EASTER, 12TH APRIL, 2020, AT HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, MAITAMA, ABUJA
THERE IS GOD O!
Easter is here! Alleluia! How time flies! It appears as if it was just a short time ago that we received ashes on Ash Wednesday to mark the commencement of Lent. It is already 40 days and we have arrived at the joyful and bright light of Easter. To God be praise, honour and adoration!
At a time when our morale is low on account of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic, Jesus is saying: “I am here. I have risen. I have power over sickness and death”. In Acts 10:40 Peter testifies that “God raised Him to life on the third day, and let Him manifest himself…”.
St. John in the Gospel tells us about the experience of Mary Magdalene and the disciples about the empty tomb. Jesus is indeed risen from the dead! This is our breaking news today!
No doubt, during the forty days of Lent many of us have been praying, fasting, giving alms and making effort at repentance and conversion. But we may ask, why is the calamity of a pandemic spreading? Is God asleep? No. Did he travel? No. Has he forgotten us? No. Is he angry? I don’t know. Even if God is angry because of our misconduct and stubborn resistance to his will and the pride about our scientific and technological knowledge and skills, he still loves us. That was why he sent his beloved Son Jesus Christ.
God recognizes goodness and forgives sin. In Genesis chapter 6, we read that when the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. But Noah found favour with the LORD. You too can find favour with the Lord even in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation.
Noah was a righteous man and blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. Our call through our baptism is to love tenderly and to walk in humble fellowship with God (cf. Micah 6:8).
The consequence of the sin of disobedience committed by our first parents is that we human beings affected by their original sin have lost the capacity to always do good, to love, to build together for the common good, to overcome evil with good. The good we want to do, we cannot do it easily. In our world today we threaten fire and brimstone at the slightest provocation; we seem unable to live without playing the drums of war, just to demonstrate that one nation or group is more powerful economically, technologically, politically than the other. It is a world of survival of the fittest!
We even go further by wanting to be where God is, either to push Him to give way or to think we can advise Him. We find fault with His creatures and creation. We
think and behave as if God is not competent or omnipotent. We feel we can correct His wonderful work of creation.
Today, through the resurrection of his Son, God is saying loudly, emphatically and clearly that He is Life itself; He is the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. His ways are not our ways just as His thoughts are not our thoughts. By raising his Son from the dead after three days, God demonstrates that He is the owner of life. He is the beginning and the end.
The resurrection is a very strong reminder that we must submit totally and unconditionally and honestly to God. The practice of religion as an outward act of piety is not enough. We must practise religion of the heart not religion of the head, or a mere outward show or as an intellectual exercise of repeating doctrinal phrases that sometimes trigger fundamentalism and inter-religious violence.
Jesus is risen! He is Lord! ALLELUIA! Those who say God does not exist, the psalmist says are foolish. A Nigerian once cried out “There is God O!
This is the lesson of Easter: There is God O!
Easter is an invitation to faith, faith in a surpassing mystery – that Jesus who died on Good Friday still lives. This faith teaches that because Jesus is alive forever, the victory of evil and the cruel plans of men can only be temporary. It teaches us never to give up on the virtues of patience, perseverance, hope and trust in God. These will always win no matter how long the night of sorrow lasts. The message of Easter is that God does not forget or forsake us, and that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. But soon, it will be daylight again.
On Easter morning, the stone of sorrow, captivity and death was rolled away. Are our hearts like a tomb, full of frightening thoughts and depressing secrets awaiting a new life? Is there anything holding us back from genuine conversion and a renewal of spirit? Is there a dark cloud hanging around our nation and our world?
In the past few weeks, on top of all our peculiar challenges – insurgency, kidnapping, militant herdsmen attacks and general insecurity, a dwindling economy and its harsh consequences, the COVID-19 crisis has introduced a crippling climate of fear, taking away almost every aspect of life we hold dear. We cannot shake hands and embrace anymore, neither can we visit family, relations and friends without doubts or preoccupations. More seriously, we cannot even go to the house of God to pour out our troubles and find succour in the embrace of a believing community. This is hardly how we want things to be.
Everything seems but gloomy, dark and frightening like an extended Good Friday night. But we must never give up even as we are afraid of kidnappers, militant herdsmen, loss of jobs or money or material resources, illness, etc.
Easter tells us that Jesus has overcome the night; you don’t need to be afraid any more.
Christ is alive!
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, may I commend the Federal authorities for a prompt response in making much needed funds available to combat the scourge and for making the difficult decisions that had to be made about the hard hit states of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT. The active role of the State governments, especially of states where cases have been reported is equally deserving of praise. The generosity of the private sector, well meaning citizens and philanthropists, through acts of compassion, solidarity and self sacrifice at this time can only rekindle hope in the resilience of the Nigerian spirit. While calling on all our people to cooperate with government by embracing necessary behavioural changes, I also urge our leaders to do more to increase the health ministry’s capacity to test and diagnose all persons who are in need of such tests, but most especially the vast majority living in the periphery of our cities and also people in villages who are far removed from media attention.
No citizen who needs medical assistance with regard to this disease should feel bypassed or neglected regardless of his standing in society. Similarly, as stringent measures are being put in place to contain the spread of the deadly disease, our leaders must remember to always give every decision and its implementation a human face. Our people must be patiently helped to survive the shock that comes with sudden, seemingly unfavourable adjustments. Collectively, as a nation, we must not give in to despair. We have together overcome bigger challenges in the past. This one will not be any different, provided we stand and work together against this our common enemy who does not discriminate between the poor and the rich, the low and the mighty.
Pope Francis often challenges us to be people of joyful hope, not prophets of doom. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we get an infusion of hope and joy, and an invitation to share them by our way of living.
In this season of so much bad news, it is normal to be too aware of what we cannot do. But let us not lose sight of what God can do. “He restores my soul,” wrote the psalmist. He does not reform; he restores. He does not camouflage the old, he restores the new. The master builder will restore all things – the vigour, the energy and above all the hope. The one who made all hasn’t left it. He still and will always send light into the shadows and respond to every sincere gesture of faith. Tell it on the mountains, over the hills and every where that Jesus is risen!
God of hope, in these days fear has gripped us all and we are afraid of what might happen to us and to those we love. Pour into our hearts your Holy Spirit, our Advocate, to give us the strength and calm we need to live through this terrible time. We ask your blessing on those we love. Give us your compassion and your patient love, that we may reach out to all who need our help, especially the vulnerable. We renew our faith in you, our loving Father. Let us feel again in our lives the promise of your Son to be with us always to the end of the age. Teach us how to live through this epidemic as people of great faith. May this time of testing be a time of grace for us and our dear country and indeed the whole world.
Dear fellow members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and all people of goodwill, as we pray to God to intervene and to save us, we must do our part to help brothers and sisters in need. On account of the lockdown, many are trapped in their communities without the basic necessities of life especially food, water and electricity. Government must ensure that funds provided by donors and from our collective patrimony to alleviate the suffering of our people are promptly, effectively and honestly applied without the usual diversion or misappropriation that has come to characterize the behaviour of some officials during these times of national tragedy. Help should get to the least person at the grassroots.
In my recent letter to the Priests, Religious and the Lay Faithful of Abuja Archdiocese, I appealed that we should do something positive and concrete for those affected in one way or the other because of the coronavirus pandemic. I informed you that the Archdiocese has established a phone counselling centre coordinated by the Gaudium et Spes Institute, Asokoro. Priests will be available through dedicated telephone lines to pray with and to counsel those in spiritual or pastoral need. We also set up a new account:
“CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ABUJA EMERGENCY FUND” PROVIDUS BANK PLC
ACCOUNT NO. 5400398133.
Donations into this account are to help those in serious need at this difficult time. The special committee to administer the donations is chaired by St. Vincent de Paul of the Archdiocese, with some selected leaders of our Church societies as members.
In the spirit of the risen Christ, I ask you to do your best for the needy and the suffering.
May we also share in the power of the resurrection and radiate the risen Lord to all around us.
Have a most rewarding Easter celebration. And may your faith in the risen Christ help you to overcome all the multidimensional challenges of your life. Amen.
HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP IGNATIUS A. KAIGAMA.