Conscience Formation

For Christian Catholics there is a formation of conscience that is a lifelong task.  This development of a moral sense of right and wrong starts in the family with your parents.  This conscience formation continues as you have contacts with Church leaders and teachers.  Finally, the role of peers leads to a personal synthesis.  What should I do in this particular case?  I will act based on what my conscience has decided.  If it is poorly formed, I must still follow it.  If I differ from the teachings of the Church, I must try to figure out why I differ from the group.  We always need an informed conscience.

The great individual mourning period (Zech 12:11-12:14)

“On that day,

The mourning in Jerusalem

Will be as great

As the mourning

For Hadad-rimmon

In the plain of Megiddo.

The land shall mourn.

Each family shall mourn

By itself,

The family of the house of David

Shall mourn by itself.

Their wives shall mourn

By themselves.

The family of the house of Nathan

Shall mourn by itself.

Their wives shall mourn

By themselves.

The family of the house of Levi

Shall mourn by itself.

Their wives shall mourn

By themselves.

The family of the Shimeites

Shall mourn by itself.

Their wives shall mourn

By themselves.

All the families that are left,

Shall mourn,

Each by itself.

Their wives shall mourn

By themselves.”

There would be great mourning in Jerusalem, but it would not be a communal mourning.  Each family and group would mourn separately.  Even their wives would also mourn separately from their husbands.  This great grieving in the city itself would be just like the mourning for the local fertility idol god of Hadad-rimmon in the Megiddo area.  It may also be a reference to the death of the religious reforming King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BCE) in Megiddo.  Each family would mourn by itself.  Thus, the house of David, the house of Nathan, the house of Levi, and the house of the Shimeites would grieve separately by themselves with their wives by themselves.  Nathan was the son of David, while Shimei was the grandson of Levi and the son of Gershon.  All these groups had separate families.  The segregated wives of these individual families all had separate mourning activities.

Do not trust anyone (Mic 7:5-7:6)

“Put no trust

In a friend!

Have no confidence

In a loved one!

Guard the doors

Of your mouth

From her

Who lies in your embrace!

The son treats

The father

With contempt.

The daughter

Rises up

Against her mother.

The daughter-in-law

Rises up

Against her mother-in-law.

Your enemies are

Members of your own household.”

Micah warned that they should not trust anyone, not even a friend or loved one.  They should be careful about what they say when embracing someone.  The son was treating his father with contempt.  The daughter was against her mother.  The daughter-in-law was against her mother-in-law.  Their worst enemies were not outside, but in their very own house.  This was a time and a place where you could not trust anyone, even your friends, family, and lovers.  You had to be careful with everyone.

The time and place of Ezekiel’s first vision (Ezek 1:1-1:3)

“In the thirtieth year,

In the fourth month,

On the fifth day

Of the month,

As I was among the exiles

By the river Chebar,

The heavens

Were opened.

I saw visions

Of God.

This was the fifth day

Of the month

Of the fifth year

Of the exile

Of King Jehoiachin.

The word of Yahweh

Came to

The priest Ezekiel,

The son of Buzi,

In the land

Of the Chaldeans

By the river Chebar.

The hand

Of Yahweh

Was on me there.”

The dating is very precise here. This is the 30th year, probably from his birth around 623 BCE during the reign of King Josiah. Ezekiel writes in the first person singular. He said that he was among the exiles at the Chebar River, a small canal near Erech that ran into the Euphrates River in northern Babylon. On the 5th day of the 4th month the heavens opened to provide visions of God to him.  Once again, there is precise information about the date, as this was the 5th year of the exile of King Jehoiachin that had occurred in 598 BCE. Thus this year would have been 593 BCE. Ezekiel’s father was Buzi, a Jerusalem priest, so that he was from a family of priests. The word of Yahweh came to Ezekiel in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. Yahweh put his hand on him. Thus the opening scene is set with this 30 year old exiled Jerusalem priest by a river bank with the rest of the exiles, when a heavenly vision appeared to him.

Honor (Sir 10:19-10:25)

“Whose offspring are worthy of honor?

Human offspring.

Whose offspring are worthy of honor?

Those who fear the Lord.

Whose offspring are unworthy of honor?

Human offspring.

Whose offspring are unworthy of honor?

Those who break the commandments.

Among family members

Their leader is worthy of honor.

Those who fear the Lord

Are worthy of honor in his eyes.

The rich find their glory

In the fear of the Lord.

The eminent find their glory

In the fear of the Lord.

The poor find their glory

In the fear of the Lord.

It is not right to despise

An intelligent poor person.

It is not proper

To honor a sinful person.

The prince is honored.

The judge is honored.

The ruler is honored.

But none of them is greater

Than the one who fears the Lord.

Free citizens will serve

A wise servant.

An intelligent person will not complain.”

Sirach poses a series of questions and answers about honor. Humans are worthy of both honor and dishonor. Those who fear the Lord are worthy of honor, but those who do not follow the commandments are worthy of dishonor. The leader in a family is worthy of honor, but so are those who fear the Lord. Whether you are rich, eminent, or poor, your glory is in the fear of the Lord. You should not despise intelligent poor people, but you should not honor sinners. You may honor a prince, a judge, or a ruler, but none of them is greater than the one who fears the Lord. Free citizens may serve a wise servant, so that the intelligent people will not complain.

Inheritance (Prov 28:8-28:10)

“Whoever augments his wealth by exorbitant interest

Gathers it for another who is kind to the poor.

When one will not listen to the law

Even one’s prayers are an abomination.

Those who mislead the upright into evil ways

Will fall into the pits of their own making.

But the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.”

If you augment your wealth with high interest rates, the law of retribution will get you, so that someone else will end up with your money. They will give it to the poor people so that your profit will be in vain. When you do not listen to the law, your very prayer will be an abomination. If you mislead the upright into evil ways, you will fall into the pits that you made for others. However, the blameless will have a good inheritance for their family.

Fools, friends, and family (Prov 17:16-1:17)

“Why should fools have a price

In his hand

To buy wisdom?

They have no mind to learn.

A friend loves at all times.

Kinsfolk are born to share adversity.”

No fool can buy wisdom because they do not have a learning mind. A friend will love you all the time, no matter what. Your family, where you were born into, is there to share in your adversities.

The wicked (Prov 15:26-15:30)

“Evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh.

But gracious words are pure.

Those who are greedy for unjust gain

Make trouble for their household.

But those who hates bribes

Will live.

The mind of the righteous

Ponders how to answer.

But the mouth of the wicked

Pours out evil.

Yahweh is far from the wicked.

But he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart.

Good news refreshes the body.”

Wicked evil plans are an abomination to Yahweh. Gracious words, on the other hand, are pure. The greedy seek after an unjust gain or profit as they make trouble for their family. If you hate bribes, you will have a long life. The righteous ponder how to answer questions, while the mouths of the wicked pour out evil things. Yahweh stays far away from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous. The light in your eyes rejoices your heart, just as good news refreshes your body.

Seven ugly vices (Prov 6:16-6:19)

“Yahweh hates six things.

But seven are an abomination to him.

They are haughty eyes.

They include a lying tongue.

They are hands that shed innocent blood.

They include a heart that devises wicked plans.

They are feet that hurry to run to evil.

They include a lying witness who testifies falsely.

They include anyone who sows discord in a family.”

This is a numerical listing of vices like the medieval 7 deadly sins. Although Yahweh hates 6 things, 7 are an abomination to him. Among these 7 mentioned, lying is mentioned twice. The first is haughty eyes. The second is the lying tongue. Thus eyes and mouths can create evil vices. Then there are hands that shed innocent blood and feet that run to evil. Thus hands and feet can do evil. Then there is the heart that devises wicked plans. There is then a second mention of lying, by being a false witness, which is somehow different than just a lying tongue. Finally, there is the 7th vice of sowing discord in a family.

The plague among the Israelites (Ps 106:28-106:31)

“Then the Israelites attached themselves to the Baal of Peor.

They ate sacrifices offered to the dead.

They provoked Yahweh to anger with their doings.

A plague broke out among them.

Then Phinehas stood up.

He interceded.

Then the plague was stopped.

That has been reckoned to him as righteousness

From generation to generation forever.”

Once again Yahweh was angry with the Israelites as they sacrificed to the pagan god Baal at Mount Peor in Numbers, chapter 25. They had sex with the local women and began to worship the local gods of Baal on their way into the Promised Land. This proved Yahweh to anger again, so that a plague broke out among the Israelites. Phinehas, who was the grandson of Aaron, stood up and killed an Israelite who brought a local Midian woman into his family. He also killed her with a sword in front of everybody. With that, the plague that had killed 24,000 Israelites stopped. Thus his name, Phinehas, is still honored for generations. This killing was considered righteousness because of the wicked Israelites.