy could prevent the temptation of turning the Church into a family business. Stephen Beale who was an evangelical Protestant and a convert to Catholicism gave ten reasons for clerical celibacy among which is, “Detachment from the world. Celibacy is but one example of a broader detachment from all things of this world-something necessary in order for the priest “to follow the Divine Master more easily and readily,” according to Pope Pius XII in his apostolic exhortation Menti Nostrae. “Sanctity alone makes us what our divine vocation demands, men crucified to the world and to whom the world has been crucified, men walking in newness of life who … seek only heavenly things and strive by every means to lead others to them,” Pius X writes in his apostolic exhortation, Haerent Animo (http://catholicexchange.com/10-reasons-for-priestly-celibacy)
This is only an example of how detachment from unnecessary material acquisition could create a space in the heart of human beings to think of death and the joy of heaven. In the greed to amass wealth for the future, a human person sometimes behaves like a monster. Whereas some kill fellow human beings to make money, use dubious means to acquire positions and confiscate common good to private property, Saints like Francis of Assisi renounce wealth to give others a life of comfort. Renouncing a life of wasteful living, Francis began to give away his clothes and possessions to the poor. Rather than donning the latest silk styles, he took the humble brown robe of the peasant for the remainder of his days. Perhaps most revealing is that instead of partying all night, Francis pulled apart to spend hours with the Lord in prayer. In addition, Francis began to love the very people who most repulsed him before he met Christ. Lepers were the lowest people in society. Consigned to reside in leper camps in the marshy areas below Assisi, they were the walking dead as their bodies and faces slowly rotted away. Francis—the young man caught up with looks and fashion—had always been revolted by the very sight of them. One day after his encounter with the Lord, however, he was riding his horse in the fields and ran across a leper. Dismounting, Francis had compassion on the man and gave his money to him. More than that, Francis saw Christ in this broken man. As Jesus asserted, “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Francis reached out to the leper and kissed him (http://www1.cbn.com/churchandministry/the-st.-francis-revival)
Human beings should really be custodians and dispersers of God’s gifts. In Benin tradition, the eldest son of the family inherits the properties of the parents. The idea was that he would play the role of a father and ensure that the younger ones are well taken care of. Those who have been genuinely, enriched by God ought to be aware that what they have is not just for their personal aggrandizement. God only want to use the rich to make life comfortable for the poor. Frequently, people demand accountability from government functionaries. For example, what does a Senator do with the allocation meant for his senatorial district? Why is it that only political office holders are millionaires in a country like Nigeria? Why are some people greedy to the extent that their ears are deaf to the cry of the poor and the misery of the people? Many people are suffering today because some people have taken the form of a monster and men have become wolves to fellow men. Do not let anything even the fear of the future turn you a senseless monster without human feelings. Jesus warned his followers, “"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15). I pray that human beings would remember the last day and have a change of heart and transformation of character.
By Rev. Fr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
Fr. Cornelius Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (email@example.com)