FORTITUDE IN THE MIDST OF CRISIS
We live in a world filled with change and crisis, as war, terrorism, natural disasters, death, human sufferings, pains, kidnapping, abductions are visible daily in our various states, communities or societies.
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Memories of these challenges often leave us with no option than to turn to God in prayers.
Though, it is clear that crisis are expected because, Jesus said “in the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world”, (John 16:33), God uses suffering to develop our character, to keep us trusting in Him and keep us looking forward to heaven which is our home.
As Christians, we need to experience and have God's Spiritual strength and wisdom in our daily living to prepare us in time of crisis and to attain that, we should endeavour to pray continually and trusting in the power of the word and God to keep and all preserve us in the midst of crisis.
We should not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition present our situations to God, as Jesus is the Prince of Peace which transcends all crisis and He assures us that (Matt 28:20) “surely I am with you always, to the very end of age” let us continue to seek God's guidance at all times, as He alone is able to help us to overcome our challenges, as we put on God’s armor (Ephesians 6-10).
May God grant us the grace to triumph even in the midst of crisis. Amen.
CHARITY IN THE HIGHEST ORDER
Maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet, ut animam suam quis ponat pro amicis suis = no one has greater love than (this), to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13).
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Nemo dat quod non habet = no one can give what he does not have. Yet it is quite possible for anyone who has the required sight to see a precious object on the ground, pick it, possess it and share the same with others, if he is charitably generous, if and only if he bends and bows low to the ground.
Man who was created by God in his own image and likeness fell away from grace to grass and ground and got lost (Genesis 3:1-19). The fall of man does not make him lose totally being the image and likeness of God. In other words, God did not strip man of being a value at all. Man still remained a value in the sight of God; only that man had soiled, dirtified his valueness or valuability. Hence, out of the abundance, the fullness of his charity, God promised to bend and bow low, to seek, find, clean up and purify the most valuable of his creatures, man in order to restore him to the dignity and integrity he had lost awhile (cf. Genesis 3:15).
It is for the fulfillment of this promise of God that Christ came into the world. He humbled himself, he descended low assume human nature, lived and worked with and for us without any reservation. What is more, in order to concretize and perpetualise the promise of his redemption, Christ, towards the end of his earthly life, most charitably instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist. In the institution of the Catholic Priesthood, he bequeathed his power to bind and lose wholly to those he anointed; the ordained who are his priests, Christ mandated these high priests, the apostles, to pass on the same power of his priesthood successively to their successors and their collaborators, the priests (Rev. Fathers). Through and by the power of this priesthood of Christ, the validly ordained priest and who is in good standing re-enacts the one and for all bloody sacrifice of Christ on mount Calvary, though that of the validly ordained priest who is in good standing is now carried out in an unbloody manner. In this sacrifice, the giving of Body and Blood of Christ are ever made available and possible for the faithful followers who are ready to receive so that they can have life progressively into eternity.
This is what Christ himself taught: Ego sum panis vivus, gui de caelo descendi. Si quis mandiecaverit ex hoc pane, vivet in aeternum " = I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6:51).
My dear beloved faithful of Christ, it is through the power of this priesthood of Christ which is conferred on the ordained priest in the Catholic Church that the required healing can be brought upon the faithful, should the serpent happen to strike his heel again. This is the reason for the sacrament of reconciliation which is popularly known and call confession and the sacrament of anointing of the sick. It is equally true that through the priesthood of Christ, the catholic priests are empowered to properly and ordainly celebrate and assist in the administration of all other sacraments in the church.
Therefore, on the occasion of the celebration of the Mass of Chrism which is the BIRTHDAY of the catholic priesthood, the priests themselves and the EUCHARIST, Christ invites and reminds his priests to reflect on : manete in dilectione mea = remain in my love (John 15:9). This love is Agapao which gives generously and conditionally and with utmost humility and simplicity without discrimination, fear or favour. You, priests of Christ are reminded of the indispensability of absolute obedience and loyalty to all lawfully constituted ecclesiastical authorities if you wish your lives to be useful, valuable, meaningful, relevant, respectable and safe.
On your part my dear lay faithful of Christ continue to cherish, love your priests dearly. Pray, care, defend and stand by them fervently and relentlessly so that the divine fire will ever be rekindling in them; for once the chicken dies, the eggs go rotten inevitably.
THE AFRICAN POPES
» By Prof. Michael Ogunu
The first Pope was a Galilean fisherman named Simon. He was from Bethsaida on the lake of Genesareth. He and his brother Andrew had been attracted by St. John the Baptist. When the Baptist directed them to Christ, Jesus saw in Simon a man of destiny. He saw in the rough fisherman the rock on which He would build His Church, and so He called Simon “Peter,” which means rock. Later, Jesus in a scene of historic importance solemnly commissioned Peter.
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“And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?
“But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremiahs, or one of the prophets.
“Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?
“Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
“And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven.
“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
“And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven”. (Matthew 16:13-19).
In an unbroken Apostolic succession, 265 Popes have ruled the Church founded by Christ right from Peter, the first Pope, to Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Pope. Of the 265 Popes, three were African. Who were the African Popes and what contributions did they make to the growth of the Church?
The first African Pope was St. Victor I who reigned from 189 to 199 A. D. According to Liber Pontificalis, Victor was an African, the son of Felix. He decreed that after an emergency baptism whether in river, spring, sea or marsh, the neophyte should be treated as a Christian in full standing.
During his time the controversy over the day for celebration of Easter came to a head.
The Christians at Rome, who had come from the province of Asia, were accustomed to observe Easter on the 14th day of the Jewish month Nissan (Passover day), whatever day of the week that date might happen to fall on, just as they had done at home. This difference inevitably led to trouble when it appeared in the Christian community of Rome where Easter was celebrated on Sunday. Pope Victor decided, therefore, to bring about unity in the observance of the Easter festival and to persuade the Quartodecimans (14th day of Nissan observers) to join in the general practice of the Church. He wrote, therefore, to Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus and induced the latter to call together the bishops of the province of Asia in order to discuss the matter with them.
Polycrates did indeed assemble the bishops, but informed the Pope that neither he nor the Asiatic bishops could abandon the tradition of St. John and St. Philip. Pope Victor put his foot down and ordered the Church to celebrate Easter on Sunday. All but the bishops of Asia Minor obeyed. Thereupon Victor excommunicated them. St. Iranaeus, now bishop of Lyons, pleaded with the Pope that after all, it was only a matter of discipline and that the Pope's illustrious predecessors had allowed the diversity of dates. Furthermore, St. Iranaeus argued it was a sad thing for the glorious see of Ephesus to be cut off from Catholic unity. Pope Victor, convinced, seems to have relented. We have no information concerning the further course of the matter under Victor I so far as it regards the bishops of Asia. All that is known is that in the course of the third century the Roman practice in the observance of Easter became gradually universal.
In Rome itself, where Pope Victor naturally enforced the observance of Easter on Sunday by all Christians in the capital, an oriental named Blastus, with a few followers, opposed the pope and brought about a schism, which, however, did not grow in importance. Pope Victor also had difficulties with a Roman priest named Florinus, who probably came from Asia Minor. As an official of the imperial court, Florinus had become acquainted in Asia Minor with St. Polycarp, and later was a presbyter of the Roman Church. He fell into the Gnostic heresy and defended the false learning of Valentine. St. Irenaeus wrote two treatises against him: “On the Monarchy [of God] and that God is not the Author of Evil”, and “On the Ogdoad”. Irenaeus also called Victor's attention to the dangerous writings of Florinus, who was probably degraded from his priestly functions by the pope and expelled from the Church (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.”, v, xv, 20). During the pontificate of Victor a rich Christian, Theodotus the Leather-seller, came from Constantinople to Rome and taught false doctrines concerning Christ whom he declared to be merely a man endowed by the Holy Ghost, at baptism, with supernatural power. The pope condemned this heresy and excluded Theodotus from the Church. The latter, however, would not submit, but, together with his adherents, formed a schismatic party, which maintained itself for a time at Rome.
Pope Victor is the first pope known to have had dealing with the imperial household. He supplied Marcia, mistress of Emperor Commodus (180-92) and herself a Christian, with a list of Christians condemned to the mines of Sardinia and thus secured their release. They included a future pope, Callistus I.
He wrote several treatises St. Jerome calls him the first Latin writer in the Church and the first in Rome to celebrate the Mysteries in Latin. The pope died before the persecution of Septimius Severus began and is named in the canon of the Ambrosian Mass. His feast is kept on July 28.
The second African Pope was St. Miltiades who reigned from 311 to 314 A. D. The storm which had exiled his predecessors, Popes Marcellus and Eusebius, seems to have prevented an early election of a successor, but finally in 311 Miltiades, an African was chosen. The new pope was to guide the bark of Peter unto calmer waters.
Though St. Miltiades ruled the Church for only three years, he was to witness one of history's turning points the coming of Constantine and the end of an era of persecution. Constantine had been proclaimed emperor in Gaul, and now in 312 he marched on Rome to overthrow the tyrant Maxentius. Constantine though not a Christian, had seen the cross in a vision and had learned that “by this sign shalt thou conquer”. And for the first time in history the cross of peace appeared on the standards of an army. Under the banner of the cross the legions of Constantine met and routed the army of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. This dramatic victory ushered in a new era, an era of peace for the Church. The very next year, 313, at Milan, Constantine and his colleague Licinius issued the famous decree of toleration which really set the Christians free, free to come out of the catacombs.
One of the most serious problems which confronted Pope Miltiades was the schism which broke out in Africa headed by an intriguer named Donatus. These Donatists disputed the rule of Carthage with the true bishop, Caecilian. Constantine, troubled by the resulting disturbances, had asked the Pope to do something about the matter. The Pope summoned a synod of fifteen Italian and three Gallic bishops in the Lateran Palace to settle the matter. The synod condemned Donatus. St. Miltiades died shortly after. He was called by St. Augustine an excellent pontiff. He had given the Church good leadership in a difficult time of transition. St. Miltiades was buried in the Cemetery of Calixtus. It is significant that he was the last pope to be buried in a catacomb.
The third African Pope to rule the Church founded by Christ was St. Gelasius I 492 - 496.
Gelasius was an African either by birth or descent. A member of the Roman clergy, he worked in close cooperation with St. Felix II, and when he became pope he continued the policy of his predecessor. Gelasius found the Church of Constainople still in schism. Although the patriarch Euphemius had returned to orthodoxy, he refused to strike the name of Acacius from the diptychs. The diptychs were tablets used in the churches of those days on which were written the names of living and dead dignitaries. Since they were visible signs of the communion of saints, the names of all in heresy or schism or under excommunication were excluded from these diptychs. A number of bishops appealed to Gelasius to relent and readmit Constantinople to communion, but the Pope explained that it was a question not of personality but of principle, that to allow the name of Acacius to remain on the diptychs would be to repudiate his predecessor's actions against the Monophysite compromisers. Gelasius also defended the rights of the ancient patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch against the encroachments of Constantinople.
Although the Pope had his troubles with Emperor Anastasius over the Henoticon, he got along well with the Arian Theodoric. His difficulty at home arose, not from the government, but from a group of superstitious Romans. A plague had afflicted the city and these superstitious citizens, led by the Senior Andromachu involved the Lupercalia to bring back good luck to the city. The Lupercalia was originally a pagan rite celebrated in mid-February, but it became a good luck superstition. Youths clad in skins ran around the city with whips to chase away bad luck. They struck any woman they met a blow which was supposed to confer fertility. That such rank superstition should be revived was a challenge to the Pope and vigorously he met it. Gelasius forbade all Catholics to have anything to do with the affair, and wrote against it so vigorously that he soon ended the mischievous nonsense.
Gelasius, like his predecessor, spoke firmly to the Emperor on the need of independence for the Church. No history of political theory is complete without a discussion of this pope's masterly exposition of the role of Church and State in a famous letter to Emperor Anastasius. Gelasius defends the position of the Church as a perfect society, and at the same time recognizes the legitimate functions of both Church and State.
Although a great writer, Gelasius made his strongest impression as a man of holiness. Prayerful and austere, he loved the companionship of monks. He was outstanding for his sense of justice and above all for his charity to the poor. “Great even among the saints”, Gelasius died November 21, 496.
THE QUESTIONS OF LIFE AND DEATH
» By Rev. Fr. Francis IKHIANOSIME
Two words which can certainly be said to be central to discussions on human and family life are: love and life. While life flows from love, life interprets the meaning of love. The issue of life is so central because, it is that involves the whole human person. In it, a human person is essentially defined and the question of human dignity is implied. In it too involves a number of moral issues. The question of life in human and family life begins with the discussion: where does life begin since it is argued that all human life is sacred? Again, when can someone be said to be the subject of human dignity?
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Hardly is there a serious contest as to when life begins but the conflict however arises when moral issues like Abortion are in question. A large part of the scientific community as well as orthodox Christianity and more dogmatically, Catholicism, agrees that human life begins at conception. Positively, conception takes place after fertilization which usually takes place 24 hours after intercourse. So, God at fertilization breathes a living soul into the zygote and unquestionably it becomes a human person (cf Gen 2:7, 1:26). He thus becomes a subject of all human rights, even though unborn. The ground for establishing the beginning of life is because of the alarming and infectious wave of modern humanistic trends which tend to violate the unborn person as merely a tissue which could be discarded and the rights of the physical human person has been emphasized to the detriment of the unborn human person. And so, it becomes expedient to establish claims even from science to dwarf this misgiving.
A scientific textbook called “Basics of Biology” gives five characteristics of living things; these five criteria are found in all modern elementary scientific textbooks: (1) Living things are highly organized. (2) All living things have an ability to acquire materials and energy. (3) All living things have an ability to respond to their environment. (4). All living things have an ability to reproduce. (5) All living things have an ability to adapt. According to this elementary definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm unites with an oocyte.
From this moment, the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce (the cells divide, then divide again, etc., and barring pathology and pending reproductive maturity has the potential to reproduce other members of the species). Non-living things do not do these things. Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her. It must be stated too that that life is unquestionably human. This is because the distinguishing marks or what is called “Genetic imprint” of the human person; the DNA is already established and in fact the sex is determined. And so, that being is an individual. A person does not become an individual when he ceases to grow or born and not even death ceases the individuality of a person. This being so, life must therefore be conceived in the continuum: Before birth- birth- death- after death. So, life becomes one single garment that goes on through different phases. Personhood and individuality thus are not limited to the phases between birth and death.
Science too has established the following facts about the growth of the unborn child. Eighteen days after conception the baby's heart is beating. During the first month the baby grows to 10,000 times its size at conception. It moves six weeks after conception though the mother does not yet feel the movements. At eight weeks, every part of the body found in an adult is already in the baby. At eleven weeks after conception the baby has finger-prints and the finger nails are growing. At twelve weeks the baby's lips open and close. It can wrinkle its forehead, raise its eyes, turns its head, smile and frown. At sixteen weeks it reacts to sound, sucks and swallows, may get hiccups, yawns and stretches. Although moving since six weeks, at eighteen weeks the mother now feels the movements. The baby pushes with its feet and head to exercise and tone its developing muscles and also sucks its thumb. Its toenails, hair, eyebrows, fringe of eyelashes on closed eyelids are growing. At twenty weeks the baby sleeps and wakes and is fully able to hear. At twenty four weeks the baby may possibly dream and can make a fist and punch it against its mother. By twenty-five weeks the baby in the womb has the ability to hear like that of an adult and can discern the moods and attitudes of its mother
The consequent implication of this claim and fact is that the unborn child since he is also a human being, is a subject of equal rights and obligations of a viable human person and the first is that it has the right to life and the right to live. For one to destroy such life at the expense of human pride would be setting a standard for the vulnerable to be destroyed. Every human being is vulnerable at different points in life and we can enjoy the protection we may crave for and indeed help to safeguard the extinction of the human species, if we protect the vulnerable ones who depend on us for protection. To therefore maim the unborn and in fact kill it would be a case of destroying the institution of humanity at a certain level; a case of self-immolation. More so, against this back drop, any law, behavior or act that is opposed to the protection of the right of the human person is thus a counterproductive one which should not be obeyed or respected at least and should at most be condemned. This truth forbids to mothers who are pregnant whether knowingly or unknowingly to apply any such thing in the form of drug or the like; to disrupt the growth of the viable foetus. Any such act is a case of committing murder and in fact the transgressing of the fifth commandment of the Decalogue: “thou shalt not kill” (cf. Exodus 20:13). Also all those who by complicity or association directly collaborate or advice the direct killing of an unborn child are guilty of the same sin and liable to the consequences of this grievous offence as killing always elicit. It is along this boarder that Capital Punishment is condemned and a law which should be abrogated from every civil penal code as a form of penalty or deterrence. This brings us to the question of death.
Just as we have no right to take away one's life, because it is a gift, so also we cannot take another’s on any condition. The questions of life and death condition our moral options. Man does not enjoy the exclusive reserve to pass someone for death even when the person is suffering from grave irrecoverable ailing conditions. It is similarly when a person has been certified lifeless or dead can we treat it as a cadaver that it has become. If not, it becomes a grave sin and one opposed to human dignity if we treat someone who still has the breath of God in him and so recognized as “image of God” (imago Dei) with contempt or any violation that suggests such.
Death is usually conceived by modern science in three forms: traditional heart-lung failure, whole brain death and higher-brain death. Knowing when a person is no longer alive is a fundamental problem when it comes to medical situations like organ transplantation. Deciding when a person is no longer alive also has significant consequences for just what we consider a "person" to be. One can destroy life by issues which threaten the comfort of life, for example: malnutrition, carelessness, abuse, theft, hatred, discrimination. Also, our treatment of the sick and aged reflect whether we have value for life or promote the culture of death. Any desecration to life is a crime that God will bring to judgment. (Gen 9:5-6)
In sum, we must recall that God is the author of life and the protection of life is not just a respect for the dignity of the human person but also for the presence of God. In contrast, the devil is the author of death because by tempting men to sin he was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Thus anyone who kills by whatever form professes leaning for the devil as its agent. St. John clearly states the triple-fold mission of the devil as: to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10:10) but lo, Christ brings life and only those who are for life would protect, promote and preserve this life.
IMMUNE SYSTEM…PATHWAY TO GOOD HEALTH
» By Pharm. Ngozi Nzewi
We all have gone through formal schooling and acquired knowledge in the different fields. After this, the next important education for all is health education.
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In whatever field you find yourself, you will not do well if you are unhealthy. Most people feel careless about health education just because they are not ill A wise person should not have to wait until disease strikes. It is rather better to learn and know how to be well and leave the majority of medicines to field of trauma. It is better to know the ways of remaining healthy than getting sick and going for drugs. It is still a fact that prevention is better than cure. Conventional treatment is like a double edged sword killing germs while weakening the body's system. The object of medicine should be to heal the patient in the most gentle and effective way but in some situations other things such as toxicity effect tend to injure or kill many patients. The immune system is in our body, put in place by the creator. It is a device to keep the body healthy. It is designed to protect the body from foreign substances and from attacks of diseases. Immune response goes through some intricacies and interconnectedness. Immune response is one of those functions going on in the human body independent of the individual. Man can however destroy the immune system and the consequence is ill health which in some cases could be fatal. The unseen love of GOD for man and less talked about is what He did in the human body. I had earlier noted that man has been put in place and is so contented with self that he has little or no regards for his maker. It is a fact beyond debate that millions of people have deserted this life because they swim against the current of God's DOS and DON'TS. The HI V/AIDS is believed to have originated from homosexuals. In the situation of the HIV, the virus so destroys the immune system that opportunity is created for the attack of different disease causing organisms. It is these opportunistic infections that eventually kill the AIDS victim. Sir Macfarlane Burnet defined Immunity as the capacity to recognize the intrusion of materials foreign to the body and to mobilize cell products to help remove that particular sort of foreign material with greater speed and efficacy. This procedure is called immune response. If the immune system is powerful, the foreign material will not succeed but if the immune system is low, the germ, bacterial or virus will successfully invade the body and the person will be sick. Virtually all diseases stem from a weak immune system. In our daily food, water, and air we take in a lot of thousands of pollutants, germs, viruses and carcinogens. This is happening every day. Our immune system as such is correspondingly at work. With strong immune system, the body is safe from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, arthritis, prostate problems, diabetes and the other immune compromised disorders. For good, healthy and strong immune system, one needs healthy living strategies focused on FOOD, REST, and EXERCISE.
Eat food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it. Foods that promote good health include vegetables, fruits, fibers, whole grain etc. Eat more of unprocessed foods. Avoid as much as you can factory processed foods usually laden with fat, salt, and sugar. Choosing healthy foods based on good science, remains the best known way to reduce your chances of developing heart diseases, and diabetes, and help to ward off hypertension, osteoporosis and some form cancer. Always remember that you are what you eat.
EXERCISE; It is very important to exercise often. Exercise is good for the heart; it offers good blood circulation, good digestion and assimilation. Thus maintains the general good health of the body. This way the individual feels fine, smart, and alert with good memory. Exercise highly reduces blood sugar and can also prevent diabetes.
REST: This is another indispensable tonic to good health. Maintain a good daily rest and avoid stress.
Reduced immune response is believed to accompany ageing. This contributes to the ill health in this age range. Dietary supplement such as Co Q 10 and supreme immune booster are highly recommended for these adults. A healthy body with a strong immune system virtually never gets sick. It is resistant to diseases and is quick to heal itself.
MEDICINAL VALUES OF SOME PLANTS
Medicinal values of Guava leaves.
GUAVA LEAF (Psidium guajava)
The leaves of guava can stop diarrhea
It can regulate blood sugar levels
It is very helpful in diabetes
It has antibiotic effect
It can be used to reduce weight
It is helpful to drunkards reducing the effect of drunkenness
It has beneficial effect on diabetic myocardium, a cardiac complications stemming from diabetes. It follows that it is a good buster of diabetic complications. Research has it that administration of guava leave extract for a period of one month significantly decreased the blood glucose, glycated hemoglobin, and fructosamine.
WHEN THE MOTHER WEPT
» By Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua
I never loved seeing my mother in tears. One day I asked her, “Mama why do you cry so easily?” She answered, “My son, the language of the heart and soul is better expressed in tears. Every drop of tear serves as a healing balm for a wounded heart and memory.” At her baptism ceremony, Monsignor Paul Emonyon asked her, “What name would you like to be called?” I was expecting her to say, 'Aleabu', a name she was given by her father, Ekhaisomhi. Rather she said: “I would like to be called the name of the woman who wiped the face of Jesus”. Monsignor Emonyon said, “That means you want to be called Veronica”. She replied. “Yes!” That was how she was named Veronica. Veronica could have been among the women who wept for Jesus Christ (Matthew 27, 3133; Mark 15, 2022; Luke 23, 2632). But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 23, 27-29).
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Children have not stopped asking, “Why do mothers cry?” Recently, I read this tweet by Georgy: “Why are you crying?” a young boy asked his Mom. “Because I'm a woman,” she told him. “I don't understand,” he said. His Mom just hugged him and said, “And you never will, but that's okay.” Later the little boy asked his father, “Why Mom does seem to cry for no reason?” “All women cry for no reason,” was all his Dad could say. The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry. Finally he put in a call to God and when God got back to him, he asked, “God, why do women cry so easily?” God answered “When I made woman, I decided she had to be special. I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world; yet, made her arms gentle enough to give comfort. I gave her the inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times will come even from her own children. I gave her strength that allows her to keep going and take care of her family and friends, even when everyone else gives up; through sickness and fatigue without complaining. I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances. Even when her child has hurt her badly, she has the very special power to make a child feel better and to quell a teenager's anxieties and fears. I gave her strength to care for her husband, despite faults and I fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart. I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly. I also gave her a tear to shed. It is hers to use whenever needed and it is her only weakness. When you see her cry, tell her how much you love her, and all she does for everyone, and even though she may still cry, you would have made her heart feel good (http://www.turnbacktogod.com).
On March 4, 1980, my mother cried out her heart when Igietsemhe was killed. He was her younger brother and the only son of her mother Esiema. He was stabbed to death while working in the river by Bameyi. When she had cried to her satisfaction, she became stable. Even then, the crying of a mother is not a pleasant sight to behold by any child. I watched the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in torrent tears over the Chibok girls. I guess the scenario was not pleasant to many Nigerians. Here is the report from Punch Newspaper of May 5, 2014: “First Lady Patience Jonathan on Monday expressed displeasure at the absence of Hajiya Nana Shettima, wife of the Borno State Governor, at a second enlarged stakeholders' meeting on the abducted schoolgirls. The First Lady burst into tears after she took a roll call and discovered that the governor's wife and those she invited were absent.” The refrain, “there is God in everything we do, “there is God o'' has provided a job and sense of humour for some comedians in the social media.
Some Philosophers in different epoch have questioned the existence of God but the Psalmist declares: “The fool says in his heart, "There is no God” (Psalm 14, 1). The intention of the First Lady to call the meeting was her concern for the Nigerian girls who are suffering in the “den” of the terrorists. She could not have called a meeting to lecture her audience on philosophy of religion or theodicy. She could not have intended to explore the arguments of Philosophers and Theologians on the existence of God. She was not out to teach English language but to pass a message that “God sees all that we do.” But people perceive God in different ways. For some people God is perceived only the form of an idol where they worship money, power and sex. For some ambitious people, no body can be at peace if they are not in possession of power. When they have the power, what do they do with it? Perhaps to acquire more wealth and make every body around them glorified slaves. They recruit political thugs (potential terrorists) who would later turn against them. Some leaders do not have the common sense to promote the common good and human development but they can give capacity to criminals for selfish interest. Very often, blood begets blood hence Reuben advised his brothers, “shed no blood” (Genesis 37, 22).
In the meeting under review, the immediate audience of the First Lady could be either Muslims or Christians.” We may ask further, “Was she addressing only those who could not attend the meeting? Was she preaching to the terrorists who abducted the girls in Chibok? It is not likely that there was an atheist among these people. Could it be that the mother of Nigeria was calling on the “God of justice” to send down fire like the “God of Elijah” (2 Kings 1, 10)? In the face of evil, human beings naturally desire God's immediate intervention. James and John, the disciples of Jesus once requested for vengeance on those who were obstacle on their way: "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them" (Luke 9, 54)?
Let us examine the tears of the First Lady beyond the kidnapped girls of Chibok and those who could not respond to her invitation to dialogue on the current Chibok concern. The First Lady could have been overwhelmed by the sorrowful mystery of Nigeria. This could have been what her patience could no longer stand and then suddenly exploded in tears like the Boko Haram Bomb. Her husband has inherited a country that has struggled for unity for so long. They inherited a country that has witnessed the shedding of innocent blood to “keep Nigeria one”. They have inherited a country whose youths have grown in different cultures and traditions. Some who have been nurtured in a culture of intolerance have now turned against their own kindred and kings. Who could have ever imagined that a person could kill an Emir? Abomination! Is Nigeria falling apart? This calls for more tears!
The tears of the First Lady may symbolize the tears of many who are groaning over the evolution of the nation into an uncontrollable anarchy in some part of Nigeria. Many youths are mentally, emotionally and physically kidnapped by unemployment and poverty. As a grand mother of the Nigerian youths, she could have been moved to tears for the victims of “An idle mind is the devil's workshop.” She could have been moved by a number of unemployed youths who have died in the process of seeking for jobs. That religious, ethnic and political polarity is destroying Nigeria must have broken her heart to pour out the thundering tears. May the tears of the “grand mother” of the Chibok girls hasten their release! May the prayers and tears of Nigerians rise to God like the smoke of an evening oblation! We must continue to pray and cry to God who makes the impossible possible (Luke 1, 37). With God, I believe we shall overcome these national challenges and tragedy very soon!
FAITH AND MIRACLE
» By Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Okafor
Many preachers these days tend to emphasize miracle and healing in order to entice more members into their gatherings. Many people tend to flock to these miracle centres as if that is where God is. For them, therefore, wherever there is no miracle, God seems not to be present there. Many people therefore evaluate the growth of these gatherings on the index of large followership irrespective of whether they possess the faith or not. Many people believe that miracle promote faith. The question we need to therefore evaluate is:
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What is miracle?
Does miracle produce faith?
Miracle according to the Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, is an event that breaks through or surpasses the laws of nature. The Bible assumes a broader perspective by referring to “sign” and “wonder,” which refer to those extra-ordinary occurrences that enable one to experience God's manifestation at work. There are numerous miracles in the Bible.
Miracle does not lead to faith; rather it is faith that leads to miracle. This is clear from most of the healing miracles of Jesus; “O Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Matt 15:28). The miracles of Jesus generally were responses to human needs and they required faith on the part of the recipients.
The miracles of Jesus were as important to the ministry of Jesus as his preaching. Just as the preaching of Jesus was meant to teach, so too, the miracles of Jesus were meant to teach and express the saving power of God. The miracles of Jesus centred on exorcisms, healings, epiphanies (Divine manifestations), rescue miracles (from danger), gifts miracles (extra-ordinary provisions) and rule miracles (reinforcement of religious rules). The feeding of the five thousand, the healing of the man born blind, the healing of the paralytic etc, revealed the power and reign of God.
Miracles are linked with faith. The miracle stories are meant to evoke faith but not all of the stories are on the same plane. The different miracles recorded in the Bible are meant to instruct or deepen the faith of Christians, to reveal the divine identity of Jesus (Jn 3:1-2), and to reveal Jesus as the one sent by God (Lk 7:18-23). Miracle does not always lead to the growth of the faith of the people. Faith grows rather on the Word of God (Rom 10:17). The miracles Jesus performed were based on faith.
Christians therefore must be people who seek to deepen their faith through the Word of God and not through miracle. Everything is possible for the one who has faith (Mk 9:23).
GAZA STRIP AND THE REST OF US
» By Rev. Fr. Gregory Onimhawo
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There are certain things that repeatedly happen in our lives, these things could be seen as situations that are gory in sight and harmful to human existence and we begin to raise questions over and over again, on what is happening and what could be done. But then, answers may come in which other questions may arise. This is the case of the GAZA STRIP and the socio-political tussle surrounding it. A brief background to Gaza Strip might be of help.
A Brief Background History
The presentations of the World Fact Book show that Gaza Strip is inhabited since at least the 15th century B.C., Gaza has been dominated by many different peoples and empires throughout its history; it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century. Gaza fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt administered the newly formed Gaza Strip; it was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967. Under a series of agreements signed between 1994 and 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled after the outbreak of an intifada in mid- 2000. In early 2003, the "Quartet" of the US, EU, UN, and Russia, presented a roadmap to a final peace settlement by 2005, calling for two states - Israel and a democratic Palestine. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT's death in late 2004 and the subsequent election of Mahmud ABBAS (head of the Fatah political party) as the PA president, Israel and the PA agreed to move the peace process forward. Israel in late 2005 unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip, but continues to control maritime, airspace, and other access. In early 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won the Palestinian Legislative Council election and took control of the PA government. Attempts to form a unity government between Fatah and HAMAS failed, and violent clashes between Fatah and HAMAS supporters ensued, culminating in HAMAS's violent seizure of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Fatah and HAMAS in early 2011 agreed to reunify the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but the factions have struggled to implement details on governance and security. Brief periods of increased violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2007-08 and again in 2012, both led to Egyptian-brokered truces. The status quo remains with HAMAS in control of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank.
Due to the Israeli security control which has been in operation since the end of the second intifada crisis, there have been degradation in the economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the smaller of the two areas comprising the Palestinian territories. Israeli-imposed border closures, which became more restrictive after HAMAS seized control of the territory in June 2007, have resulted in high unemployment, elevated poverty rates, and a sharp contraction of the private sector that had relied primarily on export markets. Gazans increasingly turned to tunnels that run under the Egyptian border to bring in fuel, construction materials, and consumer goods. In July 2013, Egyptian authorities began a serious crackdown on the tunnels, causing shortages in Gaza. The population depends on government spending - by both the Palestinian Authority and HAMAS's de facto government - and humanitarian assistance. Changes to Israeli restrictions on imports in 2010 resulted in a rebound in some economic activity, but regular exports from Gaza still are not permitted. It must be made clear that the measures used in rating the Standard-of-living remain below levels since mid-1990s.
Gaza Strip as a territory is widely dominated by Muslims and it rates from 98.0% to 99.0%. For the Christians, it is 1.0% and this is same with other religions that could be allowed to practice their faith. As far as language is concerned, Arabic and Hebrew are spoken by the Palestinians but English Language is widely understood.
As at July 2014, the population of Gaza Strip estimated 1,816,379, but with the recent violence no one knows what this said count will fall down to.
Points to note
As a matter of fact, there have been re-occurring incidents of violence in this territory, in the faces of several killings, hunger, humiliation, sickness, degradation, homelessness, to mention but a few. It gives a persistent sense of worry because the civilians who are innocent in generating the crisis are mostly affected. This is why I would like to join my voice to that of Bishop Declan Lang, the Bishop of Clifton, United Kingdom, a statement issued on Thursday 7th July, 2014 that it is with a sense of deep sorrow that he finds himself condemning yet again in the strongest possible terms the spiraling violence that has gripped both Israel and Palestine. Indeed, his mounting concern bothers on the indiscriminate and relentless attacks by the Israeli military machine on the civilian population of Gaza. According to Bishop Declan, I condemn in equal measure the firing of rockets by militants from Gaza into populated civilian areas across Israel. Those increasing levels of violence have reached unsettling proportions following the tragic murder of teenagers in both Israel and Palestine.
This recurrence of violence does not happen in a vacuum. It follows the collapse of the latest chapter of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the ever-receding prospects for the establishment of a two-state solution that would put an end to decades of enmity and lead to a just peace that ushers in sovereignty and security for the two peoples.
The answer to violence cannot be more violence. As Philip Gordon, White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region, stated in the recent Ha'aretz Conference for Peace, “the inability to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians inevitably means more tension, more resentment, more injustice, more insecurity, more tragedy, and more grief.” Rather, it is at its core an end to occupation of Palestinian territories, to the building or expansion of settlements and to the blockade of Gaza where 1.7 million inhabitants live in a walled prison.
Today, I join my voice to that of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land. In their Call for a Courageous Change of 8th July, the church leaders call for replacing hatred and revenge with a different language that accepts the neighbour as a fellow human being with equal rights and responsibilities.
Perhaps everyone should take a leaf from the families of those dead Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who have called for calm and reconciliation. Here, the Arab Peace Initiative remains one viable instrument that could ensure a future where Israel and the League of Arab States would recognise each other and live in peace. It is the instrument that would transform the lives of Palestinians from one of subjugation and pain to one of freedom and dignity so that the whole region could be transformed - as the Call for a Courageous Change also urges all parties - “from a Wilderness of darkness and death into a flourishing garden of life”.
Faced with the inanity of political violence and the burden of human pain made manifest, it is very important to prayerfully remind Israelis and Palestinians that 'blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God' (Mt. 5:9), prayers must continually go out to the men, women and children of Palestine and Israel.
LET US IMITATE THE TRINITY FR. ANAWEOKHAI TELL FAITHFUL
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As Catholics mark the Solemnity of Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Administrator, Rev. Fr. Valentine Anaweokhai, has tasked faithful to always imitate the Holy Trinity, stressing that Trinity is a mystery that reveals to mankind the nature of God.
This formed the crux of his homily at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Auchi on the occasion of Solemnity of Holy Trinity.
The homilist who noted that mystery is a divine truth that has been revealed to man by God, stressed that man in his weakness cannot fully understand the truth, as the Trinity are three persons united in one God, which entails God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, affirming that though they are distinct, but are united and work differently.
Speaking further, Fr. Anaweokhai who noted that there are blessings embedded in the power of the Trinity, as many have overcome many challenges through the sign of the cross, charged faithful to always make the sign of the cross and believe in the power of the Holy Trinity, as it can help them overcome any difficulty.
Further, the Priest also hinted that Trinity is unity, hence as faithful, they should endeavour to promote unity among their neighbours and remain peaceful, stressing that though a family may consist of father, mother and children, it is usually seen as one, hence couples should endeavour to foster love and unity as exemplified by the Holy Trinity, as every member of the family should be treated equally and they should let unity to reign in their families.
Reiterating the need for faithful to remain in love and harmony with one another, Fr. Anaweokhai urged husbands and wives to be faithful to one another as contained in their marriage vows, adding that faithful should not be deterred by the quest for materialism to denounce their faith, but they should hold on to the Catholic faith which they profess.
Thereafter, the Priest who prayed for peace, unity and love in Nigeria and the world at large, stressed that the fruit of this brings peace and unity to mankind, hence all should be willing to embrace the peace and unity brought by the Holy Spirit and prayed God to grant them the grace to live in unity entrusted to them by the Holy Trinity.
DON'T MOURN LIKE A PEOPLE WITHOUT FAITH-FR. ADOGAMHE
The Assistant Parish Administrator, Assumption Parish, Udaba, Rev. Fr. Reginald Adogamhe, has charged faithful not to mourn their deceased loved ones like a people without faith, stressing that when morning, they should always take solace in the Lord that they will meet on the resurrection morning.
He dropped this hint while delivering a homily at the requiem Mass held in honour of Mrs. Priscilla Rekia Agwoko, the mother of Rev. Sr. Dorothy Agwoko, at St. John the Apostle Parish, Igarra.
Fr. Adogamhe who noted that death is inevitable as all humans would died at a time they do not know, described the deceased as a devout Catholic who was very much in union with the Blessed Sacrament, stressed that she was a woman of faith, loving, caring and a mother with a generous heart. He urged all present to emulate her exemplary qualities of faithfulness and devotedness to God, while praying God to receive her soul into His bosom.
Giving the homily at the funeral Mass at Ososo, which was concelebrated with the Vicar General of the Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Isaac Bossey, Rev. Fr. Reginald Adogamhe and other Priests, the Parish administrator Rev. Fr. Philip Omokhekhe pointed out that death is not disastrous, but a separation of the physical union with the flesh, adding that when a faithful Christian dies, he or she will be united with God, the owner of their souls.
Continuing, Fr. Omokhhekhe who tasked all present to always live lives worthy of emulation, noted that the deceased was a humble Catholic who gave her best to the Church and charged all faithful to endeavour to serve God in sincerity irrespective of the challenges they might be facing.
The homilist who reiterated the need for all to imbibe the fear of God, pointed out that lack of respect for God is responsible for the various problems facing the society today, stressing that if all would return to God in humility, the nation will be freed from insecurity, kidnapping, corruption among others and urged Catholics to always serve as shining examples for others to emulate in their various endeavours and charged all to re-examine their consciences.
Addressing the family, the Priest commiserated with them and tasked them to emulate the exemplary life lived by their mother, while praying God to receive her soul in His bosom.
Giving his remarks on behalf of the Bishop of the Diocese Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia, the Vicar General of the Diocese Very Rev. Fr. Isaac Bossey who commiserated with the family over the passing on to glory of their mother, stressed that Agwoko is a family of good background and a people of faith and prayed God to receive the soul of Mrs. Dorothy Agwoko
Some of the dignitaries present were Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Sisters of St. Michael the Archangel, Rev. Sisters of Auchi Diocese, Knights and Ladies of St. Mulumba, Uromi Sub-council, parishioners from St. John the Apostle, Igarra among others. Meanwhile, the final commendation was done by Rev. Fr. Godrick Shaba, as it was followed by interment at the family compound at Ososo.
REMAIN CONFIDENT IN THE LORD POPE TELL FAITHFUL
In the face of the various security challenges facing many nations of the world, the Holy Father, Pope Francis has reiterated the need for Catholic faithful to always remain confident in the Lord.
He stated this while delivering homily at the presentation of Pallium to Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin the Metropolitan of Ibadan Ecclesiastical province and twenty three others at St. Peter Basilica, Vatican, Rome.
The Pontiff who hinted that “the witness of the apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is to trust in God”, stressed that “every security we need must be sought in the Lord and not in worldly powers, gratification or recognition”.
Continuing, the Shepherd of souls noted that the Lord does not leave His messenger uncared for, pointed out that “Gods fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity and stronger than our acts of denial,” affirming that “this is the reason why every day, just in the same way He asked Peter “do you love me?” and He further demands “follow me”.
It could be recall that Bishop Gabriel Abegunrin of Oshogbo Diocese was appointed Archbishop November 2013 by the Holy Father Pope Francis to succeed the Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job as the second Archbishop of Ibadan, after attaining retirement age. Meanwhile, the pallium was conferred on the Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin and twenty three others as the symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Church, to be used in their ecclesiastical Province.
Some of the Nigerians present at the celebration were; Francis Cardinal Arinze, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop Emeritus Felix Job, Bishop Emeritus Francis Alonge and Bishop Emmanuel Badejo among others.
In another development, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has described the recent decision of the Anglican Church of England to accept Woman into the episcopate as a worrisome obstacle to the ecclesial ecumenical relationship of the two Churches and reiterated its commitment to continuing ecumenical dialogue, seeking deeper mutual understanding and practical co-operation whenever possible.
This was contained in a statement made public by Archbishop Bernard Longle, Chairman of the Department of Dialogue and unity, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The Bishops who reiterated the commitment of the Catholic Church to the dialogue with the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, noted that “such full ecclesial communion embraces full communion in the Episcopal office”, adding that “The decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate therefore, sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us. Nevertheless, we are committed to continuing our ecumenical dialogue, seeking deeper mutual understanding and practical co-operation wherever possible”.
Further, the prelates hinted that “At this difficult moment, we affirm again the significant ecumenical progress which has been made in decades since the second Vatican Council and the development of firm and lasting friendships between our communities”, stressing that “we rejoice in these bonds of affection and will do all we can to strengthen them and seek together to witness to the Gospel of our society”.
BISHOP DUNIA PRESIDES PROFESSION OF FIVE SISTERS AT UZAIRUE
The Catholic Bishop of Auchi Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia, has presides over the profession of five Sister of Mother of Perpetual Help of the Archangels at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Afashio/Afowa, Uzairue. They were Sisters Elizabeth Marie Charlie, Magdalene Okoduwa, Rosemary Essien, Anne Onwunoruma and Agnes Agbo.
Giving the homily at the Eucharistic celebration, the Bishop of the Diocese Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G.Dunia who charged all present to continue to uphold the Catholic faith irrespective of their profession and careers, enjoined them to always forgive those who offend them and assured them that their heavenly father will equally have mercy on them.
Continuing, the Shepherd of Souls who urged faithful to always take delight in singing some of the Catholic hymns, as it would inspire them and edify their souls even in the midst of life's difficulties and challenges, stressed that though some of the songs were composed by none Catholics, but were selected by the Church because of their lyric and tasked all present to shun any act capable of bringing them to disrepute and avoid any thing that will make them to deny Christ as their Lord, adding that sin is one of the major ways of denying Jesus Christ, hence they should shun it and return to God in prayers and reconciliation.
The Prelate reiterated the need for all the newly professed to remain committed in serving God with their lives irrespective of the areas they are posted to, stressing that blessings awaits those who serve Him diligently and tasked them to let their light shine on others through their lifestyle.
Frowning at the attitude of faithful who often engage in prejudging others, the Shepherd of Souls, noted that it is only God that can pass final judgment on people. Hence all should avoid such habit, describing it as a negative way of bringing down the image of others and prayed God to grant the newly professed the strength to serve Him diligently.
Highpoint of the celebration was a thanksgiving procession by the five newly professed Sisters accompanied to the altar by their families, friends and well wishers.