THE STATE OF THE NATION
The State of insecurity in Nigeria is seriously worrisome considering the high rate at which innocent people are been killed every now and then by Boko Haram sect. Also, the incessant reports of bombing in some parts of the north, leaves the innocent citizens in a state of total despair and uncertainty, as they don't know the next blast will be and if it will be their last breath.
Back to Top
Sadly, despite federal government heavy spending on the military including the Nigerian Police who are constantly receiving financial aid in combating insecurity, we are yet to receive respite from this ugly phenomenon.
In addition, the escalation of killings as well as the kidnap of over 200 girls from a Government Secondary School in Chibok by the Boko Haram sect on the 14th of April, are pointer to the fact that urgent steps need to be taken to restore peace and security in our nation, to make it a safe haven not only for investors but for all citizens.
Politicizing the issue that threaten to destroy our peace and unity as well as trading blame by politicians should be jettisoned if we must win this war on terrorism and regain our pride of place among the comity of nations.
We must bear in mind that no nation succeeds in the midst of anarchy and chaos, therefore, it behooves on every citizen of this nation to endeavour to be part of the band wagon for peace by engaging in activities that will foster development and progress.
Again, as our nation is been faced with the worst security challenge, it is also necessary for all to come together in prayer and co-operate with international community who indicated support to assist the nation in rescuing the Chibok girls.
Also, our leaders should endeavour to be transparent in handling security issues and mend their ways by returning to God in sincerity to enable us produce a nation of our dream.
DEVOTION TO THE PASSION OF CHRIST (2)
» By Prof. Michael Ogunu
The principal affections to which one may excite one's mind during meditation upon the sufferings of Jesus, according to Fr. Ignatius, are as follows:
Back to Top
1. Admiration: How is it possible, you may say, that a God can suffer so much for the love of me, a vile creature? Oh, what excessive love and charity!
2. Gratitude : By exciting yourself to interior emotions of gratitude and appreciation of the greatness of the benefits bestowed upon you by Jesus in His Passion, feeling how much you are indebted to your dear Redeemer, and resolving constantly to praise and thank Him for His infinite love toward you.
3. Compassion: By compassionating your Crucified Jesus overwhelmed with sorrow and suffering, and by earnestly desiring that you had been present to have afforded some relief to your most afflicted Lord.
4. Contrition for your sins: By considering all that those guilty pleasures in which you have indulged contrary to the law of God have cost Jesus Christ, and how large a share you have had in His Passion and Death. Bewail your sins at His feet, and firmly resolve to die rather than ever more to offend a Father so worthy of your love.
5. Love: By protesting that you will bestow all the affections of your heart upon Him who has so much loved you, and by desiring to have, if possible, a thousand hearts solely occupied in loving Him, and corresponding in some measure with His infinite charity. Offer and consecrate yourself entirely to the love of Jesus Crucified. Desire that He may be known and loved by all men.
6. Prayer: By asking of Our Lord grace to love Him, to imitate Him, and never to offend Him. Endeavor to inspire your heart with lively feelings of confidence that God will grant all your requests through the merits of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Your most fervent request ought to be for grace to correct some habitual fault, to overcome your predominant passion, and to practice that virtue in which you are most deficient, and which has occupied a prominent place in the subject of your meditation, thereby to imitate Jesus Christ; for the imitation of Christ should be the principal object of every meditation on His Passion. Having made the affections, you should proceed to resolutions. Promise Our Lord that you will never more displease Him by mortal or even deliberate venial sin. Determine to avoid such or such a fault (name it), and to make use of such or such means (specify which). For example, to fly from such or such a house, to avoid such and such a companion, instantly to dismiss this or that thought, immediately to curb those bursts of passion, to place a guard over your eyes, to keep silence on such and such occasions, etc.
It should be remembered that the principal fruit of one's prayer consists in these resolutions, and far more in keeping them faithfully. Place them in the sacred Wounds of Jesus, and in the hands of Mary, and implore grace to put them in practice. Keep them in view during the whole course of the day, and an occasional examination as to the manner in which you are practicing them will be a most efficacious means of ensuring your fidelity.
Whoever follows the instructions here given, the writer assures us, will discover by experience how easy a practice is meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ. Meditation is in fact nothing more than the exercise of the memory, understanding and will, upon some mystery or truth of our holy Faith. Now, if we are accustomed to exercise those powers from morning till night on sensible objects which are often sinful, we should be able, with the assistance of God's grace, to exercise them in the consideration of the bitter Passion of Jesus Christ, our most loving Redeemer.
Benefits Derived from Meditating on the Passion of Christ
Tauler, one of the great mystics of the Middle Ages, says: “Once when a venerable servant of God asked Our Lord what a man merited who exercised himself devoutly in meditating upon His Passion, Christ answered: 'By such meditation he merits:
1. To be cleansed from his sins.
2. To have all his negligences supplied by the merits of My sufferings.
3. To be strengthened so that he will not easily be overcome by his enemies.
4. That My grace will be renewed in him as often as he reflects on My sufferings.
5. That I refuse him nothing that is profitable, if he earnestly ask for it.
6. That I lead him to perfection before his death.
7. That I assist him in his last hour, protect him against his enemies, and give him an assurance of salvation'”.
It cleanses us from our sins:- It is impossible for a soul who takes Our Lord's sufferings seriously to heart, to continue offending God willfully, especially by mortal sin.
St. Alphonsus impresses this upon us by affirming: “A soul who believes in the Passion of Jesus Christ, and frequently thinks thereon, will find it impossible to go on offending her Saviour”.
It strengthens us against temptation:- Frequent and devout meditation on the sufferings of Our Lord has the wonderful power to enable us to overcome our passions. St. Augustine writes in his Confessions that whenever he was tempted by the demon of impurity, he resisted Satan successfully by meditating on the Wounds of Jesus. “As often as I am tempted”, he says, “I seek refuge in the Wounds of Jesus. I fly into the Heart of the mercies of my Lord!”
It will lead us to perfection before our death:- One of the principal sources of our sanctification is the tender and compassionate remembrance of our Saviour's sufferings. St. Bonaventure addresses these words to the soul seeking perfection: “If thou, O man, wouldst advance from virtue to virtue, if thou wouldst lead a perfect life, then meditate daily on the Passion of Christ. Nothing else can so powerfully urge the soul to holiness. The painful Wounds of our Saviour's body penetrate even the hardest of hearts and inflame the coldest of souls with love”.
It gives us the assurance of a happy death:- St. Alphonsus Liguori says, “Souls that are tormented by the devil and tremble for their eternal salvation will feel great consolation in withdrawing their eyes from the outward world and fixing them on the Cross where Jesus hangs, bleeding from every wound”.
It insures for us a special glory in Heaven:- This was revealed to St. Gertrude. Once on the feast of St. John the Evangelist she beheld how this beloved Apostle enjoyed a special bliss in Heaven because he had always begun his contemplations with the remembrance of our Saviour's Passion, of which he had been an eye witness.
Moreover, we should love to meditate upon the Passion because therein our Saviour makes His virtues shine forth with great brilliance. He possesses every virtue in His soul, but the occasions of manifesting them especially arise in His Passion.
His immense love for His Father, His charity for mankind, hatred of sin, forgiveness of injuries, patience, meekness, fortitude, obedience to lawful authority, compassion ¯ all these virtues shine forth in a heroic manner for our imitation. Jesus in His Passion is our Divine model in suffering. If, therefore, we frequently contemplate His sufferings and strive to imitate His virtues, we shall receive special graces which will transform us little by little into His likeness and prepare us to share in His glory in Heaven.
According to the promises of our Lord to Sister Mary Martha Chambon, “Those who pray with humility and who meditate on My Passion, shall one day participate in the glory of My Divine wounds. Their members will receive from them a resplendent beauty and glory”. “The more you shall have contemplated My Painful wounds on this earth, the higher shall be your contemplation of them glorious in Heaven”.
“The soul who during life has honoured and studied the Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ and has offered Them to the Eternal Father for the Souls in Purgatory will be accompanied at the moment of death by the Holy Virgin and the Angels; and Our Lord on the Cross, all brilliant in glory will receive her and crown her”.
“My Holy Wounds sanctify souls and insure their spiritual advancement...Offer Me your actions united to My Sacred Wounds, and even the smallest will have an incomprehensible value...“Offer them often to Me for sinners because I thirst for souls. At each word of the invocation that you utter, I will let a drop of My Blood fall upon the soul of a sinner”.
The Passion of Christ is one of the most profitable sources in attempting to facilitate a more intimate union with Our Lord and it traces a sure path towards holiness. This is why meditating on the Passion of Jesus has been a favourite theme for many of the saints during the whole course of Church History. Our Lord Himself, in numerous occasions throughout the ages by means of all His saints, His most privileged souls and the Magisterium of the Church has spoken of the transcendent importance of meditating on His Passion, and not simply meditating on it but living out interiorly, intensively and continuously all that Jesus Himself suffered for love of us.
St. Augustine assures us that there is no spiritual exercise more fruitful or more useful than the frequent reflection on the sufferings of Our Lord. St. Albert the Great, who had St. Thomas Aquinas as a student, learned in a revelation that by simply thinking of or meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, a Christian gains more merits than if he had fasted on bread and water every Friday for a year, or had beaten himself with the discipline (whip) once a week till blood flowed, or had recited the whole Book of Psalms everyday.
Lord Jesus, crucified for love of us, Your heart was pierced by a lance and flowed with blood and water. In your mercy, draw us to your open heart, cleanse us from our sins and help us to grow daily in your love. Amen.
BUILDING A CHRISTIAN HOME: SOME POINTS TO NOTE (1)
» By Rev. Fr. Francis IKHIANOSIME
“Home is the place where love makes labour count and labour makes love sweeter. It is this tendency to build a home that stimulates the efforts of the human race”.
Back to Top
Martha Boone Leavell
There is just an arresting difference between marriage and family, just as there is a striking difference between a house and home. The latter is our concern. More often than not, there is a growing demand to own a house. A lot of energy is often exerted in building houses, while the real significance of the house is lost; making of a home. I have often seen luxurious and magnificent buildings, yet people who live within are strangers. The idea is completely lost. One can own a house without having a home, and another may not have a house but has a home. A home goes farther than a four-walled place; it goes beyond a structure, a painting and even a place. If you accuse a gypsy of being a vagabond, you may be unjust to him, because, he may just take his home along wherever he goes.
The New Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus, defines, “home” differently, namely; the private living quarters of a person or family, the place, city, where a person lives, the place where something originated, developed, etc. These do not give us a complete understanding of a home. A home is the center of all time and the symbol of eternity. It is generally characteristics of family unit, fundamental grouping for protection, economy, development and love and happiness. It is symbolic for a place of rest. A place of relative comfort and one can retire after a long walk or stress. It explains, why we call, heaven, a home. Home and home place are not necessarily synonymous, but in most cases, it is. A home is a place of welcome and belongingness. It gives a person identity. It is the most prized possession of an individual; one's valuable. It is irreplaceable and irrefutable. In fact, your home is who you are. Home often brings good memories and lots more, hence you hear people say they are homesick. These are common features of a home. So, based on these, we can talk of a heavenly home, ancestral home, home farm, homeland, etc. Nevertheless, these define us with reference to what is pursued. There is also what is called a Christian home; the family of a Christian.
The Christian home refers to a place where Jesus is welcomed into their midst. In a home, where Jesus is welcome, He is put first. Jesus becomes the center of the family's life. The parents together with their children talk often about the Lord. In China, when Christ is taken into the home they burn the household gods, as they commonly have it. No room with them to divide honours or to share allegiance with Christ. Christ is pre-eminently all or not at all. The Christian family recognizes that they run a stewardship, in which God is the head and they parents are accountable to God. There is a prime recognition that, certain things are forbidden in a Christian family. There are sadly many families which purportedly are supposed to be Christian, but do not express the tenets of a Christian family. Or rather, there are practicing Christian families and nominal Christian families. But foremost amongst these recognitions, is the respect for Christ as the head of the home or family. A Christian family has Christianity as the religion it professes and this must therefore motivate home activities and also give a guide for family relations. There should be a consciousness and an increased awareness of the presence of God in that particular family. Psalm 127:1 points it clearly, “unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do they labour and unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman watches in vain.” The Lord thus, inspires them in all they do and they even seek his face as often as possible.
Each member of the Christian family is defined by her Christian roles and obligations. Ephesians 5:22-26 provides a parameter for husbands and wives in a good Christian family. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and the wife must submit to the leadership of the husband. The husband is not however meant to be domineering. It rather should start with spiritual matters and then flow into instructing the wife and then the Children. The father is also to provide for his family and if he does not, he is failing in his responsibility. The wife can cooperate to cater for the family but it is not her prime duty. Women as Genesis 2:18-20 puts them are helpers. Children are given two primary responsibilities in the family: to obey their parents and to honor them (Ephesians 6:1-3). Obedience to parents is the duty of children and this is not merely to adulthood, but for a lifetime. God promised his blessings to those who honour their parents.
Authority in the Christian family should carry with it control, limitation, dynamics for actions and cooperation of the individuals. This only is the basis for any happy social order. In the Christian family, the father's place is precious. Even in the absence of a man, a father figure is needed in every Christian home. This is because; it is the one at the helms of authority. The father of father figure must respect his position as an exemplar. He must not be rash, giving in to drunkenness. St. Paul enlists some qualities of an elder who can lead the church. The same can be appropriated for a Christian home. “He should be temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome and not a lover of money. He must manage his household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way” (1 Tim 3:2-4). He must always recognise his role as a leader and thus, should be able to lead the home in prayers, good works and examples. The mother's way is especially desire to be a teacher. She must respect the fact that the Children would often lean on her for counsel and in the absence of the father, she is a decision maker. St. Peter says, “Wives, in the same manner, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity an reverence of their lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2). The parents need never let the child lose sight of the fact that it is love in the heart that prompts the discipline they give. It is important to note that a Christian home is simply a family that has Christ at its center. It may not necessarily have children. Children are the fruits of a union. A family could have lost a spouse, yet it remains a family because of the component part. It is therefore a home, when it has the qualities defined above and a Christian home if it strives to live with Christ as his head. In building this Christian home therefore, some points we must consider faithfully are:
1. Giving a place to Worship in the family: Every home that gives worship a pride of place, is one that invites God into its abode. A house that has God becomes homely. It endows the family with ability from above and it is a symbol of a family dedication. Martha Boone Leavell points that, “one who does not lead the private prayer life of his own closet cannot carry other people to the gates of heaven in his public prayers. One who does not practice the secrets of the Lord at home cannot sincerely proclaim them upon the housetop”. In order to translate a house to a Christian home, the family needs to always involve in family prayer. This family prayer should take a common routine of having to pray in the morning and at bed time. The family prayer is the strength that binds most Christian homes. A family that prays together stays together and they become impervious to the attack of any foe. In family prayer, the family should take turns to pray. This gives the opportunity to the children to learn and lead at prayers. Children are taught how to pray like this. This prayer could involve traditional rituals of prayer like the Rosary, choruses, and intercessory prayers, scriptural readings especially taking the reading of the day's liturgy or even following a plan of reading the bible in a year. The scriptural readings should be followed with a short exhortation or sharing, herein, the parents or the leader has the opportunity to make the word take flesh in a special way in the family as well as the privilege of speaking to the children how they should grow so that when they are old, they would not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).
Enshrining worship in a home could also lead children to Church worship. Parents should supervise and monitor the Christian growth of their children. They should be seen to have bibles, study it, see that they go to church, confession and even sometimes, they are led to the Blessed Sacrament to pray. Family worship can also take the heritage of a family altar. The family altar may be a place of worship. Families who have a place they have set aside can be the altar. It could also mean that a special section of the house is reserved for keeping sacred or spiritual materials for prayers. For most average families, the sitting or living room is their family altar. They all gather there at particular times. For some other families who are wealthy, they could reserve a room and make it comfortable yet bereft of distractions for prayers. Once it is prayer time, they all go there and pray. The heritage of the family altar also means particular times for prayer. The family must be able to choose a convenient time they pray. Most family prayers don't work, because, they leave only the time, nothing is to be done and all is about to sleep for prayers, at it ends up being rushed, not attended by all the members or even completely abandoned. In such situations, the parents struggle to keep it alive and often once the parents are away, the children scarcely participate in it. Family prayer should be done at a time that would be involving. There should be a common rising time in the home, when all gather to speak to God. Once this time is made sacred, it would instinctively build on the psyche of everyone and they would just wake up at that time to pray. It should be very consistent, and despite the grudges spouses have, the family prayer time should be one that should be very uniting and make everyone brackets his/her differences. This is the only time; the home can be truly Christian.
Three words which should be borne in family prayers are: preparation, participation and regularity. There should be a period of preparation before the prayers itself, especially for the leader, then, it should be very participatory and then, it should be regular. This is one aspect of the family that parents must make sacrifice to fulfil if they want their home to stand on a solid rock. Very often, children are found to sleep at prayers, because they are drafted from bed to prayer spots, sometimes, almost forcefully. It is not a bad idea; if to forestall sleep, everyone is made to take his shower if it is an early morning rising time or even to begin with choruses and a posture that would not encourage sleep should be chosen, like standing for this. The family should have in their prayer schedule, particular prayers they say in their homes. I remember in my home, we had the tradition of saying psalm 3 in the morning and Psalm 91 at night. We all used the Good News Bible at that time in the house and we all mastered these psalms by heart. We also said some Catholic Prayers like: prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, Daily Renewal prayer, etc. These just stuck to my memory as I grew up.
Worship in homes should also inculcate other times the individual should pray. Meal times are moments of prayer. The parents should be able to inculcate the thumb rule: “no prayer, no meal”. Thus, all must pray before every meal, if it is taking a fruit. The old custom of grace before meal and grace after meal should be taught to children. Children should be made out of this routine to understand that they owe themselves the duty to make private prayers like the angelus, spontaneous personal prayers, etc. For young families, parents should learn to teach particular prayers to children. This is starting the child in individual worship. This should be done with words that the child can understand, like, “Thank you Jesus”, “Jesus I love you”, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, save me”. Parents should then gradually introduce them to matters of the spiritual. We had the tradition of going for prayer meeting every Wednesdays and that was a moment I looked up to. I could say, I got the burning desire to becoming a Priest from such prayer sections, thanks to my parents who led me there.
It is important to note too, that family prayer could face some difficulties. There are times; the child would not be willing to pray. What does the parent do in such an instance? The parent must gradually speak to the child and learn what his reaction(s) is or are. If it is resultant from fatigue, then, he could be made to work less so as to give time to God. There are times, the parent is even bored of praying, yet he needs to forge on, not with complete abandonment of God, but with a short prayer, while he returns to deep and detailed worship once he regains momentum.
…To be continued next edition
THE PATHWAY TO GOOD HEALTH (2)
» By Pharm. Ngozi Nzewi
Because of unhealthy eating, diseases of old age are today found among the young people. These include diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, heart problems, arthritis, etc. The young children are exposed to high consumption of flour products of no fiber content, sugary foods and the likes. Our world today is full of celebrations where a lot and assorted food antagonistic to our health is available and for free consumption.
Back to Top
The immune system that is installed in our bodies by the creator for self-healing can be destroyed when we fail to put the right elements into our mouth. We have noted that our body is a living entity; therefore to a great percentage, what it needs is also living stuff like raw food such as fruits and vegetables taken as juice and as fibers. Drinking fruits and vegetable extracts promptly provide the core nutrients to the cells of our body. This is what these cells need to be healthy and to perform properly. Outside this the cells will be weak and their performance will be inefficient and the organs and tissues will also reflect this weakness and the individual will be sick. When one takes to eating raw vegetables and fruits as well as drinking the juice of these foods, he or she paves way to good health. The net effect is resistance to diseases and the ability of returning a sick body to good health. This practice offers the body a prompt internal cleansing and restoration of optimum health. The fiber needed by the body is provided when the whole raw vegetable and fruits are chewed and swallowed.
Our living body needs living food like the raw fruits, vegetables, and seeds and not dead food and chemicals. Those dishes we consider very delicious could be a great source of dead food possibly predisposing the body to ill health. Our living body needs living food and this is in line with God's plan for the feeding of the human body. With this plan our body cannot be readily subjected to ill health and any invading illness will not gain ground. After consuming modern dishes, our bodies react because the food it is fed with is not what the maker designed for it. Recall Daniel and the Babylonian king. This king wanted his captives including Daniel to be fed from his kitchen of rich food, meat, wine, and other delicacies. Daniel in his faithfulness to God demanded that he and his men be fed on God prescribed food, vegetables and water. Daniel: 1:12. “Please test your servants for ten days. Give us only vegetables to eat and water to drink. At the end of ten days, Daniel and his men who fed on vegetables and water looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate the delicious food from the king's table.
We will be healthier when we pay less attention the delicious dishes and stick more unto living foods such as uncooked vegetables, fruits and water. These include cucumber, carrots, cabbage, fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, turmeric, water melon, leek, celery, green peas, and green beans. All these are available in our markets. They can be eaten whole or drink their juice. They offer fast and maximum support to the health of the body and their product of digestion is readily removed from the body. We know that long stay of waste products of digestion in the colon is responsible for ill health such as colon cancer, and assimilation of toxins into our system. The living food is rich in enzymes and multivitamins for the good health and function of the body cells, tissues, organs and immune system. These enzymes supplied in all living foods are important to proper digestion, absorption and elimination of waste products of metabolism. Availability of what our body needs is highly direct when we eat living food. Not so with the dead cooked food. Cooking destroys a great percentage of its nutrient content. A raw egg will hatch into a live chicken not so with a cooked egg.
A diet rich in living plant food provides the ultimate raw materials to maintain optimal good health and vigor and also help in the healing of ourselves of any existing disease and sicknesses. While living food offer health to the body, dead food offer very little and at the same time give weight to the muscular stomach and intestine and create for the body the labor of elimination of its waste. The stomach, large intestine, small intestine and the anus are all thrown into unhealthy labor of elimination of useless and troublesome fecal mass.
Let us again look at Ezekiel 47:12 “On each bank of the stream all kinds of trees will grow to provide food. Their leaves will never wither, and they will never stop bearing fruits. They will have fresh fruits every month, because they are watered by the stream that flows from the Temple. The trees will provide food and their leaves will be used for healing people. We praise God for His LOVE for us.
WHO IS GOD TO YOU? LET US DIALOGUE!
» By Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
When I was studying philosophy, I read some Western Philosophers who claimed that Africans have no intellectual capacity to comprehend and understand the concept of the divine transcendence. Some went further to say that Africans have no souls therefore they may not be able to understand the value of the human person. What a contradiction to the faith of Africans who are known to be “God conscious” and deeply religious! Now I am beginning to wonder if we are not attempting to prove these philosophers right, given the way and manner life is being wasted in Nigeria today. If we really have the capacity for God and actually, believe in the God of love, justice and peace, then we should be able to prove our faith in actions. It is not enough to go to our various houses of worship to pray whereas our actions contradict our piety. I do not know if God answers the petition for energy and wits to kill fellow human beings? I need to be enlightened by those who may let blood flow like a river in God's name.
Back to Top
The compass is now turning towards dialogue in Nigeria as one of the efforts to put an end to violence and terrorism. The question is: “what form of dialogue are we talking about here”? Is it dialogue of action, dialogue of religious experience, dialogue of social engagement or dialogue of theological exchange? Whatever form of dialogue it is that has become a subject of this clarion call; we need to begin with the clarification of the concept: “GOD”. What does God mean to each partner in dialogue? Is the God affirmed in Christianity, different from the God affirmed in Judaism, Islam and Traditional Religions? Is the concept of God the same for Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals? Is the Concept of God the same for all the sects in Islam: the Sunnites, Kharijites (Ibadiyya), Shites (Isma'iliyya), Sufis, Wahhabiyya, Muslim brotherhood, Ahmadiyyah etc? This question is important because in Judaism as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Saul thought that he was doing God's work by persecuting and killing Christians until he got the correct concept of God by divine illumination on his way to Damascus to kill Christians. This divine illumination converted Saul to become Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9). The founder of the Islamic Wahhabi sect, 'Abd al-Wahhab, introduced the war cry of the Wahhabis: "Kill and strangle all infidels who give companions to Allah." On the day of battle, he gave each soldier a letter addressed to the Treasurer of Paradise. It was enclosed in a bag which the warrior suspended from his neck. The soldier believed that by dying in battle he would go straight to Paradise, without being examined by the angels Munkar and Nakir. Many Iranian Wahabis still believe in this teaching.
Today, it is presumed that almost all religions believe in the existence of one God who created heaven, earth, human beings and all that exist. The same God is the God of life and judgment; the same God who created the heaven for all righteous people to behold his face on the last day. Sometimes I wonder if some people still believe in heaven or hell! Though the oneness of God is affirmed by many people, the concept and how some people relate to God is quite different. The name: “God” has gone through a lot of evolution. Since he is a pure spirit, it took ages for the human mind to arrive at the concept of one God as we believe today. Before the call of Abraham, the whole world believed in the existence of many gods. In the Bible, the book of Joshua reports that Yahweh the God of Israel says- this, “In ancient days your ancestors lived beyond the River such was Terah the father of Abraham and of Nahor and they served other gods” (Joshua 24,2). The Holy Qur'an testifies to this as follows: “(Also) mention in the book (The story of) Abraham: He was a man of truth. A prophet: Behold he said to his father; “O my father! Why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing” (Suratul Maryam 41- 42).
The names of God in Hebrew underwent a development from polytheism to monotheism. The name originates from El, Elohim to Yahweh. El was known and adored outside Israel. As a common name, it designates the divinity in almost the whole Semitic world. El qualifies what God was in Israel. El Elyon was the God of Melchizedech King of Salem. This El was treated identically with the God of Abraham (Genesis 14, 20). From El, the people of Israel arrived at Elohim, El olam and El Shaddai meaning God almighty (Genesis 17, 1). This was the God revealed to Abraham. Yahweh is the sacred name of God that was revealed to Moses in the burning bush: “I AM WHO I AM”. The people of Israel preferred to call God Lord, Adonai out of respect for the sacred name Yahweh. Before the call of the prophet Muhammad (SAW), the name of God in Arabic Allah came from the root Al ilah meaning “the God”. Allah was used to indicate the chief God of the Kabah before Muhammad's time. Allah was also used for the Supreme Being. Other gods were also worshipped by the Arabs. The Qu'ran mentions three goddesses, Al lat, Al Uzza, and Al Manat, representing the sun, the planet Venus and fortune. According to Goeffrey Parrinder (1957), the Meccans called these goddesses daughters of Allah. Carleton S. Coon (1944) is of the view that “the god” was referred to as “il or illah”: “This was originally a phase of the Moon God, but early in Arabian history the name became a general term for God, and it was this name that the Hebrews used prominently in their personal names, such as Israel. Under Mohammed's tutelage, the relatively anonymous Ilah became Al-Ilah, The God, or Allâh, the Supreme Being”.
In Etsako, God is called Osinegba. The root of this name is Osi meaning the transcendent being. From a point in time the African people believed in a Supreme Being who is a pure spirit. Since they are not able to see him they thought they could reach him through the created things. Today the traditional worshippers worship one God except that they call upon Him through the divinities and ancestors. God remain one despite our different concepts and different names: Yahweh, Deo, Allah, Theos, Abasi, Osinegba, Ubangiji, Chineke, Chukwu, Oghene, Osenobulua, Osanobua, Tamarau, etc. But the big question lingers: “Is your concept of God a divine violence or divine peace”? If God for you is the God of war, I may let you know that my concept of God is a divine transcendence that is so powerful to the extent that he does not need a human being to defend him or kill for him through any form of jihad or crusade. Perhaps we can begin with dialogue of religious experience, namely the operations and actions of God in the life of each individual. At the end of the day, we may discover that all the killings that have been attributed to religion in God's name have various reasons other than victory for God. May the God of mercy and compassion guide us to the way of peace!
A FALSE SENSE OF HOLINESS
» By Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Okafor
Holiness designates the state of being set apart or being consecrated to God. It is from the Greek word “hagios” meaning to be set aside or consecrated to God. The English version “halignes” means “without blemish or imperfection.” This entails a constant conversion to a life of grace, and the avoidance of anything that would corrupt this grace. Authentic holiness is both human and spiritual. There can be no holiness without human formation. To be human is to possess human virtues. It is a four-fold integration:
Back to Top
Affective, Moral, Intellectual and Religious integration.
Holiness is glorifying God or revealing God by one's way of being. It is a living reality in the Church. It is both a gift and a task that must be sought after through a participation in the sacramental life of the Church and its mission to be sacrament in and to the world. It is a virtue that cannot be separated from maturity. Maturity entails change of behavior, change of attitude and change of desire in order to conform to Gods design. It is about a new style of living. It includes a renewed way of thinking and perception: a changed set of goals leading to a transformed personality. Maturity must increase upward (upward character or disposition: sincerity of heart) and sideward (behavioral change: observable).
Immature Christians live like unbelievers. Their lives are punctuated with jealousy, resentfulness, malice and other vices that can deface the soul. St. Paul writing to Timothy listed the qualities of a good Christian to include: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness (I Tim 6:11). Mature Christians worship God and serve Christ. Even if they stumble and fall, they repent quickly, and continue in their journey.
A false sense of holiness renders us inhuman and makes us concentrate on one aspect of holiness, and neglect other Christian virtues. It is the type of holiness that is based on law and not on the Holy Spirit. It makes us moral without being spiritual. This was the type of holiness the rich man practiced, a holiness based on law (Lk 18:18-23). St Paul condemns this type of holiness (Phil 3: 9- 10). Holiness that is self conscious is not holiness (Lk 18:9-14). The closer we are to God, the less conscious of ourselves we become. According to Anthony de Mello, (S.J), A lamp loses its rays when set beside the sun; even the tallest temple looks so tiny at the foot of the Himalayan mountain.
The awareness of the importance of human relationships and of community has been one of the distinguishing features in contemporary perspectives on Christian holiness. Christian holiness is realized by living in Christ by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who enables us to be for others in relationships of mutuality, reciprocity, and equality. Therefore, the real task before all Christians is living in right ordered relationship with God and others. This entails being in communication with all human persons and with the whole of creation.
Holiness is not performing certain devotional practices, for these are integral part of every religion. Rather it is by being truly human and being in the service of others as Jesus did, for he came to serve and not to be served (Mt 20:28). To be a Christian is to possess the spirit of Christ. Whoever does not possess the spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Rom 8:9). The spirit of Christ moves us to serve. Many Christians are dislocated from Christ because they lack the spirit of service but desire the positions of honour and lordship. They see leadership as lording it over others.
A Christian is a servant, and it is the duty of a servant to serve (Lk 17:10). To serve, one needs the virtue of humility, like Jesus Christ, who though God emptied and humbled himself to assume the status of man (Phil 2:6-8). According to Ven. Louis De Blois, It is rarely that we fall into error we are humble and trust to the wisdom of others, in preference to our own judgment.
It is not enough to serve, but our service must be selfless. Whatever be our task let us put ourselves into it as done for the Lord (Col 3:23). As far as service is concerned we must avoid disinterestedness in service and hypocritical behavior of wanting to be noticed and praised.
A TORTURE OF THE FUTURE
» By Rev. Fr. Gregory Onimhawo
It happened that I was in a friend's house and his daughter ran cheerfully to the dad and said “Daddy I would like to be a medical doctor”. And another said “Daddy for me I want to be a lawyer”.” Wow! That is great” the dad said. We were both delighted and proud of the little promising girls. This is the dream of every parent to see their children become responsible persons for the society in the future. But then, what kind of tragedy would it be, for the father of these promising children been told that his kids were taken away by some unknown gun men. I guess it will be very pathetic, depressing and less, meaning for a life without his promising gifts of children. It could lead to a suicide mission. This is exactly what Nigeria as a society is passing through at this moment. According to some persons, who intend to give a painted positive response to the situation, it is a distraction in our political life as a nation. But for me, it is an understatement to say a distraction; rather it is destruction of the future after been tortured with the litany of attacks. It suffices to say that the 276girls or above that were kidnapped represent the future of our country and coming close to two months they have not been found. It is almost coming to the case of the missing MH370 Malaysian aircraft and till date not found. We wish and pray that would not be the case of the Nigerian missing girls.
Back to Top
Education in the Affected Areas
Information gathered shows that schooling in the worst-affected parts of the country has become almost impossible. Most secondary schools in Borno, where the girls were kidnapped, have closed. Staggering 10m Nigerian youngsters are not in school, out of a total population of 160m in the country; this is more than what we have at the end of military rule in 1999. Most of them are girls. Instead of learning to read, young women are married off in their teens. Out-of-school boys are often recruited into terrorist ranks, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and instability. It shows less hope for the future. Instead of grooming youngsters, we end up breeding monsters. In the words of Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, “Having that many children are out of school is a recipe for disaster, they are cannon fodder for the terrorist agenda.” In another point of view, some observers have seen that the attack escalates Nigeria's growing crisis from a campaign of bombings, massacres and abductions being waged by the Boko Haram terrorist network in its campaign to impose an Islamic state on Africa's most populous nation. If this is the case, must they put into extinction the country they intend to make an Islamic state. One could imagine what kind of judgments these said terrorists make.
Progress as against all odds
Despite the series of attacks on the country at different times and in different areas, the report of George Haitsch (15th May, 2014) shows that the eyes of the world are still on Nigeria, as Boko Haram's kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls unites the world in condemnation even revulsion. It is quite interesting to see Nigerians in Diaspora and foreigners elsewhere take the campaign to bring back our girls sometimes more seriously than those in Nigeria. But a point must be made clear that if the terrorist group thought their crime would derail Nigeria's progress toward modernization and prosperity, they seriously miscalculated. Since the emergence of this disgusting crisis, some prominent persons have been interviewed and many offered the perspective that the global and particularly Nigerian outrage over the kidnapped schoolgirls may trigger an end for Boko Haram in Nigeria. Such a result would be an incredibly positive thing for Nigeria's future. On the contrary, that would not be the stand of others. This is because, some persons have opinions quite different from what true Nigerians are thinking.
Intention of the Opportunists
The situation of the kidnapped schools girls in Borno State is drawing serious attention locally and internationally, by which rescue is tirelessly sought for. But then, it is disheartening to say that some persons have taken the crisis to suit their evil intention, either politically, economically or otherwise. For example, there are people who are using this terrible situation to campaign for their political ambition; they are using it to boost their fame. But, one fact they must reflect on, is that what goes around comes around. Today, was that man's daughter by so called Boko Haram, tomorrow may be your turn either by the same Boko Haram or by something worse than a terrorist group. It calls for caution. In another token, some people are raising billions of money in the guise of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or through other means that are not genuine but then one thing must be kept seriously in mind that evil that men and women do live with them here and now. However, there are NGOs fighting the just cause, the Nigerian people appreciate and will always support them. This is so because, they are after the welfare of the troubled families of the kidnapped girls and of course the welfare of the girls when they are found and their future. On a second thought, anyone who is thwarting the efforts of the country to rescue our missing children intends to put our nation's future in jeopardy and serious torture. The concern that should be shown at this moment must bear in mind the strength and safety of our future. God is always God and He knows it all. As a country, we need divine intervention, let us seek it because when we seek it we shall find it (Mtt. 7:7ff) and then follow up with the search.
HOLINESSAND HEALING EXPERIENCE
» By Rev. Fr. Thomas Anavhe
No one who is born of God will
Back to Top
Continue sin, because
God's seed abides in him; he cannot
go on sinning, because he has
been born of God. (1John 3:9)
Holiness brings fear to many, because it is seen not to be achievable in our time. Those who live in sin are seen to be more intelligent and praised by others. As such, sin is being portrayed as something to be desired. So, holiness is conceived to be absence of sin, and the ability not to break any law. Different views and conceptions of holiness are immaterial. When we are baptized (Christians), we are freed from original sin. God's graces are being poured into our souls to empower us to live a good Christian life and to weaken the effect of original sin in us (the urge) to commit sin, so that we can always remain a holy people unto God.
What is Holiness?
If we do not give objective answer to this question what is Holiness? We may not have solid grounds to show how holiness can be a source of healing in our world today. Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square during his October 2, 2013 general audience, and stated that, “it is possible to be holy because of God's grace. Do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit”. He added that, “holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things”, he said, but in leaving it to God, stressing that “the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, is to have confidence in his active service to others”, he told those gathered in St. Peter's square on October 2, 2013/06:53 (CAN/EWTN NEWS).
Holiness therefore, does not basically mean the avoidance of sin but ability to constantly do good to others. If we can keep the basic norms of our faith, and our lives is not a source of healing to others in our relationship with them, Then, we are not different from the Jewish people who faithfully keep their religious observance; and refused to be a source of healing to the wounded ones. Holiness simply means to be a Good Samaritan to your neighbour (Luke 10:29 -37). It is not about the law and the prophets; it is about Christ who has decided to fall in order to heal our wounds. Jesus said, “I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires (Matthew 5:20). It is not enough to be a Christian. Our lives must be a source of joy and promotion of the well-being of others. If we are still a source of pains and depression to those around us, our religious, involvement becomes irrelevant. Your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
The great regard we have for some people is determined by who they are to us. There is a favour that comes with every healthy relationship we keep with God. If we can translate our intimacy with God in holy living, we will experience more of God's favour. God treats differently those who announce his holiness to the world through their ways of life. God used David to bless Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan for the love he showed to David. David asked, is there anyone left of Saul's family? If there is, I would like to show him kindness for Jonathan's sake”. I will give him back all the land that belonged to his grandfather Saul, and he will always be welcome at my table”. So Mephibosheth, who was crippled in both feet, live in Jerusalem, eating all his meals at the King's table like one of the King's sons (2Sathuel 9:1-13). The act of holiness (favour) we showed to others, attracts God's blessings in our lives. The acts of our holy living cannot die without attracting God's favour in our lives. God kept the son of Jonathan alive among all the other family members of Saul to enjoy the seed of holiness which his father Jonathan sowed.
When there is a fundamental shift of what we stood for (holiness of life), we become exposed to inner dryness and emptiness that lead to painful end, in-health, destruction and death. Fundamental shift, is a complete shift of what our vocation stands for, our marriage vows, our positions, as well as our relationship with God. For instance, patronizing other means different from our faith to solidify our stand is a complete denial of God. To willfully and constantly remain in a sinful state, denied us of God's powers that keep us for wholeness. God's grace is made available for us, in our struggle to live in holiness. When we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). God's grace can never stop its operation in us when we desire to live in holiness. “We cannot deceive ourselves; no one makes a fool of God. A person will reap exactly what he sows. If one sows in the field of his natural desires, from it he will gather the harvest of death; if he sows in the field of the spirit, from the spirit he will gather the harvest of eternal life (Galatians 5:7-8). When we are comfortable and find joy in living in sin, we become cut away from God the source of our being. The sovereign Lord said, “Because you were delighted to see my Temple profaned, to see the land of Israel devastated, to see the people of Judah go into exile) Because you were glad, I will let the tribes from the eastern desert conquer you. They will set up their camps in your country and settle there. They will eat the fruit and drink the milk that should have been yours (Ezekiel 25:3-4).
God's healing transcends the state of our lives. Since sinners can as well experience God's healing, when they pray to God in Jesus' name, the Father will not refuse the prayer offered through his son. “When that day comes, you will not ask me for anything. I am telling you the truth: The Father will give you whatever you ask him for in my name (John 16:23). In Jesus' name, sinners have access to the unmerited God's grace. While the righteous will possess the land and enjoy every special gift that God shows to his special candidates. God's favour to the righteous is so evident and even the evil ones cannot stop its expansion. God said to Ezekiel, “the people who are living in the ruined cities of the land of Israel are saying: Abraham was only one man, and he was given the whole land. There are many of us, so now the land is ours. “Tell them what I, the sovereign LORD, am saying; you eat meat with the blood still in it. You worship idols. You commit murder. What makes you think that the land belongs to you? You rely on your swords. Your actions are disgusting. Everyone commits adultery, what makes you think that the land is yours? (Ezekiel 33:23-26).
The joy we derive in holy living (being with God) is greater than the pleasure we get in our sinful acts. These pleasures do not last long. Hence, they are associated with regret, pains and anxiety. We .cannot afford to lose God's protecting hands in our lives to the strikes of Satan. Those who remained united to God in holy living, are like trees that grow beside a stream, that bear fruit at the right time, and whose leaves do not dry up. They succeed in everything they do (Psalm 1:1-6).
CBCN CALLS FOR THE RELEASE OF KIDNAPPED CHIBOK GIRLS
Back to Top
Following the kidnapped of over 270 Chibok School Girls in Borno State by members of Boko Haram about a month and half ago, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), has called for immediate release of the girls by members of Boko Haram.
This was contained in a letter titled “a plea for Holy Hour in supplication for the release of the Chibok School Girls”, signed by the CBCN President, Most. Rev. (Dr.) Ignatius Kaigama.
According to the CBCN “we live in difficult times but nothing is so difficult beyond the Lord's intervention” and noted that “The unhelpful news of insecurity in our country presents us in very negative light”, and charged every Nigerian to be pro-active and to do something positive about the situation.
Continuing the CBCN hinted “As Bishops' we lead our people in prayer and so, I wish to humbly suggest that in addition to the Masses and prayers already being offered, we lead our people in a holy hour at Eucharistic Adoration to invoke God's mercy for the release of the innocent school girls kidnapped some weeks ago, I understand that some more girls have been kidnapped again”, stressing that “this is very worrisome,… I therefore wish to request that we kindly encourage our people to pray for the aberration of all these young girls conversion of heart of those who do such evil by maiming, destroying and abusing human dignity and for God's mercy for the victims, the dead, injured and traumatized”.
The CBCN President hinted that “ I am hopeful that at our administrative Board meeting of June 3rd to 4th in Abuja, we will be able to discuss the possibility of another prayer event as a remedy to all the insecurity, violence and anti-social activities plaguing the nation” stressing that “but in the interim, I wish to urgently call on all of us to organize in the Parishes/Outstations of our Diocese…” and encouraged families, groups and institution to come together to earnestly pray”, while urging faithful to sustain the prayer for Nigeria in distress and added that “God will certainly hear our prayers from above and with the help of God to overcome the evil of terrorism in the land”.
CSN HOLDS MISSIONARY ORIENTATION COURSE IN AUCHI
Ibharayi Wilson/Vivian Madu
A team from the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, (CSN), led by the Director of the Department Mission and Dialogue, Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua, has held a one week missionary orientation course in the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, at the Diocesan Pastoral centre Sabo-Iyakpi.
Speaking on the purpose of the event, Fr.Omonokhua who noted that the programme was to educate Priests, Sisters and lay faithful on their role in mission, stressed that sensitizing them was necessary to intimate them on what they are likely to experience during their assignment either within the country or in foreign mission, depending on their assignment. He added that for a Priest or Sister to go on mission, they have to be sent by a Bishop or major superior or the provincial of a congregation, hence there is the need for them to be sensitized on the nature of their assignment.
The Director of Mission and Dialogue who hinted that the orientation covers wide areas of Priests and Sisters assignment as regards to mission, stressed that the programme was packaged to educate the participants on the area of anthropology, sociology, communications, theology, scriptures among others, adding that the event is aimed at enabling Priests and Sisters on mission to represent their Dioceses very well. Fr. Omonokhua further affirmed that records show that because of so many challenges encountered by Priests and Sisters on mission, they have not been able to discharge their duties effectively, as well as being unable to return to their home countries after their mission.
Further, Fr. Omonokhua who reiterated that the orientation was timely, as it will go a long way to enable them to be conversant with their host countries stressed that too many Priests and Sisters are living in almost parts of the world.
He noted that the programme is been funded by National Missionary Council and operated by mission and dialogue and pontifical mission society, while adding that a major challenge is usually inavailability of venue for the orientation course.
More, the Director described the level of participation in the Diocese as encouraging, pointing out that the centre is committed to encouraging Priests and Sisters on mission to enable them discharge their duties and enjoined the Priest in the Diocese to always participate in the programme yearly, as it will go a long way in sensitizing them on their aims as Priests and Sisters on mission.
FORTITUDE IS THE GIFT TO OVERCOME DIFFICULT MOMENTS-POPE
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has recently in the Catechesis in general audience at the Vatican, noted that fortitude is the gift to overcome difficult moments, stressing that “with the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit wakes the ground of our heart from its torpor, uncertainty and al the fears that may hold it back, so that the word of the Lord may be put into practice in an authentic and joyful manner.”
The pontiff who spoke on the difficult moments and extreme situations in which the gift of fortitude manifests itself in an extraordinary way, remarked that “the Church is resplendent with the witness of many brothers and sisters who have not hesitated to give their lives in order to remain faithful to the Lord and to His Gospel,” stressing that “nowadays, there are still many Christians who offer witness to their faith in perilous circumstances.”
Continuing, the Bishop of Rome noted that “we all know people who have experienced difficult situation and great suffering,… But think of these men, these women, who lead difficult lives, who struggle to maintain their families, to bring up their children, they do all of this because the spirit of fortitude helps them…,” adding that “these brothers and sisters of ours are saints, everyday saints, saints who are conceded among us; they have the gift of fortitude that allows them to carry out their duties as persons, as father mothers, brothers, sisters and citizen.… And it is good for us to think about these, if they do all this, if they can do it, why can't I? It is good for us to ask the Lord for the gift of fortitude.”
The Shepherd of Souls noted that “it should not be thought that the gift of fortitude is necessary only on some occasions or in particular situation,” asserting that “this gift must constitute the base note of our Christian being nurturing in us as sanctity lived in the ordinariness of our daily life.”. he further commented on phrase of the Apostle Paul “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, affirming that “at times we are tempted by idleness or we are discouraged especially when faced with then burdens and trials of life,” in these case, we must not lose heart, but must instead invoke the spirit, so that the gift of fortitude might lift our hearts and transmit new strength and enthusiasm to our life and to our following Jesus.”