L.I.P and R.I.P

By Rev Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma

Man is by nature endowed with the gift of intellect. He possesses both natural and acquired intellectual capabilities. Hence he is a bundle of possibilities. Aristotle defines man as a rational soul. Marx defines man as an economic being. Kierkegaard sees man as an anguished project while Marcel defines man as a bundle of problems.

There are two essential degrees obtained by man. One is obtained during his life time while the other is obtained post mortem. The first degree is Leave in Peace (L.I.P) while the second is Rest in Peace (R.I.P).  The former makes the latter realizable. What do I mean? An illustration here can throw more light.

Last year I attended the burial Mass of a semi-elderly woman in my former place of priestly apostolate. She was a widow and a mother of five grown up children. She took ill and died few weeks later. As her corpse was being convened home for burial after the Requiem Mass, I stayed behind in the church premises. As I was standing and gazing beyond the sky, a familiar and tensed woman walked up to me and greeted me cordially. She looked worried. I asked her what was amiss.

She sighed thrice. She told me that the late woman about to be buried owed her N150, 000 which she used the name of a priest to borrow from her. She asked me if the priest in question attended the burial Mass. She came to see him over the loan she gave to the deceased. I doubted if the priest was aware of the loan got with his name. To clear the doubt, I instantly called the priest on phone and asked him if he knows about the loan.

I put the phone in speak out volume so that the worried woman would hear directly from the horse’s mouth. He replied that he knew nothing about it. On hearing the negative answer, the tensed woman broke down in thick tears. It took time for me to console her. After wiping away her tears, she sighed and said, “If this deceased woman intentionally duped me, she would not be saved.” I told her that she might have shown remorse and asked God for forgiveness at her sick bed.

She shook her head in disapproval and asserted, “She is judged already. Salvation is not for her.” I chipped in, “God have mercy on her and may she rest in peace!” The aggrieved woman shouted, “No, she will not rest in peace but in pieces!” I couldn’t control my laughter. The worried woman asserted, “Father, it is not a laughing matter. She will not rest in peace unless she comes back to return my hard earned money.” She walked away sorrowfully. On my own part, I walked away thoughtfully.

The interactive session with the sorrowful woman provided delicious food for thought for me. Hence I descended on the appetitive intellectual food with diligence. I asked myself whether it is possible to make restitution after death. Instantly, I remembered this popular saying: “There is no repentance in the grave.” After death comes God’s judgment.  Then follow eternal reward or eternal punishment. Restitution is done here on earth and not beyond.

The abbreviation L.I.P means ‘Live in Peace’. On the other hand, R.I.P means ‘Rest in Peace’. The contention now is: Is it possible to rest in peace without living in peace during one’s earthly life? I doubt it. Indeed no one can give what he has not. Likewise no one can enjoy what he does not possess. Similarly, no one can reap what he did not cultivate. Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians chapter 6, verse 7 says, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

During funeral orations at the graveside of the deceased, the dead is nearly canonized instantly. Litany of encomiums is poured on the deceased. Rarely are the evil deeds of the departed mentioned. Once upon a time, the funeral oration of a dead evil man was being read at his graveside by the senior brother of the departed. At a point he read, “My brother, you lived a good and an exemplary life. We miss you.” At this point the wife (now widow) of the deceased shouted, “It is not true! He was as wicked as the devil. We are not missing him! It is good that he is gone that and I my children may dwell in peace.” Confusion interrupted the burial rite. It took time before normalcy returned.

Recently, I was physically chatting with the Secretary of our Diocesan Presbyterium after the burial of one of our departed colleagues. He writes and reads the funeral oration of any deceased priest in our diocese. I wonder who will write and read his own oration when the time comes.

I implored him to write my funeral oration now that I am still alive so that I can proofread it and make corrections.  He laughed over it. He thought that I was joking. I insisted that I was serious. Is it not better to write and read our impending funeral orations when we are still alive for us to hear? Does the dead still hear the funeral oration from the depth of the grave? Is it read for the benefit of the dead or of the living?

I am quite convinced that no one enjoys what he or she does not possess. Consequently, if someone did not live in peace on earth, he or she cannot rest in peace in the spiritual world. Anyway, the final wish ‘Rest in Peace’ is a cosmetic sentence.

Only God knows who is actually resting in peace. It is not doubtful. The post mortem degree R.I.P has double meanings. It can be Rest in Peace or Rest in Pieces. Only the deceased knows if he or she is resting in peace or resting in pieces in the world beyond. Those in heaven rest in peace while those in hell rest in pieces. Would you and I rest in peace or in pieces?

The Book of Ezekiel 18:23 says that God does not desire the death of a wicked man (sinner) but wants him or her to repent. It is said that procrastination is very dangerous. My people say that it is procrastination that made the frog not to possess a tail. Hence, it is good to make hay while the sun shines. Likewise, if you wish to catch a black goat, it is advisable to do so during the day. At night you may catch darkness instead of black goat. If we want to rest in peace, then we must learn to live in peace while alive wherever we see ourselves. The parting gift of the Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is: “Peace be with you!”

Many families are living in pieces rather than in peace. Some villages, towns, states and countries are in war with each other. He who lives by the sword or gun shall die by it. Insecurity of lives is the greatest threat all over our country Nigeria today. Will those who fan the embers of discord rest in peace or in pieces? Will those armed robbers, terrorists, kidnappers and other criminals who meet their waterloo at the scene of crime rest in peace or in pieces?

Will unrepentant sinners rest in peace or in pieces? What of those who rig elections or buy themselves into power? Last week, a selected president issued an ultimatum to the military leader of Niger Republic to resign within one week. The military leader replied, “I will not listen to you because your government is illegitimate.” Can a thief call someone else who stole a thief? Who is better between these two: Someone who ascended to power through coup d’etat and someone who got to power through electoral malpractice? The die is cast!