By Fr Pat. Amobi Chukwuma
Wonders shall never end. A certain wretched and childless couple gave birth to a bouncing cheerful baby girl (BCBG) after waiting for fifteen years. Could you believe that the baby was smiling as it was coming out of the womb? As soon as it came into the external world the smile changed into laughter. The midwife on duty and the nursing mother were surprised seeing the baby laughing loudly.
Seeing this unusual phenomenon, the biological father, who was marching up and down outside the labour room, was quickly summoned to come inside and see things for himself. He saw and wondered at such natal laughter by a newly born baby. He believed that hope is born into his long suffering marriage.
During the naming ceremony, the father said the baby’s name is Hope. But the mother agitated. She said the laughing baby is to be called Happiness. The relations intervened. For the sake of peace and equity, the baby was finally given a combined name. She was named Hope-Happiness.
The above nomenclature controversy reminds me of my priest friend whose name is Michael Jude. Before his birth, his father belonged to a pious group in the Church known as Saint Michael’s Society. On the other hand, the mother belonged to a parallel pious group known as Saint Jude’s Society. As the time of nativity was approaching, the father prayed to God through St Michael for the safe delivery of her pregnant wife.
The expectant mother on her own part prayed ardently to God through St Jude for her safe delivery. Both saintly intercessions yielded the desired intention. On the appointed day, the expectant mother entered into quick labour. In a twinkling of an eye, she gave birth to a promising baby boy (PBB). Then, the naming controversy arose. During the conferment of the Sacrament of Baptism on the child, the father insisted that the baby was to be called Michael. But the mother disapproved and insisted that the baby boy should be christened Jude.
As the intermediary between heaven and earth, the presiding priest christened the promising baby Michael Jude. Thus the naming controversy was resolved amicably. The father accepted the double names for the fact that Michael came before Jude. At long last the priest in question, who is now bare headed and old, and quotes the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He boasts that two saints would welcome him at the gate of Heaven during his demise. He is hopeful and happy.
The nucleus of Easter message is Hope and Happiness. Indeed I reiterate that there is always hope in hopelessness. In any given situation, no matter how harsh it is, one must never lose hope. During my boyhood when I was living with my paternal grandmother, there was a black hen in our compound. It started to lay eggs, followed by the period of incubation of the eggs. One day, the hen went out to fend for itself. I sneaked into the corner where the eggs were. As a black hen I thought it would lay black eggs.
When I saw the six white eggs it was hatching, I shouted, “What! This is miraculous!” I rushed into the house where my grandmother was preparing palm oil and exclaimed, “Mama! Come and see wonders!” She asked me emotionally, “What is happening?” With surprising voice I replied, “Our black hen laid six white eggs instead of black eggs.” She raised her face and then uttered, “My son you are funny. Have you seen black eggs? All hens of varied colours lay white eggs. Yes, God is wonderful.”
There was a deep black husband and wife who begot an albino male child. At school the pupils called him “Oyibo black parents.” Instead of being sad, the albino replied, “I am proud and happy to be an oyibo from black parents. I cherish black and white. At night I serve as light in our house when there is power failure.” Everybody was intoxicated with laughter.
When you enter a tunnel or cave you think you are lost. As you crawl or move forward, light comes in gradually. When you reach the terminal, it becomes all light. This is why it is said that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is never lost in times of adversity. Always laugh in the dark so that your teeth will provide light. After rain comes sunshine.
After night comes daybreak. No condition is permanent. Hence the Holy Scripture says, “At the time of prosperity, adversity is forgotten, and at a time of adversity, prosperity is not remembered” (Sirach 11:25). Do not think that your condition is the worst. The comparatives: good, better, best and bad, worse, worst tell it all. Be happy always no matter your condition. Yesterday was bad. Today is better while tomorrow may be the best. What I have encountered in my life has proved it beyond doubt that there is hope in hopelessness.
During the liturgical Holy Week Triduum, we commemorate the mystery of salvation. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnated in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In other words, the Word was made flesh and was born among us and for us. At the appointed time, he was arrested and scourged. He suffered by carrying the dreaded Cross to Calvary where he was crucified and died. He died for the sake of sinful humanity.
It seemed that all hope was lost. Fortunately, on the third day, he rose gloriously from the tomb. Easter means Resurrection, which is our hope. Saint Paul makes it explicit in these words: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain” ( 1 Cor. 15:12-15). Going further, St Paul maintains that if our hope is for this earthly life only, then we are the most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19).
Human life is a transition from mortality to immortality. Thus, we are on transit. We transit from temporality to eternity. The Preface of the Dead summarizes it all: “Life is changed but not ended.” I wonder if those who commit suicide due to temporary hardship or disappointment do think of the life beyond which is endless. Eternal life in heaven awaits the just.
On the contrary, eternal damnation in hell awaits the unjust. Jesus Christ our Saviour suffered, died and was buried. Surprisingly he resurrected and ascended into heaven. That is not the end. He will come again in glory to judge the living (the just) and the dead (the unjust). Therefore, we must make hay while the sun shines.
At Easter we greet one another “Happy Easter!” The resurrection of Christ gives us joy. Even in the midst of suffering we ought to radiate in happiness with hope of instant or delayed glory. Once again I quote from the lips of my German friend, “Nigerians are suffering but happy.” The suffering we encounter is man-made. Since Independence, we have been moving from grace to grass. In this 2023 alone, we have seen hell.
Apart from bloody insecurity, acute fuel scarcity and its exorbitant price, money scarcity as a result of wrongful implementation of Naira Redesign Policy have crucified us. As if enough is not enough, the rigging of the 25 February Presidential Election shattered our hope of better Nigeria. As I said before, we voted for success but failure was announced in darkness as the winner. God is never asleep. Some day and some time, whether near or distant, we hope to see the victory of light over darkness. Let us not despair. Happiness and Hope are our companions. Happy Easter!