By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Out of curiosity I travelled to the foreign embassies in Lagos to seek for visa to Eternity. First of all, I went into the German Embassy and stood on the queue. When it was my turn, I stood before the officer in-charge of Visa issuance. I saluted him in Deutsch language, “Guten Morgen. Mein Name ist Herr Pat Amobi Chukwuma. Ich bin ein katholicher Priester von Beruf.” The translation is quite clear: “I am Mr. Pat Amobi Chukwuma. I am a Catholic Priest by vocation.”
The German officer smiled that I can speak Deutsch. He shook my hands and replied, “Guten Morgen. Was kann ich fuer Sie tun?” (Good morning. What can I do for you?) I replied, “Ich brauche ein Visum nach Ewigkeit.” (I need a visa to Eternity).
The man took off his eye glasses, looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Sind Sie gesund?” (Are you well?). I smiled and replied, “Ich habe kein Problem, aber ich bin nur aengstlich.” (I have no problem, only that I am anxious.) Is anxiety a sickness? The Visa officer finally told me simply that their office does not issue visa to Eternity. I thanked him for giving me audience. Then I left to another foreign embassy.
Next, I went to the American Embassy to demand for the same visa. There, I met an iron brick. I was treated like a man suffering from insanity. Immediately, I told the Visa officer that I want a visa to Eternity, he took up his mobile phone and made a distress call.
Before I knew it, a huge armed policeman stood before me. He dragged me out of the Embassy with excessive force. He shouted at me and advised me to go to any psychiatric hospital to seek the visa to Eternity. Laughter was killing me inside my heart. I left without uttering any word.
I went to few other foreign Embassies at Lagos without success. Afterwards, I took the next flight to Abuja. I went through the Embassies at Abuja without obtaining the visa to Eternity. They all treated me like an insane person. I called it off and travelled home by land.
At home, another idea came into my mind. I resorted to the motor parks within my reach to look for any commercial vehicle travelling to Eternity. I went to the major motor parks at Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Asaba, Port Harcourt, Uyo, etc. At one of those motor parks, a fierce looking tout approached me, grabbed my luggage and asked, “Oga, where you dey go?” I replied, “I am travelling to Eternity. Where is the bus loading?”
He looked at me disdainfully and shouted, “You dey kress? Are you a human being or a ghost?” He threw my luggage before me and went away disappointed. I took up my luggage and headed to another motor park. All my efforts to get a commercial vehicle to Eternity for nearly two weeks became futile.
Having been exhausted, I sat down at a spot to rest. I asked myself, “How then can one travel to Eternity?” An inner voice said to me, “My dear, the journey to Eternity is not done by any means of human transportation. It is a spiritual journey. It is a journey from mortality to immortality.
In other words, it is a transition from temporality to eternity. The vehicle to your destination is death.” Immediately I heard the word ‘death’ I jumped up and exclaimed, “No! My journey to Eternity is hereby postponed indefinitely!”
No matter the postponement, death according to William Shakespeare is a necessary end which must come when it will come. Biologically defined, death is the cessation of body metabolism. For plants and animals, death becomes the ultimate end of their lives. For human beings, death is not annihilation, but a transition. Human life is not ended but changed.
What is the origin of death? Was it created by God? Searching through the Scriptures I read the third chapter of the Book of Genesis where God forewarned Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of life and death. The consumption of the forbidden fruit carries death penalty. Later Satan appeared to Eve in the garden and asked her, “Did God really say: You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Eve answered yes and that they would die if they eat from the tree.
The cunning serpent said, “You will not die, but God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4). The woman, Eve was so excited. She took the forbidden fruit and ate it. As a mark of love, she took some to Adam her husband and he also ate. Immediately, their eyes opened and they knew that they were naked.
They became ashamed of themselves. Hence, death became the automatic wage of sin. Consequently, Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden which is called Paradise. The gate of Heaven was immediately closed against them. They wandered through sufferings.
As a just and merciful Father, God sent his only Son Jesus Christ at the fullness of time to redeem fallen humanity. He took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He grew up in the house of Joseph and Mary. At the appointed time, he was arrested, tortured and crucified on the infamous Gibbet as sacrifice for the redemption of sinful humanity.
He died and was buried. By so doing he sanctified death and once more opened the gate of Heaven. On the third day, he rose from the dead. The resurrection automatically became our sole assurance that human life is not ended but changed at death.
I put it to you and to me that three things await us as travelers to Eternity. They are death, judgment, heaven or hell. The ultimate question is: Where shall we spend our eternity: in heaven or hell? Purgatory is transitory. It is a place or condition of purification of souls from the wounds of sin. Two things can lead a soul to purgatory: venial sins and the punishment due to forgiven mortal sin.
Those who score weak pass at the judgment seat of God are due for purgatory because the Bible says that some will be saved, but it will be as if passing through fire (1 Cor. 3:15). Indeed, if God does not temper justice with mercy, heaven will be empty. Those who got excellent result during the eternal examination by God will proceed straight to heaven. On the other hand, those who failed woefully will end up in hell fire.
The souls rejoicing and praising God forever in heaven are referred to as the Church Triumphant. They are the ‘Nafesons’ (those who are victorious). They lived and conquered the world by doing the will of God. Some of them sinned and repented sincerely. Some died for the sake of God and are called Martyrs. Others are Confessors who sustained various degrees of injury in their struggle in the journey to Eternity.
The souls in purgatory are referred to as the Church suffering. Their salvation depends on the mercy of God and on the prayers of the Church on earth. They are helpless like fish driven out of water. But they have hope of reaching heaven after undergoing purgation. The month of November each year is dedicated to praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed.
Those still on earth are called the Church Militant. They are in the spiritual battle field fighting against evils, principalities and powers. Saint Augustine clearly stated that God created us without our cooperation, but He cannot save us without our cooperation. In other words, grace works on nature. Do not despair! Struggle continues until death do us part.
The damned souls in hell are in perpetual agony. A stitch in time saves nine. Let us persevere in our daily struggle to reach our eternal destination, which is Heaven. We embark on the journey to Eternity from conception to death. Hence Saint Paul admonishes us: “Do not be fooled. God cannot be deceived. You reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7). I wish you and myself safe journey to Eternity.