The resurrection of Jesus: The foundation of our Christian message
Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022, at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.
Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43, Col. 3:1-4, Jn. 20:1-9
Congratulations on the successful conclusion of the forty days of the Lenten period. Today, Easter Sunday, we celebrate an event that has done more to change human history than any scientific invention, any technological breakthrough or any political or military victory: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Peter, who even though denied Jesus during His trial before the Sanhedrin, states in Acts 10:40: “But God raised Him to life on the third day, and let Him manifest himself….” He even said that they “ate and drank” (Acts 10:41) with Jesus after His resurrection.
St. Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Christ died for our sins, and “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures….” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness” (CCC n. 639).
It all began with the testimony of the women who went to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week to anoint the body of Jesus. Not finding the body, Mary of Magdala came to announce to the Apostles that Christ’s body was missing and so, Peter and John had to run to the tomb only to discover to their greatest shock that the big stone over the tomb had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus had risen as He said!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our Christian message and as St. Paul explains, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).
Christ’s resurrection is victory of life over death, of hope over despair, and of love over hatred; victory of good over evil, unity over rivalry, generosity over selfishness, peace over violence, co-existence over strife, justice over iniquity, and truth over falsehood.
We read in Romans 10:11 that “No one who believes in him will be put to shame”. Christians should therefore boldly witness and proclaim the risen Lord in a world darkened by sin, gripped by fear, violence, wars and corruption.
Our social media platforms are sometimes filled with sad, fake and bad news; just as our world is invaded by the virus of immorality and acts causing hopelessness and needless pains.
Amidst the religious and political voices of hatred and violence, Muslims and Christians whose Ramadan and Easter coincide this year again, should go beyond mutual courteous felicitations to be instruments of fostering social harmony and peaceful co-existence, speaking and acting against corruption, injustice and greed; doing everything to overcome ethno-religious and socio-political hostilities.
The brutal killings, kidnappings, immoral and anti-social activities in different parts of Nigeria are brought about by the cumulative effect of sins in the nation. Irrespective of which Nigerian sins (Muslim or Christian or Traditional worshipper), sin is a gross disobedience to God and it also hurts the individual who sins and the entire society. It is only when we stop offending God and one another that the negative and harsh social realities we are witnessing today will be greatly minimized. In Nigeria, we have the habit of only blaming those in political leadership, but forgetting that in our private lives we violate God’s laws and also violate neighbours’ integrity and rights saying like Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9).
I am however impressed by the recent outbursts of righteous anger cutting across gender, age, religious and ethnic affiliations. One sees videos of Christians lampooning Christian preachers who exploit the name of Jesus for their selfish aims, to the detriment of their gullible followers. A Catholic lady challenged some Catholic priests against being disrespectful to parishioners and being materialistic instead of working for the salvation of souls. An Islamic Sheikh not succumbing to religious sentiments was critical of the lackadaisical attitude of government to the safety of lives following bombings, kidnappings, and endless acts of insecurity.
It is encouraging that people are taking on leaders irrespective of whether they are of similar religious or ethnic affiliation and challenging their lacklustre performance. By the “Endsars” protests, the youths successfully passed a judgment on the failure of government to secure them and provide for them and their future. There is no doubt that there is anger across religious and ethnic lines against leaders who milk the country dry and rob the citizens of a decent life.
Even as governance appears to take the back seat as the drums of campaigns ahead of the 2023 general elections are rolling out, many are questioning the sincerity of politicians vying for public offices. Nigerians want selfless and empathetic leaders, not those paranoid, defensive and antagonistic towards critics. Nigerians detest leaders operating in their comfort zones and who do not feel the discomfort and pain of the lack of electricity, potable water, fuel or the social dislocation caused by the frequent disruption of schools and medical services due to strikes by workers pressing for their legitimate rights.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we must look for the things that are in heaven, but the social challenges of our time must concern us too. As we run the race to eternity we must ensure that our life and work on earth will win for us the crown of glory in heaven.
We implore the Risen Lord to have mercy on us, to liberate us and the whole world from insecurity and agonies caused by man’s inhumanity to man.
May Jesus transform our situations, satisfy our hungers, quench our thirsts, heal our sick world, wipe away our tears, and restore our buried hopes and aspirations, and above all, give us the peace that only God can give.
Happy Easter to you all.