By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
There is an ancient puzzle which is yet to be solved. Scientists keep us in suspense. Philosophers are still philosophizing. Agriculturists are still postulating. Historians have not come to a logical conclusion. Soothsayers are silent. Prophets have not prophesied yet. Men of God are still praying over it and waiting for divine revelation.
But the Almighty God who is the Alpha and the Omega is sitting comfortably on his heavenly throne and laughing at our limited minds. What actually is this ancient puzzle? Here it is: the hen and the egg, which one existed first? If you say it is the egg, then which hen laid it? On the other hand, if you say it is the hen, where did the egg come from? Only God can solve the puzzle.
Naturally, death comes before burial. This is not debatable. In other words burial follows death. Nonetheless I am proposing in this write-up that burial should come before death. I mean what I say. I am neither drunk nor insane. However, any sane person would reason that it is a crime and a mortal sin to bury someone alive. By the divine power bestowed on me as a priest in the Order of Melchizedek, I hereby absolve you from this crime and mortal sin in the name of Mercy and Charity. Amen!
We just celebrated the Divine Mercy Sunday last week. Indeed God is the merciful Father. It is a clear fact that if God does not temper justice with mercy, heaven will be empty. However, grace works on nature. Saint Augustine states categorically that God created us without our cooperation, but he cannot save us without our cooperation. Recently I encountered a fine lady who goes by name Mercy.
She boasts that her name has already secured her a decent seat in the heavenly throne of God. Unfortunately, her life style contradicts her nomenclature. If a man called Emmanuel finds himself in hell, then automatically he changes his name to Satanuel.
If not for the mercy of God, the world would have ended very long ago because of the grave sins committed against God and humanity. If the anger of God descends on our country Nigeria on account of the daylight electoral robbery committed on February 25, March 11 and 15th April 2023, then Nigeria will be wiped away from world map. Patiently, the merciful Father looks on the Nigerian Judiciary to redeem the unfortunate loss of the good image of the Giant of Africa before the heavenly hammer strikes.
The Divine Mercy Sunday is the manifestation of the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery. Jesus Christ the Saviour suffered, died and resurrected on the third day. By these sacrificial divine acts, the hopelessness of fallen humanity has been cancelled on the famous Gibbet. His resurrection is the enthronement of hope once again.
When Jesus Christ revealed to Saint Faustina Kowalska the depth of God’s mercy, He admonished through her that we ought to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. No one should dare shrink from the acts of mercy or to try to absolve ourselves from them. The three ways of showing mercy to others are by deed, by word and by prayer.
When we carry out the divine merciful injunction, we are indeed burying our neighbours before they die. The stipulations of the live burial can be found precisely in the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46. They are summarized as the Corporal Works of Mercy. These include: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the imprisoned, to visit the sick, and to bury the dead.
These stipulations form the moral foundation of God’s judgment on the last day (the day of death). After death comes judgment. Then reward or damnation follows. Therefore let us make daily revision in order to avoid had I known.
Medicine applied after death is useless. Some of us fail to feed the hungry when they were alive. But when they die, we embark on condolence visit with bags of rice, tubers of yam and other edibles. In our Igbo traditional setting, some well-to-do individuals slaughter post mortem cows for their departed dear ones as a mark of dignity. Does the dead eat meat? Is it not pertinent to slaughter the cow for our dear ones when they are still alive so that they can partake of it?
It has been observed that some persons among us died thirsty. Unfortunately during their burial or funeral rites, assorted drinks are supplied in quantum. Often a cooling van is engaged. The bereaved family members, friends and well-wishers make merry. Some go home drunk. Once upon a time, a certain drunkard attended the funeral of three siblings who perished in a ghastly road accident. He was given a bottle of beer during the entertainment.
Could you believe that he refused to accept it? He frowned and insisted that he must be given three bottles of beer for the three corpses. What a stupidity! I was an eyewitness during the burial and funeral ceremonies of my former Local Ordinary. A certain male gate crasher was offered a bottle of soft drink.
He dropped it in anger. He asked, “How can I drink a bottle of soft drink at the funeral of the mother of a bishop, when I drank a bottle of beer few days ago at the funeral of a wretched woman?” To pacify him, a bottle of cold beer was offered to him. He accepted it cheerfully.
When I was the parish priest of Saint James Catholic Church Neni in Anaocha Local Government of Anambra State, I came in contact with a philanthropist and a father of the less privileged and orphans. His name was Chief Sir Anthony Obiagbaoso Enukeme, the former Onowu of Neni and the Manager of Tonimas Group of Companies. He buried so many needy people before they died. He was charity personified. He sheltered the orphans and the helpless by building a gigantic house for them known as the Trinitarian Orphanage Home Neni.
He was about to sink a water borehole for them before his sudden death in 2020. May God grant him eternal rest! Till date, those orphans and helpless he sheltered there are still searching for water to drink and to use in their demanding daily chores. Who will bell the cat? Please come over to the Trinitarian Orphanage Home Neni and quench their thirst before they die.
To sum up the act of burial before death, I pose some pertinent questions for us all. How many naked living persons in our society have we clothed? It is useless to clothe the dead. Have we provided shelter for the homeless? How often do we visit the sick at their homes or in the hospitals? Are we waiting for them to die before we embark on condolence visit?
Have we visited prisoners languishing in the various prisons nationwide? Finally, how often do we devote time and resources to condole the bereaved as well as participating actively in the burial and funeral of the departed ones around our vicinity? The Holy Scripture explicitly enunciates that we shall reap in the next world what we sowed here on earth (Galatians 6:7). This is my last wish: “Kindly bury me before I die.” Do likewise to others.