By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
On Monday, 1st April 2019, I celebrated my 56th Birthday. As I have always said, I was born exactly at 12.05p.m on a Monday in 1963 at Jos in Benue Plateau State by then. The Benue has gone. Plateau is left behind. I was born a fool but by the grace of God, I escaped being a complete fool just by five minutes. In addition, God blessed me with wisdom to become a wise-fool. As I was still lying and crying happily on the birth-stool at Jos Central Maternity on that day, my parents were wondering what I would be and what name to give me. After meditating on the wonders of my being, they both agreed to give me Amaobichukwu as my native name (shortened as Amobi), which means 'Who knows the mind of God'. Indeed no one knows the mind of God. Thank God that I, my two siblings by then and my parents survived the 1966 pogrom in the northern part of Nigeria, which was the ethnic cleansing of the Igbos for no just cause. My lovely mother carried my junior one at her back while my lovely daddy hung me on his shoulders while holding the hand of my little senior sister as they ran to catch a train from Jos to Enugu. Hardly did my parents know that I shall become a priest of God in the Order of Melchizedek. By the grace of God that is what I am for 26 years now. It is silver jubilee plus one. I am not worthy to be a priest, yet God chose me. Why should I not be grateful?
At the dawn of 1st April 2019, immediately I got up from bed I exclaimed, “Benedicamus Domine! “ (Let us bless the Lord!). Since I was alone, I responded, “Deo Gratias!” (Thanks be to God!). Also I exclaimed, “Chukwu-u-u! mmm-mm-m!!!” (God is wonderful!). I hurriedly took my bath and went into the Church for celebration of thanksgiving Holy Mass offered to the glory of God, unworthy as I am. Saint Augustine rightly said, “For you I am a priest. With you I am a Christian.” At the Mass I asked the congregation to thank God with me for adding one year to my life. It is by the grace of God that I am still living. Some of my peers have gone to the world beyond. Even some younger ones have died. The benevolent Father is just giving me a second chance. I am really grateful. Truly, the Lord is good all the time. But due to her various afflictions, a certain woman living close to my residence says that the Lord is good some of the time. What do you say?
From Mass (Altar) we moved to Mensa (table). I invited some priests and religious in the Lord's vineyard within my vicinity to come and dine with me. There is love in sharing. They gave glory to God for my well-being and for his blessings to me. We ate, drank and danced. We also exchanged pleasantries. Indeed, how good it is for brothers and sisters to live in unity and love. The joy I experienced on that day can extend my life span. I am aiming at living for eighty years, but it seems that God has added ten years more due to my expression of gratitude. On that 1st April 2019, God says that not to live up to hundred years is a cause (Isaiah 65:20). This implies that I have 44 or more years to live on this physical planet. But if I die earlier than that, I still thank God for his benevolence. In fact, happiness is suffocating me. To God be the glory!
Whenever you get up from sleep, kneel down and thank God for the gift of a new day. No one is conscious of himself or herself during sleep. The soul as a spirit perambulates while we sleep, leaving the body behind. At the time of waking up, both body and soul unite again. This is what we mean by waking up. Waking up is not a personal effort. It is an action of God. What a mystery! Some slept and never got up. A popular gospel singer says that even if our bodies are full of mouths, they are not enough to express our gratitude to God.
Every day and every time we owe gratitude to God. During his earthly ministry, ten lepers came to Jesus Christ to ask for healing. Jesus looked mercifully at them. Then he asked them to go and show themselves to a priest and make cleansing offerings as prescribed by Moses. On their way, they found themselves cleansed miraculously. Being intoxicated with joy, nine of them went away. Only one of them came back to Jesus to express his gratitude. Filled with surprises Jesus asked, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found worthy to return and give praise to God but this alien?”(Luke 17:17-18). Are you the grateful one or are you among the ten ingrates? How often do you say the prayer of thanksgiving? Most of us say the prayer of supplication always.
Gratitude is praise-worthy but ingratitude is condemnable. There is a couple blessed with twin baby girls. One of the twins has a smiling face while the other has a gloomy face. On the naming day, the parents named the smiling twin baby Gratitude. The one with gloomy face they named Ingratitude. When they grow up we shall know what they shall become. Ingratitude may move for a change of name. Gratitude will be rejoicing over her angelic name. I am dreaming of taking up the name Gratitude if I become a pope (Pope Gratitude). I hope it sounds so good.
Gratitude is not only expressed when we receive divine favour. We should always be grateful to God in whatever happens in our lives, whether good or bad. Whatever befalls you, you ought to say to yourself: “If this did not happen, the worse might have happened. Therefore, I thank you God.” A certain lady of 35 years came into my office in tears, complaining that no man has ever asked her hand in marriage. Even she had once considered committing suicide. As she was narrating her ordeal to me, two blind ladies (siblings) of about 30 and 32 years were led into my office for financial assistance. On enquiry, I learnt that the two beautiful girls were born blind. Their need was for daily bread. Immediately the crying damsel saw their plight, she wiped away her tears and started smiling. Pitifully, I offered the blind girls the much financial help I could afford. I encouraged them not to despair because of their disability. They were very happy. Then I prayed for them before they were led out.
Immediately they stepped out of my office, the crying damsel changed her countenance. She really felt with the blind beautiful girls. She shook her head y Father, thank you for the wonders of my being. For and said, “Father, I am no more crying and complaining. Imagine those blind unmarried ladies smiling. Thank God that I can see. Let me go home and be useful to myself.” She knelt down and asked me to bless her. I showered abundant divine blessings on her. She left smiling and praising God. This life is too short to be sad. Now, kneel down. Raise your hands and say after me, “Almighty Father, thank you for the wonders of my being. For everything that happens in my life I remain grateful. May your name be praised both now and forever!” Your life will gradually change from today if you are always grateful in every condition. The Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province and the Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Reverend Valerian Maduka Okeke, on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the second tenure thanksgiving Mass of Governor Willie Obiano at St. Joseph's Special Science School and Seminary in Awka-Etiti asserted, “Gratitude leads to Beatitude.” In other words, blessing accompanies gratitude. Hence, blessed is he who is grateful.
If you are always happy, then you have the spirit of gratitude. Few weeks ago, I had a visitor. He knocked hard on the door. When I opened the door to usher him in, he said, “Thank you.” When I offered him a seat, he said, “Thanks so much.” I offered him a cold bottle of malt and snacks. He said, “Thanks too much.” Later, when I offered him a plate of rice and white sauce, he shouted, “Thanks a million times!” If I had a spare car, I would have offered him one for his show of gratitude. Indeed I was highly elated.
On the other hand, if you are always sad, then ingratitude is innate in you. A happy person will always express gratitude over every kindness, no matter how small it is. An ungrateful person is always a complainer, no matter the kindness you show to him or her. I was in my office when someone knocked at the door. I asked her to come inside. She pushed the door with venom. I rebuked her for that unfriendly attitude. Then I asked her to sit down. She looked at the chair with disdain and uttered, “Sir Father, don't you have a cushion chair? This one is so archaic.” Nonetheless, she managed to sit on it. Before I could ask her what I can do for her, she looked round the office and asked with saddened face, “Please, don't you a fan in this office?” She was sweating like a local pig. Out of concern I hurried out and came back with a standing fan which I plugged on. She sighed and commented, “Sir father, this fan is dusty. Don't you have an air-condition system in this office? Shit!” I stood up angrily and shouted, “Please get out of my office. Enough of the insult!” She looked at me from head to toe and walked ungratefully away.
A proud person finds it hard to express gratitude. He or she takes things for granted. Living with ungrateful person is a big cross to carry. In the Novel titled “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, the poor boy called Oliver Twist was served a meal with other destitute boys by the chief cook. Oliver Twist hurriedly ate his own share. Instead of showing gratitude, he walked up to the chief cook and demanded, “I want some more.” The cook beat him on his stubborn head with the ladle for his ingratitude. In addition, he was locked up in a dark room for three days. He should have thanked the cook for the one he ate before asking for more. Gratitude leads to light while ingratitude leads to darkness. Many of us are like Oliver Twist. It is fitting that we thank God and our fellow human beings for any favour we receive, no matter how small. Expression of gratitude encourages the benefactor to do more. Ingratitude on the other hand discourages.