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The Word on the Week

Berlusconi.

What images does the name Berlusconi conjure up? I suspect that some of them were confirmed yesterday when the Italian Court sentenced their former Prime Minister to 4 years in prison.

His large business empire had been under scrutiny for some time and the charge of tax evasion produced a guilty verdict. Apparently he and some others had bought the rights, through a series of offshore companies, to broadcast American movies on Berlusconi’s private television networks and falsely declared the amount of the payments to avoid taxes. There were about 3,000 films which were then re-licensed for distribution through the Berlusconi network, at an inflated price, creating a slush fund of €30,000,000.

The verdict was met by a strident Berlusconi who denied any wrongdoing and went on the offensive. He claimed that the verdict was politically inspired by his enemies. He further claimed that in his 20 year battle with the judiciary (in 1997 and 1998, when Berlusconi was the opposition leader, he was convicted by lower courts on charges of tax fraud and corruption) he was subject to a witch hunt by leftist leaning magistrates.

The 76 year old is in more trouble. He is coming to the end of a 4 year period of dodging court proceedings for his alleged involvement in under-age sex.

This chapter of his life provides us with a good illustration of a person whose “conscience has been seared with a hot iron” (1Timothy Chapter 4 verse 2). Just as a burn on the hand by a hot iron produces a weal which hardens and becomes insensitive until the new skin replaces it so, the Bible says, our consciences can become insensitive to wrongdoing.

This hardening enables the conscience to ride roughshod over all the normal codes of behaviour without its possessor apparently noticing that they are doing anything wrong and blaming others for the poor outcomes!

We are all guilty in the court of conscience. Relief from this guilt in the Old Testament was through religious works which were a temporary arrangement until their fulfilment came with the death of Christ (Hebrews Chapter 9 verses 9 and 14) – “Since this is true, how much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God”.

Conscience is God’s ally. The Gospel calls us to abandon trust in our own merits and to rely on Jesus merits. This is part of what the Bible calls repentance. Ask God for the faith to believe that His word is true and that your conscience can be purified and your life freed up from useless rituals to serve the living God.