By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
An amusing and hopeless incident happened on this year's Good Friday in a town in Oyo state. It was during the solemn dramatic act of the Way of the Cross. An energetic young Christian man volunteered to act as Jesus Christ. He carried the heavy cross along a street in the town. The young men who acted as Jewish soldiers beat him mercilessly with 'koboko'. He was enduring the pains in silence all along. He was also sweating and propelling himself along the busy street. He fell under the cross for the first and second time. The acting soldiers handled him roughly. When it was time to fall for the third time, he refused to fall. Instead, he threw away the heavy cross and took to his heels. The soldiers gave him a hot chase. He developed wings and ran into a nearby forest and then disappeared like lightening. The soldiers and congregants waited for him to come back and carry the cross to Calvary, but all to no avail. Everybody dispersed in anger. This type of 'Jesus' disappointed them on that Good Friday.
Imagine what would have happened if the real Jesus Christ had abandoned the Cross on the way to Calvary. Of course our salvation would have become a mirage. God's plan of saving sinful mankind would have been thwarted. Even after Jesus had been crucified, the bystanders were mocking him to come down from the Cross if he is the Messiah. If he had used his mighty power to come down from the Cross, then we would have been wandering hopelessly on the way to damnation. As the sacrificial Messiah, he accepted to die on the Cross to redeem us from the slavery of sin. He did not run away like the 'Jesus' of Oyo. Before reading further, kindly give a standing and loud ovation to our Messiah Jesus Christ!
A good traveler does not abandon his journey due to the roughness of the road. A certain driver loaded his bus at Onitsha and was heading to Lagos. When he approached Ijebu Ode, the road was so bad and challenging. Some other drivers drove through the bad spots slowly and carefully. When the driver in question tried to pass through, his breath failed him. Do you know what he did? He reversed his bus and sped back to Onitsha. The passengers were shouting at him not to go back. Even some of them were willing to trek to Lagos from Ijebu Ode but he refused to stop and let them disembark. He was on a very high velocity to Onitsha such that the angry passengers stood helpless. At Onitsha the driver balanced them their transport fares and parted. Who cheated who?
There was a half brilliant student studying in a secondary school. He was seriously burning the midnight lamp. He passed his class one and class two averagely. But in his class three, he failed woefully at the promotion examination. He was asked to repeat the class. His failure pained him so much and he was unwilling to repeat. The Principal, his teachers, friends and parents persuaded him to take the bull by the horn. He was adamant. For him it was shameful to repeat the class with his junior ones while his classmates proceeded to class four. To cut it short, he dropped out of school.
The next option was for him to become an apprentice in Onitsha Main Market. At the same time he was serving his master and the wife as houseboy. Sometimes he was made to wash the underwear of his master and those of his wife. Life became for him unbearable. He regretted dropping out of school and wished that he repeated the class. Indeed it was too late. When eventually it was time to settle him, the master accused him of dishonesty and laziness. Thus he was sent packing. Life became useless for him. He thought of what next to do. He saw hopelessness left and right, up and down. An evil thought came into his mind.
Instead of languishing in his condition, he made up his mind to commit suicide. He quickly ran towards the River Niger. On his arrival, he jumped and plunged himself into the River. The fishermen at work by that time tried to rescue him but it was too late. The young boy despaired and died shamefully.
A young lady of about 40 years came sadly into my office. She fell down and broke into tears. Her tears nearly submerged my office. I did my best to console her but all to no avail. After a long time, she tearfully spoke. She told me that since her girlhood up till then, no man has said 'I love you' to her, not to talk of marriage. She drank poison twice but death refused to claim her. She asked despairingly, “What have I done? Am I not beautiful and tall? Now I am aging. Oh God, why?” She entered into another round of cry. I started to make a long preaching to her and encouraged her not to despair. Since no man has ever told her 'I love you,' I looked into her eyes and said, “I love you.” She wiped her tears and asked me, “Do you mean it?” I said yes with lovely smiles. She smiled and sat down. Looking at me confusedly she asked, “If you love me, will you marry me?” I assured her to remain prayerful for God will provide. She thanked me and went away happily. After three months of our encounter, she came back to my office with a bottle of red wine and a wedding invitation. She exclaimed, “Father, thanks for your admonition and prayer. The Lord has done it!”
It is not even the end of the world if one is not married. The mad men and mad women parading the streets are not thinking of marriage. Some ladies and young men are lying critically ill in some hospitals. Their prayer is that if God can grant them good health they are satisfied. There is a marriage you can contract and prefer to be single. When I was ministering at St Patrick's Cathedral Awka, a certain disturbed married lady came to me as I was receiving fresh air under an umbrella tree on a hot day. She greeted me and said, “Father, I want to divorce. I married a devil as husband for five years now. Had I known I would have lived a single life.” My words of encouragement fell into deaf ears. From there she ran away to an unknown destination. The family and police made honest efforts to trace her whereabout. Till this day she is still at large. Who knows if she has taken her life?
Hear another despairing story. A particular devoted man decided to serve God and humanity as a priest. He underwent the rigorous seminary formation. At last he was ordained a priest and was posted to a remote village with difficult terrain. Life there was not palatable. He must do farm work in order to eat. The people there were so poor that they hardly offered anything in the church. There was no road to ride a cars. Therefore the priest was compelled to drive an ancient bicycle. After some time, he started comparing himself with his classmates working in urban areas. Why was he posted to this particular place? Has he done anything wrong that he was posted there to suffer? The devil intervened and enticed him to abandon the priesthood. He fell into the devil's trap. He left the priesthood unannounced and travelled to an urban city. He began a business and later got married. Unfortunately things did not work out for him as he expected. His business failed. He and his wife were eating from hand to mouth. Also they were childless. They wandered from one prayer house to the other in search of miracles. On their journey to consult a popular native doctor, their vehicle was involved in a ghastly accident. Both of them died at the spot.
This world is not a bed of roses. Trials must come. Our Lord Jesus Christ says that anyone who wishes to be his follower must renounce himself or herself, take up the cross and follow him every day (Lk 9:23). Often we hear some Christians say, “Suffering is not my portion!” If it is not your portion, whose portion is it? Since our Master and Lord suffered and died on the Cross, suffering is your portion and my portion. Some people see suffering as a curse. Truly speaking, suffering is a blessing in disguise. Christ suffered, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day he rose from the dead. His resurrection is our joy. It is the Easter we celebrate. Without Good Friday, there can be no Easter. Therefore, we must be ready to undergo the Good Fridays in our lives whether you are a Christian or non Christian.
Presently, there are many Good Fridays in our country Nigeria: ranging from election rigging, bad leadership, economic hardship in the midst of plenty, marginalization, insecurity of lives from the hands of Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani Herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, bandits, cultists, etc. Innocent blood is flowing every day in many states of Nigeria. Hope seems not to be coming from the Federal Government who constitutionally vowed to protect lives and property. President Buhari is accused of sleeping on duty while blood of innocent Nigerians flow on a daily basis. Hence Nigerians are living in fear of the unknown daily.
However, in the midst of these atrocities, Nigerians should not lose hope. They should remain prayerful and watchful. Some day and some time, help will come from above.
The downfall of a man is not the end of his life. Therefore, never give up in the midst of trials. Since a black hen could lay white eggs, all hope is not lost. If you try and fail, try again and again. Do not contemplate of suicide. It is not a solution because death is not the ultimate end of man, but the beginning of everlasting life. Last week a man set himself ablaze in Ebonyi state for being tired of hardship. It is better to suffer here on earth than to languish forever in hell.
If you stray, do not give up like Judas. Peter himself betrayed Jesus Christ by denying him. The cock crew and he fell down and cried over his sin. He repented. It is regrettable that many of us, Christians and non Christians, no longer hear the crowing of our conscience. Thus we persist in our sins. The merciful Father God does not desire the death of a sinner but wants him or her to repent (Ezk 18:23). Divine Mercy shows that God loves a repentant sinner. Let us repent now or it will be too late. Procrastination is dangerous. As God is merciful to us, let us likewise be merciful to one another. Those who are not in speaking terms should make a u-turn and reconcile with one another. Animosity does not pay. As prodigal sons and daughters, God is expecting us to come back to him remorsefully. He is waiting to embrace us.