Fr. Pat Amobi Chukwuma
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten…uncountable! Can you count your blessings from God since your nativity? Most often we do moan over the few curses that come our way. Rarely do we reflect on the innumerable blessings God gives us. No wonder the Holy Scripture says, “In times of prosperity, adversity is not remembered; and in times of adversity, prosperity is forgotten” (Sirach 11:25). Thus, Father Joel Okechukwu of Awka Diocese opines, “I may not have everything I want in life but I'm blessed enough to have all that I need! For this I am grateful.”
A certain young lady was christened Blessing. She was born beautiful with a golden spoon in her mouth. She grew up into attractive figure 8. She was tall, plumb and elegant. Men were following her like flies whenever she went. Some were even ready to drink her urine and eat her excreta. She was brilliant and promising. Many men came to seek her hand in marriage when she was still in primary school. One of the men paid her dowry in advance into the Welfare account in her Local Government Area, waiting for her to grow up to maturity. She was popularly called Beautiful Angel. But is there an ugly Angel?
This reminds me of a newly married man who used to address his beautiful new brand wife as Angel. He was very proud of her. Some times in his dreams, he shouts, “My Angel! My Angel!! My Angel!!!” The angelic wife suddenly wakes up and responds, “Calm down. I am here with you. Sleep peacefully.” As years ran by, the angelic wife started to misbehave, such that the husband developed High Blood Pressure. From that time till date, he addresses the angelic wife as 'My Devil.' The angelic wife is now satanic wife.
Let me now complete the story of the Beautiful Angel which I was telling before I interrupted myself. As time went by, the beautiful Lady Blessing had a car accident on her way to a Beauty contest. Her face was totally disfigured. A team of doctors battled to restore her beautiful face through plastic surgery. The result was nothing to write home about. She looked like an ugly ghost. Her beauty disappeared. Men began to run away from her. They changed her name from Blessing to Curse. Tell me: Are you blessed or cursed?
A certain poor man was crying because he had no shoes. On moving into the street, he saw a man whose two legs were amputated due to road crash being driven on a wheel-chair. The crying shoeless man wiped his tears and started praising God saying, “Thank You Lord that I still have legs and can walk.” The amputated man began to pour curses on God because of his disability until he saw a totally blind man led by a guide. Instantly he apologized to God and said, “God, I am sorry for pouring curses on you. I thank you that I can still see with my two eyes.” The blind man heard a discordant shout coming from a passer-by. He asked his guide what was amiss. He was told that an insane man was fiercely walking along and shouting on top of his voice. The blind man made the Sign of the Cross and asserted, “I am fortunate.
Thank you, O God, that I am not mad.” Which one is preferable: Blindness or Madness? As the mad man was shouting incoherently, he came across an ambulance conveying the corpse of a young promising man to the grave-yard. The mad man shouted, “I am happy that I am not dead!” Do you prefer being mad or being dead?
On 1st January this year, the only son of a widow slumped and died mysteriously after ushering in the New Year. He just married some months back. During the burial ceremony on the next day, the officiating priest at the beginning of his homily pointed at the widow and mother of the departed only son and greeted, “Mama, happy New Year!” The widow sadly responded, “Shame to you! Why should I be happy in this New Year when death snatched my only son and breadwinner of the family? Please father, if you have nothing to say, just bury my son and go. Do not pour fuel into already burning fire.” There was murmuring among the sympathizers. On the same burial day, the pregnant wife of the departed only son gave birth to bouncing twin baby boys. When the news was broken by the priest at the conclusion of the burial ceremony, there was a mixed feeling of sadness and joy in the atmosphere. The mourners' mood changed. It was noticed that tears were flowing from one eye and joy was coming out of the other eye of each of the bereaved family members. God took one man and replenished the gap with two future hopes. Could any mathematician solve the equation? The final answer is 'Count your blessings.'
Yes, it is the dawn of the New Year 2019. The year 2018 has gone into history. For some people, last year was a disaster in their lives, families or businesses. But for some, it was a year full of blessings. Some wish that this year may replicate the blessings of last year while some wish that the difficulties they experienced last year may go to blazes. Could each and every one of us sit down and calculate the blessings and curses received last year? Which one is greater: the blessings or the curses? The mathematical formula is count your blessings and subtract your curses. State your answer boldly. If you crossed over from last year to this year still breathing in and out, there is no way that the blessings would not be greater. Could you shout, “Praise the Lord!?”
For the first time in my life, I ushered in the New Year hospitalized in a sick-bed. My body temperature was reading life and death at my arrival at the hospital. On the night of 31st December 2018, I was not sure that I would see the dawn of the New Year 2019. As the medical drip connected to my veins was dripping within seconds, I was counting my blessings. I attempted to count the number of drops in one drip packet but sleep caught me middle way. I slept off with heavenly dreams. I met life face to face in my dreams. When death saw me embracing life, he disappeared like a ghost. I was woken up around 2.00a.m on 1st January 2019 by an accident victim who was brought into the emergency ward. He was a young seriously injured man soaked in blood. He was shouting early on that first day of the New Year, “I am dying! I am dying! I am dying!” Those who brought him were themselves chorusing, “You will not die! You will not die! You will not die!” On my own part, I suddenly stood up from my sick-bed shouting, “I shall live! I shall live! I shall live!” Instantly a nurse came into my sick room to check my temperature and blood pressure. My temperature was reading abundant life while my blood pressure was Life over Life. The nurse smiled and exclaimed, “Father, happy survival!” I smiled and made a bold Sign of the Cross saying, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!” The nurse responded with a big Amen! After reading the positive New Year result of my health condition, my doctor discharged me with immediate effect. In addition, the Spiritual Director of the hospital after praying over me and nourishing me with Holy Communion said with heavenly smiles, “Father, get up. Take up your mat and go home.” Amusedly, I asked the priest to take the mat as my New Year gift. He laughed and chipped in: “Please go with it. I do not want to be infected with the sickness absolved by the mat.” I couldn't control my laughter. I burned the mat outside the ward before joyfully going home. I was rushed into the hospital shivering but left bouncing with New Year blessings. I am blessed. Are you also blessed? If so, make a joyful noise to God.
No matter the adverse condition we experience in this life, we should be comforted by God's uncountable blessings. If you think your condition is worse, then walk around the streets in your area. You will surely see those whose condition is worst. Take time to visit some hospitals and mortuaries. After seeing patients with different degrees of ailment and observing lifeless bodies, no one will count your blessings for you. A certain 50-year old lady was angry with God for not being married. She beamed with smiles when she saw a 40-year old unmarried lady suffering from terminal illness. She counted instantly that she is blessed with good health.
Our country Nigeria is blessed by God with abundant natural and human resources, yet we are hungry and hopeless. We are the Giant of Africa in theory. We are dying in the midst of plenty due to bad leadership. In 2018 we sunk into economic recession and are yet to come out practically. Nepotism is the order of the day. Today Nigeria is more divided than united due to bad policies of the Government in power. The muted restructuring of the country has been jettisoned because of selfishness. Blood is flowing in many parts of this country.
Without adequate security, no country can develop. Nigeria is now the third terrorized country in the whole world. The capital of poverty is now in Nigeria. Despite all these negative attributes we still count our blessings. Hence I reiterate the comment of my German friend who visited Nigeria not long ago. According to him, “Nigerians are suffering but happy.”
As we pray for Nigeria in distress, let us keep our Permanent Voter's Card (PVC) intact. We should vote for good and God-fearing candidates and vote out the bad leaders at the state and federal levels. Our attention should be paid to candidates and parties with good manifestoes who will lead us to the Promised Land to enjoy the God-given blessings. We have suffered enough. We pray for God's intervention in the general elections which starts on February 16, 2019. INEC must be truly independent and not partisan. The Security Agents ought to be impartial in the discharge of their duties. The current manoeuvre by the powers-that-be to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, through the back door few weeks to the elections is unjust. Man proposes but God disposes. Happy New Year!