By Abuchi Onwumelu
The Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has described all those Christians who prefer to assume a holy state during the Easter period and immediately return to their old sinful ways once the celebration is over as hypocrites
Bishop Ezeokafor, who stated this at St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Awka, in a pre- Easter interview with Fides, urged Nigerians to shun corruption and live a righteous life, worthy of emulation in the spirit of Easter celebration, when Christians all over the world reflected on Christ's sufferings and eventual death and resurrection.
He described corruption and immorality as acts detested by God, capable of leading God's people to hell fire, despite the supreme price that Christ paid for mankind on the Cross of Calvary.
The Catholic prelate however disagreed with religious leaders who professed prosperity and taboo against suffering and difficulty, describing such teachings as misleading, contending that Christians as followers of Christ, should see suffering and difficulties as part of the journey to eternity.
He noted that Christ suffered and won victory for mankind and that in the same way, people faced difficulties in life, with the hope of coming out triumphantly and happy at the end.
He explained that Easter presented an opportunity for the faithful to thank God for the opportunity of being part and parcel of it, as well as a time for telling themselves some home truths.
'My message is that there is still hope because we know that, according to St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians: 18:14, the fact that Christ is alive should give us hope, otherwise our lives would have been in vain,' he said.
The bishop said that despite the stressful times, people should trust in God by emulating Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane who, despite his travails, did not give up.
'There are difficulties, but it is only the living that would come up to tell the story. So, let us stop living as if we are hopeless. There is hope and Christ showed that hope in the father and so went through suffering. You can see that at the end of the day, his resurrection brought us life.
'Christ took up that challenge; so, I challenge all of us to take up whatever challenges that life brings. Suffering is already part and parcel of our lives and nobody can be immune to it.
'We had Lent whereby we go through the process of fasting, abstinence and making sacrifices and giving alms to the poor and needy. All preparation process for Christ's resurrection was intensified during the Holy Week.
'Three days to the day, things become more serious with what we call the Tridum; the Maundy Thursday activities, the Chrism Mass, the Mass of the Last Supper, whereby Christ washed the feet of the twelve at the Last Supper, showing what it means to serve; that the greatest among us should be servants. It shows us that the master of the house had to take the position of a slave.
'Though, Christ himself suffered and died, it is Good Friday because he brought us redemption. He bore all the misrepresentations, false witnesses and all forms of dehumanization, just for our sake. 'Afterwards, we have the vigil of the Easter, the mass before the Easter, to usher in the resurrection of Christ which is the hope of all mankind, being the Easter Sunday.
'Easter is the greatest feast of the Church because, without the resurrection of Christ, there would be no hope for Christians. That is why in the lives of saints, they are judged on the day they die, not the day they were born. We celebrate the birth of the likes of John the Baptist, Our Lady and others, because we are sure of them. Every other person, we don't, because we are not so sure. The resurrection of Christ is our hope, without which we have nothing,' Ezeokafor stated.