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FOREWARD

There is little doubt that contemporary society has sustained its drift on the fast track of decline in religious inclinations, moral standards and interpersonal cum integrational ideals. This has in turn metamorphosed into loss of the sense of the sacred and of sin, disrespect for human life and dignity, perpetuation of injustice and oppression, the reign of internecine strife, terrorism and wars, increased human suffering all over the world, distorted identities and confused values. These very sad indescribable tragedies of our world have their most fatal outcome in the breakdown of family life, and this continues to threaten the health and progress of humankind. The world needs redemption. To whom shall we turn? To the Church, of course, she is the instrument of salvation for the entire world. Through her life and missionary activities, the Church continues to carry out the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 4), such that through affirmative actions, she remains and will always be the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person and the entire world-community (ibid. 76). Knowing fully well that the promise of God is more powerful that the negative and destructive forces of the world; a lot of hope comes from the great promise, Ecce nova facio omnia Behold I will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Gods promise comes to light each day through the Church and her ministers, those who have been specially called, chosen and consecrated to make disciples of all nations and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you (cf. Matt. 28:16-20) so that that the kingdom of God might flourish here on earth, in the world for a glorious reign of peace, justice, unity and happiness. It is therefore a pastoral and vocational mandate that priests as teachers of the faith and truth deliver talks and lectures to the faithful and various other peoples from time to time, in an on-going awareness and restoration effort at making the society a better place to live in. One person who has been very much involved in the task of world-wide outreach is Rev. Fr. Anselm Jimoh, who in his apostolate as pastor and lecturer, has a wealth of expansive outreach to priests, religious and lay faithful alike, and as well, has lectured Seminarians for so many years, most of whom have become priests, now reaching far and wide in all the world. Echoes of Truth is a collection of some of the articles, talks, and lectures of Rev. Fr. Anselm Bankole Jimoh, presented and delivered within the last seven years of the history of Auchi Diocese. In all of them, Fr. Jimoh who is a pastor, theologian, seasoned academic and orator, explodes with the authority of a high-powered apostle of regeneration and renewal, and so the message comes effectively alive. As pastor, Fr. Jimoh speaks as one called and chosen by God. As one taught by God and fed with the word of God. As one trained in the ways of the God of salvation and sent back to nourish Gods people with what he has been fed with. To teach the people what the spirit has taught him. More so, as pastor, he speaks as one who shares a common humanity with his flock. As one immersed in the same water of humanity with those he pastures; he understands the joy, zeal, enthusiasm, aspirations, values, fears, tendencies and weaknesses of his flock. He is therefore able to address the issues at stake with the most possible practical solutions in view.
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As theologian, he reflects on the patrimony of faith of the community and draws the implications of believing. He invites his hearers to think and believe anew, to think anew the faith, to re-access its conviction before the mirror of the Gospel. As seasoned academic cum philosopher, he explores reality and the human situation with the most meticulous intent. Thus he addresses the contemporary problems of humanity and the world so aptly as to readily present a roadmap towards a fulfilling recovery as well as the attainment of greater standards in all strides. As an orator, the papers among these collections, which were delivered as talks or lectures, made instant positive impacts in the minds and dispositions of those who heard him. The impact was such that the immediacy of the enthusiastic response which followed each cannot be simply underestimated. Hence, the need to have them published, a feat which has resulted to this book. A cursory look at the various titles and the messages behind them reveals that Fr. Jimoh has consistently and systematically charted a course of progress for individuals and the world so that the reason for which God made us would be accomplished. In BEING SAINTS IN A COMMUNITY OF SINNERS, he notes that the right course of action and progress for our world is to draw upon the springboard of spirituality. Noting that it is not easy to strive to be a saint, he emphatically notes: What separates the saint from the sinner in the community is not that the saint does not sin but that despite his sins and weaknesses, he realizes that he is not a stranger to God, and therefore, opens himself in his filth and dirt to God to be washed clean. Unlike the saint, the sinner runs away from God not wanting to confront his shame and vulnerability, thus he travels farther away from God and deeper into the dark. The overriding call made however by Fr. Jimoh is that even as pride and vain glory continue to distract the attention of people in the society, we can through humility, meekness, patience and obedience, purity and love, become saints in the community of sinners. In THE MAKING OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE: TOWARDS A HAPPIER FAMILY LIFE, he emphasizes that marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Covenant as it is, is a relationship of mutual trust and fidelity all life long. In a world where marriage commitment and family life need to be reevaluated, Fr. Jimoh reminds us that Marriage is a noble, age-long institution created by God and directed towards the noble ends of companionship and family. In WOMEN AND THE GROWTH OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, he notes the vital role that women play in the growth, development and effectiveness of the worshipping community. In furtherance of the structure of shaped quality that the family-hood of father, mother, and children affords humankind, the next two chapters focus on the youths. First is YOUTH AND CHURCH DEVELPOMENT and the second is HOW A YOUTH CAN PROTECT HIS INTEREST AND THAT OF OTHERS IN A COMMUNITY AND THE NATION AT LARGE. Knowing fully well that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, the foregoing papers on the youths exhort all young people to defy the neglect and short-comings in their community and environment, and look to God for strength and to their natural resourcefulness for sustenance. He also amplifies the necessity of embracing virtue in an all round effort to put the interest of the community and the nation above personal interests, while the society would in turn safeguard their own interests.
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When men, women and youths all recognize their noble roles within the society and strive for excellence, the next chapter, CREATING A SOCIETY FREE OF CRIME AND IMMORALITY AS AN INDEX TO DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA, becomes a reality for the world. Much as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were highly conscious of the indispensable role of the Church in making the world a better place, worthy of note is the fact that on several occasions, they drew the attention of the world to the excellence of the order of priesthood in the Church (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 1) and therefore treated the topic extensively. In a similarly unique feat, Fr. Jimoh dedicates three chapters to addressing the relationship between the Clergy and the Lay Faithful in line with the overall dynamism of the Church. From HOLY PRIESTS HOLY PEOPLE: BUILDING A HOLY PARISH, he moves on to the tasks, challenges and expectations of THE MINSITER OF GOD IN THE 21ST CENTURY. Furthermore, he impresses the message further upon the collective psyche of the Clergy especially, as he challenges us with RECOVERING OUR PRIESTLY IDENTITY AND RESPONSIBILITY IN A VASTLY MATERIALISTIC WORLD. The priest is called to celebrate the sacraments which constitute the life and soul of the Church. By the sacraments and especially by the Eucharist, that love of God and man which is the soul of the Churchs apostolate is communicated and nourished (cf. Lumen Gentium, 33). Noting that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life and worship, this book throws upon us the fundamental challenge of deriving the fruitful effects of participation in this great sacrament by concluding with THE HOLY EUCHARIST: FROM MEDITATION TO IMMITATION. I recommend this unique book to all and sundry as a daily guide for spiritual upliftment, Christian maturity and an out-going personality development, that is developing oneself in such a way that such one becomes capable of transforming the world for the better. The book must also serve as a vademecum (go with me), that is an all-time companion. Rev. Fr. Stan-William Ede Rector, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Ivioghe: Vice-Rector, Immaculate Conception Seminary, Ivhianokpodi.

CHAPTER ONE BEING SAINTS IN THE COMMUNITY OF SINNERS


(Lenten reflection to the Knights and Ladies of St. Mulumba, Afemhai Sub-Council, Auchi Diocese - 2008)

We live today in a community that is over flowing with sins and vices of various degrees and kinds. Our world seems to be drifting farther and farther away from virtue and God. The need to be recognized and respected in the society has brought the craze for power, which is achieved by wealth to the fore front therefore making money almighty. So everyone craves for it with naked and unbridled appetite. As if this is not enough medium of bewitching humanity, Satan; if you like, has introduced lust and unholy sexual desires, and the drive for sex into our world. The drives for money and sex have become very powerful in all communities of the world that many are ready and willing to do almost anything for both. As Christians we are called to live beyond this while remaining in the midst of the rat-race that engulfs our communities. We are called to be saints in the midst of sinners. To start with let us look at the community of sinners. Imagine the sense and degree of shame Adam felt after eating the forbidden fruit. The shame was so great that he struggles to cover his nakedness from the sight of God. (Gen.3:7-13). While I will not go into the theological meaning or analysis of nakedness here, as it is not very relevant to the point I hope to make at the end of this sharing, it suffice to note that Adam became aware of his filth occasioned by the vulnerability of his very existence and the abyss he has plunged himself into by his single act of disobedience. Imagine also his realization of his sin, and his desire to making things right. Finding that he is incapacitated to do this, he hides himself thinking that avoiding God is the way out. God came looking for him and found him with the aim of restoring the ruptured relationship resulting from Adams disobedience. This is the nature of man. This is the reality of human history. That despite our sinful nature, ingratitude, and incapacity to rise above our sinful and weak nature, God is always the first to initiate the move of restoration of our lost dignity. This is typified in Jer. 3:12 where God cries out Come back, unfaithful Israel it is Yahweh who speaks I will not let my anger fall on you for I am merciful, I will not be angry forever. Sin is an offence against God. It is injurious to humanity. The implications of sinning are so great that it destroys our relationship with the community of Christians on the horizontal level and ultimately strains our relationship with God on the vertical level. In the case of very grave sins, until repentance, we are at the gate of damnation. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel committed sins upon sins. God was always ready to forget his anger and forgive them, but they were always consistent in their acts of rebellion. They offered over and over again sacrifices for sin until the blood of bulls and goats were no longer capable of taking away their sins. (Heb.10:4). When the appointed time came, God sent his son to redeem the subjects of the law, so they could become his adopted children. (Heb.4:4-5). This shows the love of God for sinful man such that it was while we were still in sin that he sent his only son to be the perfect sacrifice for our redemption. (Rom.5:8). By his death we have been saved from the retribution of God (Rom.5:9) and through him, we receive our reconciliation. (Rom.5:11). To be a Christian is to proclaim oneself a follower of Christ. It implies modeling oneself after Christ. In other words, the true Christian becomes freed from the slavery to sin, and takes uprightness as his/her master (Rom.6:19). The baptized catholic is one who has proclaimed behold, old things have passed 4

away (IICor.5:17) and has put on the new garment of salvation. This is Christianity. What is called born again by our Pentecostal brothers and sisters. This notwithstanding, on our journey to perfection, we always find ourselves falling into temptation and sin since we remain only earthen vessels. Thus there is the necessity for us to constantly renew ourselves. Perfection is not achieved on a straight path; it involves ascending mountains and descending into valleys. As long as we remain human we will always need to renew our Christian commitments, wash our stained white garments and struggle with ever renewed vigour in our search for God. This is the SAINT in the midst of SINNERS. One who sees his vulnerability and constant tendency to disobedience and thus the need to struggle always to keep afloat in the tidal waves of a dark world. Jesus Christ is very aware of this situation that is why he instituted the sacrament of reconciliation (Jn. 20:19, 22-23) that we may avail ourselves the opportunity to constantly be renewed. The sinner finds every reason not to take advantage of this, but the saint will always have a reason to go to confession at every available opportunity. Though the perfect sacrifice of Christ was once and for all, he understands mans propensity to committing sin, for as scripture says, the high priest we have is not incapable of feeling our weakness with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves apart from sin. (Heb.4:15). We all constitute a community of sinners for John says if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (I Jn 1:8-9). As sincere as the true Christian may be in observing the covenant of love, he is between two forces; evil and good. Everyone carries an impediment with him/her no matter how light it may be. Besides the devil is always roaming around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The SAINT stands up to him strong in faith. (IPet.5:8-9). What separates the saint from the sinner in the community is not that the saint does not sin but that despite his sins and weaknesses, he realizes that he is not a stranger to God and therefore opens himself in his filth and dirt to God to be washed clean. He does not act like Adam, trying to hide his nakedness from God. Unlike the saint, the sinner runs away from God not wanting to confront his shame and vulnerability, thus he travels farther away from God and deeper into the dark, walking away from his home and inheritance to a foreign land like the prodigal son. (Lk 15:11-32). This parable aptly captures the community of sinners and the invitation of the Father to all to become saints. It is however left for us to accept and honour the invitation. i. ii. The parable of the prodigal son is full of meaning and virtually touches on every aspect of the Christian life. It could be viewed from the following perspectives: - The younger son who was prodigal - The elder son who could not forgive - The father whose love and forgiveness could not be over stretched - The tax collectors and sinners who sought the company of Jesus - The scribes and Pharisees who complained about the company of Jesus - The open ended nature of the parable, which leaves us to conclude whether the elder son joined the celebration or not. Open Ended-ness of the parable: Jesus leaves this parable open without saying whether the elder son agreed to join in the celebration or not. It simply passes across the message to us 5

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that its our decision to join in the heavenly banquet or not. Salvation is an individual choice; no one is forced into the kingdom of God. iv. The Complaining Scribes and Pharisees: This is better understood within the context of The Company of Jesus. These are those notorious for what they do and who they are in the community. They are tax collectors thieves, cheats, liars, and prostitutes cheap and indecent women and girls, who hang around every man who can afford them; even at very low prices. What business do such people have with Jesus? They have found in him, one who cares, who is ready to listen, and accept them for what they are. The self righteous ones would usually complain because they lack truth and sincerity, they want to be seen as good while they are actually worse off in the dark. Most importantly they do not understand who Jesus is and what his mission was. Their self justification blinds them to the offer of salvation Jesus is making to all. The Younger Son who was prodigal: To be prodigal is to be wasteful and thoughtless; to live recklessly and careless as if we hold the key to life. (i) The prodigal son was younger and in his youthful exuberance wants to be free. He does not want to be under the control of anybody; he wants to do things in his own way thinking that all that glitters is gold. (ii) The prodigal son is lazy and wants to live on the sweat of his father. (iii) The prodigal son is disrespectful and rude to the father. (iv) The prodigal son rejected the father for material pleasure and satisfaction. (v) The prodigal son left his rightful home and place. The elder son who could not forgive: Like the scribes and Pharisees who complained about the company of Jesus, so was the elder son. He could not forgive his younger brother. Like William Barclay explains, he was the first to mention his brothers association with harlots because that is what he himself would have done. He projected his own weakness into his younger brother. In fact, he was not ready to accept him as a brother again. He could not refer to him as his brother again but this son of yours (Barclay, 1975:206). (i) The elder son was full of resentment for the younger one. (ii) The elder son was comparing himself with the younger son; the question on his mind was why not me? The father whose love and forgiveness cannot be over stretched: Here is the father who is full of love. Thus he is able to forgive. (i) Forgiveness comes only from love. He offered his love equally to both sons. (ii) He reached out and responded to them in their own uniqueness; he never allowed their rivalry to affect him. In a world that is full of comparism, the father shows love that does not do the same. (iii) The father calls for celebration for that is what life is about; the celebration of the love of God. It is unhealthy to compete and grade ourselves in the presence of God.(cf. Nouwen, 1992).

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The parable of the prodigal son is the great call to conversion by Jesus Christ. It is a call to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God. It is a call to be the younger son without being rebellious, to be the elder son without being resentful, and to be the father full of love and forgiveness. (cf. ibid.). It calls on us to grow: No father or mother ever became father or mother without having been a son or daughter, but every son and daughter has to consciously choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others. This is precisely what all true Christians are called to be; a father and a mother to others. (cf. Ibid.).

Love and forgiveness go together. Forgiveness is love in action and love is the willingness to forgive. Only love and forgiveness bring healing and spread forgiveness. Retaliation and revenge only nourish and perpetuate enmity and hatred. When we cannot forgive, we are only fanning our pride and ego. The saint in the community of sinners accepts the invitation of the Father to salvation. For us Catholics, this invitation is most explicit and vivid in the Eucharist, which is the fulfillment of Christs promise that I will be with you always to the end of time. (Mt.28:20). The Eucharist is a school where Christ invites us to learn from him and what we learn here is the humility of Jesus Christ which is truly the virtue of every saint. Jesus humility in the Eucharist teaches us how to be hidden. For Christ hid his divinity under humanity and now he hides his humanity under the species of bread and wine. It is significant to note that Christ did this just when he was to be taken away from the earth. Thus, further proofs of his willingness to be with us till the end of time. The humility of Christ in the Eucharist goes as far as his giving up himself to be eaten. This brings a contrast between us and him; while we all want to be respected and considered better than others, Christ wants to be shared and consumed by all. He humbles himself even to the point of being forgotten as is often the case with Christ in our tabernacles. Thus in the Eucharist, Jesus teaches the true foundation of righteousness and holiness, the authentic base of sainthood meekness, sweetness, and gentleness. People chat away in Churches where Christ resides in the tabernacle and he keeps quit, people are distracted and distract others, and he watches on. These days, people walk out during Mass to answer phone calls and come back arrogantly to their seats, he smiles at them with pity. Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is humble and meek, patient and obedient, pure and loving. In all these, he radiates a loving and active silence. In this way he invites us to be his witnesses as the fount of charity in and around our various communities. He calls us to show to the world what love is; using his as example; no greater love than this to give ones life for ones friends, (Jn 15:13). By so doing, we become SAINTS in the community of Sinners.

NOTES AND REFERENCES All Bible references from Christian Community Bible, (2000), (Philippines: Claretian Publications) 2. William Barclay, (1975), The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke, (Revised Edition), (Bangalore: Theological Publication). 3. Henri J. M. Nouwen, (1992), The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Home Coming, (Bandra: St. Paul Press).
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CHAPTER TWO THE MAKING OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE: TOWARDS A HAPPIER FAMILY LIFE
(A Talk delivered at the Annual Auchi Diocesan Marian Pilgrimage, Igarra. 2009) INTRODUCTION

Marriage is very central and important to the human society. Marriage puts the individual and his family on the social, religious and physical map of his community. Everyone recognises that an individual is a full person when he or she is married and has children ... Marriage is the one experience without which a person is not considered to be complete, perfect, and truly a man or a woman. It makes a person really somebody. Without marriage a person is only a human being minus. (Mbiti, 1968:106). Marriage and family life go hand in hand. Every marriage is most likely aimed at raising a new family. In our African society, the family circle covers the parents, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces, and a host of other relatives. All these make up the extended family. The family is strengthened through the reciprocal responsibility of the parents to the children and the children to the parents. (Jimoh, 2006:42). This talk focuses on the meaning and purpose of marriage; it suggests ways by which Christian marriages should be serviced for the good and happiness of the couples and the wellbeing of the family thereof. MEANING OF MARRIAGE Marriage is one of the seven sacraments and like the sacrament of Holy Orders; it is at the service of community. These are sacraments directed to the body of Christ, i.e. the Christian community. Thus the extent those who receive any of these sacraments commit themselves to the service of the community, the sacraments sanctify them. They are sacraments meant to edify and build up the body of Christ. Marriage is an extensive subject both in the ecclesia and civil society. Volumes of literature abound on the subject and yet new literatures keep emerging regularly on the subject. Thus, I would not attempt anything near an exhaustive discussion of it in this talk. However, I will make efforts to give a summary of the explanation of Christian (Catholic) marriage, and suggest practical tips for couples to live out and enjoy their marriage and family life. I firmly believe that marriage is meant to be enjoyed and not to be endured. The term marriage comes from the Latin matrimonium, which means munus matris, that is, the office of the mother. Marriage is a vocation; a human vocation that is blessed and ordered by God from the beginning of creation and one which will continue to the end of creation. It therefore requires a careful and adequate preparation before one goes into it. Marriage is an enduring and exclusive covenant of love between a man and a woman. (Pazhayampallili, 1995:665). Marriage is a covenant not a contract. Though the term contract was used in the past to describe it but the Second Vatican Council avoided the use of the term. Contract deals with things where the services of people are engaged for a period of time. Against this, the Fathers of the council preferred the term covenant, which signifies bond, mutual commitment, partnership, and love. (cf. Gen.6:18, Ex.2:24, Deut.29:14, Is.33:8, Jer.32:40, Lk.1:72, Acts 3:25, Heb.13;20). Covenant is a relationship of mutual trust and fidelity. According to Vatican Council II; The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by his laws. It is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises, which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their offspring as well as of society, the existence of this sacred bond no longer depends on human
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decisions alone. For God himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. (Gaudium et Spes 48). Marriage is the covenant of love; therefore, love is the basis of marriage. According to Atado, the foundation and wall and roof of marriage are love. No love, no marriage. (Atado, 1993: xi). Explaining this further, he described husband and wife as two blocks placed separately; to make them stick together, you need a mixture of sand, cement, and water, love is that mixture of sand and cement and water that holds husband and wife together. In love, one chooses to freely commit oneself to another. To quote Fr. Atado again, Marriage is love. It is love that begets the other characteristics of marriage: unity, fidelity, companionship, honesty, patience, understanding, tolerance, forgiveness, fear of God. A couple that does not love each other cannot be faithful or honest to each other, cannot tolerate or forgive each other, and cannot be patient with each other. Love is the flesh and the bone of any successful marriage. (Atado, 1993: xiii). Atado is definitely not talking about the kind of love that keeps man and woman locked into each other; rolling on the bed, but the type of love St. Paul describes in ICor.13:4-8a. Married love according to St. Paul takes after the love of Christ for his Church. (Eph.5:25-33). Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the presence of Christ among his people. Explaining this fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (ccc) teaches; On the threshold of his public life, Jesus performs his first sign at his mothers request during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christs presence (n.1613). Marriage can only be brought about through the irrevocable consent freely and lawfully given by two partners male and female who are capable of giving it. This consent, referred to as matrimonial consent, is very important and cannot be supplied by any other power (cf. Can.1057 n.1). Those who can lawfully give matrimonial consent are; (i) those who have sufficient use of reason, e.g. adults (ii) those who are not impeded by any serious lack of judgement about the essential rights and duties of marriage, e.g. those with the appropriate knowledge of the marriage obligations. (iii) those who are not impeded by their psychic nature as to become incapable of assuming marriage obligations, e.g. people who not mentally deranged. (cf. Can.1095). Marriage exists from the very moment spouses exchange consent. Where this consent, freely given, is lacking, there is no marriage. The consent must be an act of the will of both parties. It must be given freely without coercion, be it fear or physical threat. Where the freedom is lacking, the marriage is invalid. The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses as the indispensable element that makes marriage (ccc.1626). Marriage as a sacrament signifies the union between Christ and the Church. As a sacrament it bestows grace upon the spouses to love each other with the love with which Christ loves his Church. This same grace of marriage as a sacrament strengthens the indissoluble unity that the spouses have entered and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (ccc.1661).
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PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE Marriage is not aimed at just settling down, as it is secularly interpreted these days, nor is it aimed at obtaining social and economic status, or to legitimise the practice of sex in the eyes of society, as some pastors erroneously preach today. It is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, [this] has between the baptised been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. (Can.1055 n.1). Today, many look at marriage as a purely secular contract that can be made and unmade by the state. This is not true. It is a sacred and religious phenomenon instituted by God from the very beginning of creation. The rib which Yahweh God had taken from man He formed into a woman and brought her to man. Then man said, Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man. That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife and with her becomes one flesh. (Gen.2:22-24). Thus, marriage is rightfully put as part of Gods plan for humanity. Many people marry these days for very unwholesome reasons. For instance, many marriages today are politically motivated. These include cases where parents encourage their children to marry children from families that have political power/influence so as to gain political favours and establish political affiliations. Same goes for marriages that are purely motivated by and for financial stability. Many girls today are looking for already made men so that their financial and economic future is guaranteed. This goes as well for guys who marry girls from rich families as means of securing a future free of financial and economic stress. I think we should all be aware that there can always be economic melt-down anytime. Another group are those who marry to increase their social status in society. The my husband is a doctor or my wife is a banker group. Marriage is a noble, age-long institution created by God and directed towards the noble ends of companionship and family. In the first place, scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:26-27) and affirms that man and woman were created for each other (Gen.2:18), and concludes with the image of the wedding feast of the Lamb. (Rev.19:7, 9). And throughout, scripture speaks of the mystery of marriage, its meaning and origin, as well as its end. This fact is given credence by Jesus Christ in his discourse on marriage and divorce with the Pharisees in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus replied, Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and he said: Man has now to leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body? So they are no longer two but one body; let no one separate what God has joined. (Mt 19:4-6). Naturally, marriage is ordered towards two ends: (i) the good of the spouses, and (ii) the procreation and education of the children. The good of the spouses precedes the procreation and education of the offspring as this is the appropriate order it should follow. It is only when this is guaranteed that procreation in its real meaning and understanding can be ensured. The good of the spouses involves the growth and nurturing of the spouses. Marriage is a celebration of love, so it is aimed at the goods that flow from the interpersonal relationship of the
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spouses. This in turn brings about and promotes the spiritual, intellectual, moral and social good of the spouses. It is a celebration of love and fidelity that ensures the welfare and well being of the spouses. Marriage is aimed at the procreation and education of the offspring. Procreation is not the same and should not be mistaken for reproduction. While reproduction is the biological act that brings forth the offspring, procreation, includes reproduction and goes beyond it to mean the nurturing of the offspring, ensuring his/her wellbeing. The spouses are obliged in procreating to see to the physical, social, cultural, moral and religious education of their offspring. Thus, it is wrong to give birth to children and wait for uncles, aunts, or relations, even their own brothers and sisters, to train them. Do not bring forth children when you cannot or are not ready to provide for them and train them to be independent or self-dependent. CHOOSING MARRIAGE PARTNERS The success story of any marriage begins with the choice of a marriage partner. It is common these days to hear single girls praying fervently for good life partners. We hardly hear the guys do the same. I wonder why! The right choice of a partner is very important as compatibility is necessary for a happy marriage. Parents, friends, business partners, religious leaders, marriage counsellors, will give us advice and recommendations on how to choose the best marriage partners. Some of these pieces of advice and recommendations may be right, while others are wrong. They are always influenced from the perspective of the one who gives the advice or recommendation. A business partner for instance will always recommend that you marry someone whose association with you as wife or husband will boost your business as against another who is not likely to impact positively on your business profit. Beyond these pieces of advice and recommendations, the word of the Lord, which transcends culture and earthly gains and profits, counsels that when we make choices on who to marry as wife, we should consider a woman who is kind in speech, modest in dressing, speech and action; one who is not a drunkard or lacks the sense of shame. A well trained woman who knows how to keep the home neat and clean. One who is not jealous. (Sir.36:23; 26:8-25). Do not marry a woman who is going to provoke your anger with her arrogance and humiliation because she is wealthier than you. (Sir.25:21-22). A woman who is hardworking, enterprising and industrious, one who is generous to the poor and needy, a woman who is not selfish, but would willingly contribute to the upkeep of the family, one who does not nag, for Prov.25:24 says: better the corner of a roof to live on than a house shared with a quarrelsome woman. Above all, a woman with the fear of the Lord is a great and perfect candidate for marriage (cf. Prov.31:13-30). Wisdom builds herself a house; with her own hands folly pulls it down (Prov.14:1), avoid marrying a foolish woman. Have eyes for women who will respect and look after your parents as Ruth did after the death of her husband (Ruth 2:10-11). Avoid women who do not want to see her in-laws in their brothers house. After taking into account all these, seek the guidance of the Lord, for Prov.19:14 says: From father comes inheritance of house and wealth, from Yahweh a wife that is sensible. It is not only men who need good wives, women too need the right husband and the scripture is not silent on this either. A woman should not just accept any man that approaches her for marriage without seeking out the basic qualities that make a good husband. Money, power, position,
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influence, intelligence, beauty, etc. which women now seek in men are not what make a man a good husband. A good husband is a man who is ready to leave father and mother and be united with his wife as one, not a man who still lives under the control of his parents, depending on them to make decisions in his married life.(Gen.2:24, Mt.19:5-6). You parents, who are listening to me now that are not allowing your children live out their marriage, please leave them alone. Live your own marriage and let them live theirs. You can advice them and make suggestions to them, do not dictate to them and tell them what they must do. They are not obliged to take your advice either. A good material for husband is a man who respects and takes care of his parents, for if he cannot do that, he most likely will not be able to take care of his wife. A man who accepts and treats his wife as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh (Gen.2:23), who understands that a wife is to be protected, provided for, and treated with respect, (IPet.3:7) as a matter of duty and obligation, (ICor.7:3). Not one who sees his wife as an object for practising boxing and wrestling or as a property he has acquired like a TV set or motor car. A good candidate for husband is one who is capable of being happy with his wife and puts his joy in the girl he marries, (Prov.5:18). A man who understands that marriage goes beyond begetting children alone and only the Lord gives children as a gift (Ps.127:3), a man who is not possessive and obsessively jealous, (ICor.13:4; Prov.14:30), a man who has self-control when it comes to food and drink, is a great candidate for husband-ship; for Prov.23:20 warns: Do not be one of those forever tippling wine nor one of those who gorge themselves with meat; for the drunkard and glutton impoverish themselves, and sleepiness is clothed in rags. When you search for a husband, look out for men who can take care of your parents as Tobias took care of Edna and Raguel his parents-in-law, in their old age (Tobit 14:12-13). Marry a man that is ready to serve the Lord and not one who will spend his whole life pursuing money. I cannot claim that what I have outlined here is an exhaustive guideline in the choice of a marriage partner, but keeping in mind that though wine and music can make you happy, but a happy marriage will make you happier, (Sir.40:20); like the evangelist, John would say, now that you know these things, happy are you if you consider them (Jn 13:17). KEEPING A HAPPY MARRIAGE When two people marry, their lives become linked together; they share a common destiny and are committed to each other. They become responsible to each other and for each other. As two people enter into marriage, they bring along both their strengths and weaknesses. Entering into marriage is to enter into a school of love, where the students married couples, learn to love one another and retain the love they have for one another. This learning process has proved to be a slow one. When people enter into marriage, they seal their love for each other. The seal with which their love is sealed is a human one and therefore, imperfect and breakable. They have to do their best, and nothing less than their best to strengthen the seal and keep it from breaking. The bond of love is weakened and ultimately broken by lack of respect, poor communication, selfishness, and infidelity. On the contrary, respect, good communication, selflessness or unselfishness, and fidelity strengthen this bond of love. Relationships are like gardens or farms that have to be cared for if we expect a good harvest. Relationships of love have to be worked out and carefully cared for. If neglected, they weaken and finally break down.
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It is one thing to make the right choice of wife or husband; it is another to retain what we have chosen. Thus, it becomes imperative that we explore the possibility of keeping and retaining our husbands and wives. Every good wife should strive to retain the love of the husband after marriage. To do this, women should always remain attractive to their husband. A womans beauty makes a man happy; there is no fairer sight for the human eye to see. (Sir.36:22). In line with this biblical verse, women should try to win their husbands admiration and love by being on 2 4 7. They should take care of their physical appearance, remain neat and properly dressed. Men are naturally attracted to women who are always on in their outward appearances. (Atado, 1993:23). (cf. Songs of Songs 4:1-7, 11). Many women no longer care about how they look when they stop giving birth, thereby; they push their husbands to flirt as they no longer find their wives attractive. Women should not forget that marriage is not for procreation alone, but very importantly, for companionship. No one would want to keep the company of another who is unattractive and repulsive. A woman who refuses to take care of her looks is leading the husband into temptation. It is not enough to just look physically attractive; every wife should make efforts to remain sexually attractive to her husband. The role and importance of sex in marriage cannot be over emphasised; unsatisfactory sexual relations between husbands and wives have destroyed many marriages, breeding concubinage and infidelity from either side. The truth is that most other difficulties in marriage would be easily ignored and resolved if there is a satisfactory sexual relations between the husband and wife. Some women deny their husbands sex as a way of punishing them for refusing their demands or use sex as a tool to bargain for what they want from their husbands. This is wrong and it will ultimately push the husbands into the warm and waiting hands of other women. I make bold to speculate that many of these warm and waiting hands are young and adventurous girls who do not care much about who they sleep with as long as he takes care of their needs. The bible advise that married couples should not deny each other sex except for spiritual purposes e.g. to spend time in prayer, and even at that it should be on mutual agreement. (ICor.7:3-5). When two people are in love, they call each other pet names, like; sweetheart, honey, darling, baby, etc. These are expressions of the affection they profess for each other. They should not just profess it; they should show it in their actions. If a wife calls the husband, baby she should be a mother to him, the same if the husband calls the wife baby he should be a father to the wife. Let husbands and wives treat each other as each others child. They should not count the cost of their love. Whatever it costs, it is worth it. A wife should never brag about what she does for the husband or vice versa. If you call your husband or wife honey, be the honey in his/her cup of tea, if you call him/her sweetheart, be the sweetness that caress his/her heart. The story is told of a very poor couple who really love each other. On the fifth anniversary of their marriage each thought that he/she needed to give a gift to the other. Unfortunately, their poverty was a militating factor. The husband however, had inherited a wristwatch from the father which he sold to buy a ribbon for the wife to pack her beautiful and long hair, which everybody admires. On the eve of their wedding anniversary, they had dinner together at home and the husband presented the wife with the ribbon. But rather than see appreciation on the wifes face, he noticed her silence as her face dropped. Feeling sad he asked if she did not like it. In response, the wife removed her head tie to reveal she had lost her hair, meaning she would have no need for the ribbon. In explanation to the husband on the loss of her long and beautiful hair, she revealed that she had to
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trade her hair to buy her husband a gift. She then presented her gift to the husband. On opening the pack, it was a beautiful case meant for his wristwatch. Like the wife, the face of the husband dropped as he explained to the wife that he had to sell off the wristwatch to buy her the ribbon. Here is love in practice; love that is willing to give all for the beloved. This is what it means to be a sweetheart. Our people say that the shortest distance to a mans heart is the stomach. An elderly and experienced mother once addressed a group of young women in these words: My dear children, if you want to tune your husband and get the right and favourable channel, prepare a delicious meal for him. I bet you, no matter how tough and unyielding he is, he must fall for you. (cf. Atado, 1993:31). Christ told his disciples; Give them something to eat yourselves. (Matt.14:16). Wives should always keep this in mind, do not let your house help or your grown up child to give your husbands food; always give them something to eat yourselves. That personal touch makes a lot of difference. Wives should learn to be contented with what their husbands can provide for them. Greed is a dangerous thing. A woman that is greedy and never satisfied with what she has grows to be envious and nagging. Greed leads to dishonesty in asking for food money, when indeed the extra money is to be spent on something else. The husband gets suspicious after a while and a crack is created. Women have many associations and they always gather for one meeting or another. As they do, they admire each others dresses, assorted necklaces, expensive shoes, wristwatches, costly ear rings, etc. They compare and contrast and wish they could have what the other has. A wife who is not contented will not be happy. The secret of contentment is simplicity. Simplicity requires that you buy only what you need and not everything you want, that you learn to give away things; wealth is in what you can give away rather than what is in your pocket, that you do not oppress others with what you have, that you avoid buy now and pay later syndrome, that you enjoy things without owning them, that you are not carried away with what advertisements say, and that you never get addicted to anything, e.g. make-up, skin-care, hair-care, pedicure, manicure, and all the many many cures you have. (cf. Atado, 1993) Husbands should always keep in mind that as you make your bed, so you lie on it. You reap what you sow; if you sow love, you will reap love from your wife. Husbands should sow seeds of trust and love, not seeds of suspicion and insensitivity. If you sow these, you will only reap nagging. Keeping late nights should not be found in the dictionary of the husband. It disturbs normal family relations, healthy sex relations, communication, loyalty, confidence and self-assurance. Married men should learn to discuss their private lives with their wives. Let them know where you go and what you go to do there. It breeds confidence and trust. Do not be selfish to your wife. Always buy her gifts when you travel to let her know she was in your mind while you were away. I love you every morning and night is not enough, show her you love her. Do not believe that love is blind, love is not blind, it has two eyes and does not use glasses. Love is not a theory, it is practical. A cup of ice cream for madam on your way from work is love that she can see. Rather than go out to drink every night with your friends, share a beer with her every now and again. If you are drinking star, buy her a bottle of stout. When you hang out with your friends, bring her a take-away isiewu, okwubi, fish pepper-soup or whichever pepper anything you enjoyed
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outside. You do not need to tell her I love you before she knows that you care when you do these. Husbands should share with their wives, for they are partners. Partnership means sharing, sharing life, love, joy, sorrow, hopes, disappointments, money, children, home, and anything at all they have. A husband should not bully his wife, snapping at everything she does wrong or forgets to do. Learn to excuse your wife and put yourself in her shoes once in a while. Spend private time with your wife and children every now and again, listen to her talk about herself and her friends and her dreams. Never make her feel like a fool or look stupid, praise her and acknowledge what she has achieved and let her know lovingly that you do not like a particular friend of hers that you do not like. Never ever shout at your wife in the presence of the children less alone scold her. Learn to settle your differences in the bed room when you go to sleep. This is precisely why husbands and wives should not have separate rooms in the home. They should share a room. Men should let go and avoid recalling old issues that have been settled in the past. Benjamin Franklin once said, Committing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging an injury makes you but even with him; forgiving an injury sets you above him. The wise king Solomon advice in the book of Prov.19:11; If you are sensible, you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you it is a great virtue to ignore it. (cf. Atado, 1993:81). Any husband who freely showers his wife with love and forgiveness will be blessed with peace and harmony in his family. To retain each others love, husband and wife should strive to always celebrate their love each day of their marriage. They should: (i) Keep the lines of communication open i.e. gist together, share each days experiences with each other, laugh and relax together. (ii) Always make efforts to appreciate each other, pass positive comments about each others looks and dressing, and commend each others sense of dressing, help each other select what to wear once in a while. (iii) Enjoy each other sexually. You have the right to sex; exercise your right to sex. Do not have inhibitions about your sexual desires for each other, make love whenever, wherever, however, you want it without endangering the sense of decency of the children and others around. Compete on who forgives the other person first and who serves the other better. (v) Keep your promises to each other, keep good company and avoid the company your partner does not like. Plan together and manage family finances together. Always try to eat together, at least once a day.

(iv) (vi) (vii)

These tips would ensure that you remain close to each other and ensure that your love for each other is ever new. CONCLUSION The family is the smallest unit of society and every society is a reflection of the families that compose the society. The joy and happiness in any family is the reflection of the loving relationship between the husband and wife or father and mother. This joy and happiness is the
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responsibility of both the husband and the wife. If each does his and her part, sadness cannot find its way into the family because whether they have or not, they will always be happy with themselves. And the children will follow suit. But where they are always at each others throat, you will breed rascals because all they know is shouting and cursing which they have leant from their warring mothers and fathers at home. I therefore call on all married men and women here present and all those planning and hoping to get married sooner or later in life, to take time in selecting a good partner. Age should not be a factor as it is now for many girls; better to marry at 32 and live happily ever after than to marry at 25 and be perpetually sad in your own home. Intending couples should take their marriage preparation courses very seriously and make efforts to always be present together at the classes. Priests should put more efforts in preparing couples for marriage and never, on the basis of friendship or blood ties (relatives) wave or shorten marriage preparations classes for intending couples. We do them more harm than good on the long run. I thank you all for taking time to listen to me and I pray that our Mother Mary, in whose honour we gather here for these two days, will forever reign as the queen of our homes and families through Christ our Lord. Amen. NOTES AND REFERENCES J. S. Mbiti, (1968) African Religions and Philosophy, (London: Hienemann) Anselm Kole Jimoh, (2006), Sex, Marriage and Responsible Parenthood in Nigeria, (Lagos: Amfitop Books) 3. Thomas Pazhayampallil, S.D.B., (1995), Pastoral Guide, Vol.11, (Third Revised Edition), (Bangalore: Kristu Jyoti Publications). 4. Documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes 5. The Code of Canon Law, (1983), (London: Collins Liturgical Publications) 6. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, (1994), (Ibadan: St. Pauls) 7. Fada J. C. Atado, (1993), Marriage Today Na So?, (Kaduna: Raph Printing Productions)
1. 2.

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CHAPTER THREE WOMEN AND THE GROWTH OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH


(Delivered to the C.W.O., Auchi Diocese just after the creation of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi 2003)

OPENING REMARKS In the evolution of a worshipping community like the Church, we could say that families come together to form a worshipping community called a station. Such stations come together to form parishes, which in turn are merged geographically to make up a Diocese. Today we have such a formation that we call Auchi Diocese. Parallel to this formation is the responsibilities of the leaders, as that of the leader of a parish is higher than a station, so that of the Diocese is higher than that of a parish. As I speak with you today, I have at the back of my mind that I speak to those saddled with the responsibilities and those to be saddled with the responsibilities of administering a Diocesan group, parish and station groups respectively. But be it a station, parish or a diocesan responsibility, we have the task of doing whatever we do well. I am therefore going to share and examine with you this afternoon, the roles we can play collectively and individually as Catholic women and mothers in enhancing the growth of our Church in this new diocese of ours. I wish to trace this through the scripture and the traditional teachings of the Church. WOMEN IN THE OLD TESTAMENT Women in the Old Testament had access to the nations places of worship and on its great feasts such as Passover, Booths (Tabernacles). Women not only attended functions but also participated in the sacrificial meal (Ex.12:3-5). They took part in pilgrimages to the holy places (I Sam. 1:3-5; 24-28; 2:1-11; 19-20).

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These activities of women were not just restricted to such special occasions, it permeated their life (Gen. 25:22; Jgs 13:3-23; Ezr.2:65). They also had the right to attend the school of Gods law and share in spiritual benefits (Deut.31:12; Neh.8:2-3). It is true to admit that women had certain traditional positions which suggest they are secondary to men. The truth however, is that the sociocultural factors prevalent at the time accounted for such discrepancies and discriminations, which in the light of present circumstances may no longer be taken literarily. The mother, for instance, is expressly included in the precepts of honour and obedience which sons must pay to parents (Ex.20:12; Lev.19:3; Deeut.5:16; 21:18). Women took part in festive celebrations, in fact, their songs and dances were one of the principal elements of the celebration (Ex.15:20; Jgs 11:34). They also took part in cultic festivals (Deut.12:12; Jgs 13:20). There were many great women of intelligence and devotion like Rachael (Jos.2); Michal (I Sam.19:11f); Abigail (I Sam.25:14ff); Rizpah (II Sam.21:7ff); the woman of Shunem (II Kg 4:8ff); the picture of the wives of patriarchs, like Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, that abound in the Old Testament. Notable in the Old Testament is the Hebrew laws provision which offered special protection to women in time of war (Deut.21:10-14). (cf. McKenzie, 1972:935-937). WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT The New Testament seems to enhance the role and value of women in scripture. Women constituted a great number of the crowds and multitudes that followed and listened to Jesus preach and teach (Mt.14:21; 15:25; Jn 4:7-42). And they were beneficiaries of his healing power (Lk.8:2;13:13; Mt.8:14-15; 9:20-22; Mk 7:25-30). He freely accepted their services, friendship and sympathy (Mk 15:40-41; Lk. 88:1-3; Jn 19:25; Lk.10:38-422; 23:27-30). In fact, among his close followers, women, rather than men proved to be more faithful, as they stood by him till the end (Mt..27:55-56). Little wonder then that the first tidings of his glorious resurrection were given to women, who were chosen also to bear the message to the apostles (Mt.28:1-10; Mk 16:6-8; Lk.24:1-11; Jn 20:11-18). Acts of the Apostles recorded significantly that women were equally involved in instructing new converts in the faith as we read in the case of Priscilla and her husband Aquila instructing Apollos (Acts 18:26). The dealings of Jesus in the New Testament are quite revealing of the role and respect for women. He had an awareness of the daily life and tasks of women and genuine interest in them (cf. Mt.13:33; 25:11ff; Lk.15:8ff; 18:1ff; 13:10-17; 8:14ff Mk 5:21-43; 8:40-56; 7:24; etc.) From the beginning of the primitive Church, women appear as full members. They took active part in the life of the Church, doing good works, such as giving assistance to the apostles (cf. Rom.16:13; I Cor.16:19). (cf. McKenzie, 1972) THE C.W.O. AND THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH IN AUCHI DIOCESE I wish to concentrate efforts in this section on the contributions the Catholic Women Organisation (C.W.O.) can possibly make and should work towards in the growth of our new Diocese. My approach, as much as possible, shall be thematic, real and practical.

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LITURGICAL INVOLVEMENT: Section 7 of Liturigiae Instaurationes (On the Correct Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) of the VC II, published on the 5th of Sept. 1970 prescribes the following roles, which women can conveniently fulfill; a. b. c. Proclaim the scripture readings except the gospel Offer the intentions of the prayer of the faithful Lead the congregations singing, playing the organ and other approved instruments

d. Give the explanatory comments to help the peoples understanding of the service (Liturgical MC/Commentator) e. Receive the faithful at the doors of the Church and direct them to their places, guiding them in processions and collecting their offerings in the Church (Church wardens and ushers). While recognising that these roles are already being performed by women in our diocese, I use this opportunity to ask that they take these roles more seriously, accept the challenges of these roles and be more dedicated than ever before, especially in the light of the more peculiar circumstance, now that we have a diocese of our own. COMMON ACTION In every development there is a new challenge. Now as a new diocese, which is a growth, there are new challenges. And precisely because of their unique roles as mothers, the diocese of Auchi needs the services of the C.W.O. more than ever before. As usual for mothers, the Diocese looks forward to them to unite all frontiers within her powers and together with the Bishop and Priests, nurture the Diocese to maturity. This can be done and should be done by way of regular, well-attended meetings, workshops, and seminars, in which all present actively participate in discussions and decision-making. This should include spiritual programmes like pilgrimages as well as social activities like carnivals for all women, children and youths, where and when necessary. Inclusive also are social enlightenment programmes that make the members of the Church, especially the women, aware of their civil responsibilities as citizens of Nigeria, especially within the context and circumstances of the forthcoming elections and political governance in Nigeria. STRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT As the saying goes, behind every successful man is a (good) woman, I dare to say, that behind every successful Bishop and Diocese is a formidable C.W.O. Given that the new Diocese must evangelise, she needs the physical structures, some of which must necessarily be in place for effective evangelisation, like a girls/boys school, medical centres or even hospital, centres for spiritual, pastoral and social gatherings, like a Pastoral Institute. There is no gain saying that some of these are capital intensive and projects of gigantic proportions, they are however not impossible, for impossibilities exist in minds that lack the ability to try and nurse the fear to fail. The Bishop is a single individual, left on his own, your guess is as good as mine, why can the C.W.O. not take up one or two of these projects and through self help and solicited funds help the Bishop build for the Lord! Apart from relieving the Bishop of the stress in these areas, it makes time available for him to pay attention to some other pressing administrative and pastoral issues of the diocese.
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EXERCISING YOUR MOTHERHOOD: A MORAL OBLIGATION To say the Nigerian society is rotten is to be mild and charitable to the actual situation. To say our youths are decadent and abnormal in behaviour is to state the obvious in fine language geared towards reducing the gravity of the actual situation. The Nigerian society is decayed and our youths stink. A decayed society is a reflection of a decayed citizenry and stinking youths are a reflection of either stinking parents (mothers especially) or neglect by parents. Our diocese is situated inside this decayed society and a part of it that daily acquires new status of notoriety Edo State, in almost every aspects of life. From indecent and reckless governance, negligence of workers, insensitivity to the plight of the students, to high level of youthful exuberance among school children climaxing in high rate of local, national and international prostitution and armed robbery. What must we do in all these? What is the role of the Catholic Women as a body and as individuals? There are a lot we can do. Charity, they say, begins at home. We must be good Christian mothers. I dare to say that some of us are an apology when it comes to motherhood. We cannot tell at times who is better between the prostituting daughter and her mother who encourages her implicitly and explicitly by her insinuations, suggestive comments, frustrating attitudes, dress code, silent approval of indecent movies and refusal to question things that should be questioned. Some mothers practice the actual deeds of waywardness they ought to discourage in their children. We should be seen to be above board in these matters; thus, we have the moral probity and integrity to correct our children when they err. It is a proven fact that our schools have failed abysmally in the moral education of our children. If anything, our schools have worsened the situation, especially the higher institutions, which are more now renowned for training armed robbers and prostitutes than graduates in the sciences and arts that constitute proper academic education. Parents, especially mothers must follow the progress of their children outside school and be close to them. The distant one is from ones child, same or even more distant the child is from normal living and consequently the closer the child is to negative forces and influences of a corrupt society. Collectively, our women should be seen as mothers of the Church worthy of the name and mothers of their children individually. Collectively, they should be responsible for the youths and children in the Church. To this end, I call on them to put in place, structures that encourage our youths to strive for excellence. Here I have in mind such simple structures as scholarship schemes, annual excellence awards to deserving youths and even husbands and Church workers. These are simple non-capital intensive but enduring structures that have lasting effects and make long lasting impressions on others and thus serve the purpose of effective evangelisation as well as strengthen the resolve of willing youths to be more committed to good and purposeful employment of their time and energy. UNITY: A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF CANNOT STAND The Bishop is the rallying point of every Diocese. We are blessed with a new diocese and a new Bishop who promises to be a father figure in the full meaning of the sense of fatherhood one who cares and is ready to listen. We should support him, pray for him and assist him as much as is humanly possible. Nothing, absolutely nothing should come between the Bishop and us. We may disagree with him on certain issues but note that his intentions and decisions must be considered as final in matters that concern the running of the Diocese. The Catholic Church does not run a
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democratic structure, though she encourages suggestions, consultations and dialogues, the final decision is the Bishops own to make. In this regard, when the Bishop opts for a stand not in agreement with ours, we should submit our decisions to his, adopting the moral principle of reciprocity of conscience for the good of the Diocese. Such a disposition should also be extended to the priests, while acknowledging that the members of the C.W.O. are their natural, biological mothers, the priests are our spiritual fathers. This honour they have not taken upon themselves but have been called and chosen by God who knows more than anyone of us. All of us are working towards the same goal salvation of souls. We should therefore, do away with all and any form of confrontation and at all times prefer dialogue and openness. In the shortcomings of our priests, let us lift them up rather than condemn them, gossip and crucify them. All these are not edifying and scatter rather than build. As a new diocese, we should look forward and not backwards. FINAL REMARKS My dear women, so much more remains to be said, but we cannot say all in one session. I think we have said enough, if not more than enough for one session. I must remind you that your role is vital and cannot be compromised. My intention today is to provoke your thoughts and challenge you with practical suggestions so that you can go back and think, plan and act. Our new Diocese should not admit laziness and sluggish attitudes of feet dragging. We should be praying and working till we arrive at a stage we take stock and smile. I again want to dare you by saying those who do not want to could and should be left behind for without any one single person, we can move forward. Let the unwillingness of one not be the downfall of all. I call on those among us who are notable for dragging others back that they should step aside, it is time for action, let the willing take charge of the boat and let us begin to cruise forward, shattering all and any obstacle on the way. Let us set a pace and achieve the impossible. Let it be said that we did what is ours to do. May God in his infinite wisdom assist and bless us all. Amen.

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NOTES AND REFERENCES


1. John L. McKenzie, S.J. (1972), Dictionary of the Bible, (London: Geoffrey Chapman)

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CHAPTER FOUR YOUTHS AND CHURCH DEVELOPMENT


(Welcome Address to C.Y.O.N. on the occasion of the Diocesan Youth Rally at Sacred Heart Parish, Agenebode 2007)

A Church with a large number of youths is often considered a vibrant church with great prospects for future developments. This is because the youth are tomorrows leaders in the making. The youth are full of capabilities and potentials, which when properly harnessed and tapped spell out a future of great possibilities. However, an excessive indulging of youthful exuberance will only spell doom as priorities are misplaced and potentials wasted. Understanding the term youth can prove elusive as attempts to describe and define who a youth is have taken different dimensions depending on the perspective of the one who defines. While there is a tendency by some to use the criterion of age, some want to use behaviourial traits, while some still would prefer to look at biological composition and social status and affiliations. In his first visit to Nigeria, precisely on the 13th of February 1982, John Paul II described youth as the age of hope, of promise, of enthusiasm, of plans and of ideals. Youth does not want to put up with the shortcomings of the status quo. Youth believes in a better world and is determined to do something to help bring it about. Three years after, in his Apostolic Letter to the Youth of the world, he described the period of youth as one of intense discovery of the human I and the properties and capacities connected with it. The 1981 Nigerian National Youth Policy described the period of youth as one of complex change; of rapid physical change and development, intellectual change and awakening, mental alertness and a search for the truth and meaning of life, of emotional development and upsets resulting in sudden changes in mood and behavior a change from childhood to adulthood and a feeling of growing up. The scripture, from the perspective of the Evangelist Luke, see youth as a period of growth; mental and physical, as well as emotional and moral growth. (Lk.2:52). For one thing, there is a somewhat general agreement that those referred to as youth are young and full of life, and a metamorphic stage in human development. Corresponding to the latter are such characteristics like spontaneity, natural ardour, enthusiasm, industry/creativity, vivacity, adventure, responsiveness and idealism. Being in their prime of life, youths are courageous and daring, willing to experiment and receptive to new ideas. They are nonetheless deficient in experience. In their First Plenary Session for the year 2005 (14th 19th February), the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria affirmed that the age of youth is a period of creativity, vitality, enthusiasm and bold aspiration. These defining characteristics of youth would almost make development synonymous with the age of youth. Development is development in the real sense when it is human. In other words, there is
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no authentic development which does not take into cognizance the welfare of the human person. Physical structures, institutional growths, and whatever growth you may think of as developmental should be directed to the enhancement of the individual persons in any society. Where these destroy the person, they cannot be considered as developments. The Church is a society of the people of God whose ultimate aim is the salvation of the human person. (Can.1752). Thus, all forms of Church development are meant to ultimately bring about human salvation. Be it building of physical structures like Churches, parish halls/social centres, Medicare facilities, even businesses to generate funds for the parish, as well as educational/catechetical seminars, enlightenment programmes, etc. are to be with the aim of bringing the faithful closer to God. The importance of the youth in the life of any group, let alone, the Church cannot be over emphasized. As it were, the youth form a great proportion of the Churchs population as they do of the Nigerian population. Regrettably, they live under harsh and difficult conditions; they study and work under very unfriendly conditions as a result of the social and political mess that plague our nation today. This has no doubt impeded the growth and development of youth and by that very fact, impeded their participation in Church development. Development in the Church covers the entire sphere of the Churchs life. From catechesis, which involves internal evangelisation or a continual, or re-evangelisation of those who have already accepted the faith, to physical and structural development, which involves what is popularly referred to as project in our parishes these days; the youth has a major role to play. By virtue of their strength, which is enormous, the amount of work they can do in the Church cannot be immediately estimated. From keeping the mission compound clean, helping with Sunday schools, teaching of catechism, reducing the cost of building structures by providing the labour force as at when necessary, discussing and sharing ideas with parish priests/administrators, as to how best activities should be organized to participation in the daily liturgical and pastoral life of the parish; the involvement of the youth can be a great reserviour of human and physical resources needed to move the Church forward. Quite unfortunately we observe that the great proportion of youth notwithstanding in our Churches, the aforementioned are absent. This is because of lack of proper organization and co-ordination of the youth bodies in our parishes. The Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria (C.Y.O.N.), an umbrella body inaugurated at the massively attended International Youth Year Rally held in Ogoja in 1985 lacks proper coordination in many parishes today. The latter is not unconnected with the fact that as products of a messed up social, political, and economic society that is the Nigeria story, the youth have grown without discernable focus. Lack of proper education, and a deep rooted spirit of rebellion that is now characteristic of the average Nigerian youth, have militated against their active performance in the development of the Church. Our youths are just content with attending Masses on Sundays; some make efforts to be at morning Masses, but very negligibly few are really committed to their faith enough to channel their wealth of energy to Church development. While we may decry this situation, we have to keep in view that an improved state of the nation can go a long way to revise the order. Thus, a lot needs to be done by those at the helm of affairs in the state and are in-charge of bodies and organizations to create a better and conducive, as well as enabling environment for the youth to realize and tap their potentials and capabilities. In line with
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the Bishops of Nigeria, I wish to encourage these young people (the youth) to defy the neglect and shortcomings in their community and environment, and look to God for strength and to their natural resourcefulness for sustenance. NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Fr. Nicholas N. Obi, (1987), This Odd World, (Lagos: Joe En Jude Printers) 2. The Code of Canon Law, (1983), (London: Collins Liturgical Publications)

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CHAPTER FIVE HOW A YOUTH CAN PROTECT HIS INTEREST AND THAT OF OTHERS IN A COMMUNITY AND THE NATION AT LARGE.
First given as a talk to Youth Corpers in Agenebode as part of their Corpers Week programme (2008) and then for the BELL magazine on the occasion of Sobe Day Celebration 2009

The way this topic has been framed gives one an immediate impression that the society is hostile to the interest of the youths, thus, there is a need to protect such against the aggression of society. If this is the case, then there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the youth and his society. I want to propose in this talk that for the interest of anyone; ditto, the youth, in the society to be protected, the common interest of the society would first have to be protected. My argument is that, if the society is safeguarded and her interest protected, all the members of the society will not only have their interests protected but actualized. A particular characteristic that is innate in humans is the instinct to protect itself. This drive begins to manifest whenever we face danger of any kind. To protect ones interest is desirable, what may not desirable is the nature of the interest. Many have interests that are counterproductive to the good of society and the protection of such interest will only lead to further negative implications on the society. To protect something is to defend the thing against anything perceived to be contrary to that which we seek to protect. Interest is a strong desire for something. In the context of our discussion, it would mean a strong desire to be something or achieve something; in one word, ambition. Such strong desire, or ambition, or interest, shapes our attitude and relationship with others and the entire society. As already noted, a persons interest may be beneficial only to him/her and harmful to others in the society. Such interest is to be suppressed rather than protected. Only interests that are devoid of selfishness, self-centredness, and evil are to be protected. The way our pure interests are to be protected calls for some concern too, which I think is the reason for this discussion. To desire to be the governor of a state is in itself good, but to want to be governor at all cost and means, even when we have to take anothers life is to be condemned. Thus, the means by which we protect our interest must not in itself be evil or contribute to the downfall of another or injure the entire society. The popular utilitarian maxim that the ends justifies the means is Machiavellian and morally unacceptable. Evil means cannot justify good ends; logically, no argument can be valid, whose premises are false and its conclusion true. To resort to means like blackmail, threats and outright harm to those who oppose your interest or share the same interest and ambition with you is using the wrong method to protect your interest. It is only in the recognition of the individual interests of others, and helping them to protect and safeguard such interest can we positively and permanently protect and safeguard our interest. I
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therefore, propose that that interest of a youth can best be secured and protected by first protecting and putting the interest of others and the society as a whole at heart. To protect the interest of the society as a youth implies the positive involvement of the youth in the development of the society. Thus, such negative acts and practices like cultism, stealing/armed robbery, blackmailing, prostitution, tribalism, nepotism, etc. are undesirable and counterproductive to the protection of the interest of the society; ditto; the youth. When we talk about development of society, it is not narrowed down to infrastructural development alone; it involves among others, the wellbeing of the individual members of the society as well as the maintenance of the existing structures in the society. In this regard, Nigerian youths have a lot to do. The youth is to offer his time, talent, and treasure (if he/she has any) towards the building up of the society. This expresses itself in voluntary manual work as at when necessary, sharing knowledge and intelligence with the younger ones to help them grow, taking up responsibilities as at when required. To be lazy and seek only pleasure times is not a positive attitude that builds society. The story of David in the Holy Book (Bible) (ISam.16-21) exemplifies my position. David, a young handsome boy has already been anointed the king of Israel, he knew he will be king one day but that did not stop him from practically putting his life in harms way in fighting Goliath, the Philistinean giant/bully. His interest in the throne would have to come only after that of Israel has been protected. Come to think of it, over which Israel will he be king when it is under the rule of the Philistines? David was not done yet, he again risked his life in the battle with the Amalekites, and the society whose interest, he fought to protect sang his praises. In the same way, youths should fight and work to protect the interest of the society, which in turn safeguards their own interests.

CHAPTER SIX
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CREATING A SOCIETY FREE OF CRIME AND IMMORALITY AS AN INDEX TO DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA.


A Talk delivered to Youth Corpers as part of the celebration of their Corpers Week in Agenebode. 2006

INTRODUCTION I want to state from the beginning that it is a tall order and overly ambitious think of creating a society free of crime and immorality. The issue is, can we ever create such a society? Is such a society attainable? Come to think of it, do we need such a society? I might be deviating from the issue am called to address here if and when I begin to attempt to answer these questions, suffice therefore to just observe that crime and immorality seem to be integral parts of the human society, what we should aim at is reducing crime and immorality to the barest minimum. I consent to the view that minimal crime-wave and immorality would be a formidable index or one of the indices on which any societys development hangs, ditto; Nigeria. I think it is necessary to know what we mean by development and crime, see how they are related, and in what way the presence of one inhibits or affects the other. Crime and immorality will be treated as one and the same here as they boarder on the same infringement on the natural or divinely acceptable codes of conduct. Both constitute unacceptable ways of life that hurt man, distort society, and offend God. THE IDEA OF DEVELOPMENT Development alongside progress is an idea that has marked national and international policies since the Second World War. Although it has been introduced earlier, it became popularised by 19th century philosophers. From this period till date, there have been theories of development as well as developmental policies. Our focus shall not be on these theories, but on the question of development in a country like Nigeria that is crime infested with a high level of immorality. Let me quickly add that describing Nigeria as crime infested with a high level of immorality is not particular to our nation as it seems to be same in most, if not all the nations of the developing world and some developed nations. The prevailing conception of development in third world countries in general, is conceived on the model of the West, which is a reduction of development only to its economic factors, that is, industrialization, progress of technology, and high national per capita income. (Kucuradi, 1993). This however, coupled with the rapid increase of population and some other factors, broadened the gap between the rich and the poor, as well as caused increase in the number of the poor in these countries, i.e. they sharpened economic disparities. The concept of development is actually a complex one and it all depends on the point of view you choose to address the issue. For our purpose here I want to adopt the definition of Henry Odera Oruka who says, If N is a nation, the concept N is developed means that in N, the people have their economic and socio-cultural needs fully satisfied i.e. that in N, one has all the social freedoms such as
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economic, political, cultural, intellectual, religious, sexual freedoms. (Oruka, 1993:128). I agree with Odera Oruka that development goes beyond the state of the economy and technological advancement. This does not necessarily deny the latter as part of the measuring parameter for national development, they however do not constitute sufficient conditions by which the concept of development is to be defined and measured. A developed nation must be one that has the ability or opportunity to fulfil for itself its economic and socio-cultural needs; as a corporate entity and in the individual sense of the individual citizens of the nation. These needs fall under the following main headings: (i) Economic Needs (ii) Political Needs (iii)Cultural Needs (iv)Intellectual Needs (v) Religious Needs (vi)Sexual Needs. Thus, to assess the development of a country, we need to find out what degree of social freedoms the citizens have. And these freedoms depend on the extent to which the economic and socialcultural needs of the people are satisfied. The economic and socio-cultural needs of the average Nigerian for instance, in my opinion is far from satisfied, in fact, farther than unsatisfied as the opposite of satisfied. The reality that confronts us on a daily basis is the ugly fact that most families cannot afford a decent three-square meal per day, let alone a proper formal education of the children. In a bid to assist themselves, the young men have taken to unimaginable, dubious, and fraudulent means to survive and the girls have found the vice of prostitution and various forms of morally lax behaviours as easy ways out. God has bestowed the girls with natural physiological assets (back, front, and below) for which their male counterparts constantly crave, so they become easy tools for making money. This explains to a large extent why sexual exploitation and the sex trade is a free for all in virtually all our tertiary and now very many of our secondary institutions. Here, crime and immorality come in. Of course, this is aided by the fact that not a single one of the three tiers of government considers education a priority. That the Nigerian government does not prize education is obvious in the annual allocation that goes to the educational sector in the national and state budgets. Education is politicised, under-funded and teaching/lecturing is caricatured, as the teacher/lecturer is made to feel like he has made a wrong choice of profession. Tell me how nations with an educational system in such shambles as Nigerias can produce visionary leaders for tomorrows good governance? The Nigerian youth is socially and politically bastardised. He lacks knowledge of his authentic culture and cannot even imbibe the foreign culture that he has grown to so admire. Therefore, he remains a deluded hybrid that belongs neither here nor there. Or can we say the religious needs of a people who have formed the habit of resulting to violent clashes over the slightest religious provocation have been met? That a country with a multiplex of religious activities (Ehusani,
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2003) and Christian churches is the second most corrupt country in the world is more than ironical. Thus, the acquisition of nuclear warheads in Nigeria of today, which will mean technological growth, may not be considered developmental in the face of unpaid salaries and allowances of the working class. Neither would the same be said of hosting rights of international sporting nor social events when the masses still wallow in want and penury of basic social amenities. By the foregoing, Nigeria cannot be said to be developed given that the basic pointers to development are still not visible in our daily lives. The submission of this talk is that reducing the rate of crime and raising the moral standards of our social lives would create a formidable index for our national development. CRIME AND MORAL LAXITY IN NIGERIA Crime is the commission of an act or act of omission that violates the law and is punishable by the state. Crimes are considered injurious to society or the community. As defined by law, a crime includes both the act and the intent to commit the act. Whether we look at crime socio-legally as a wrong done against society, which is punishable by the courts and controlled by legislation, or we see it as a moral phenomenon, which in everyday language we call sin, crime is irreconcilably and diametrically opposed to the dictates of natural and divine laws. It is therefore something abominable and deplorable before God, man, and society. (cf. Obi, 1987:33). There is a long list of everyday crimes in our country that we can easily compile; wilful murder, theft or robbery (armed robbery, pen robbery, sex robbery, state robbery, vote robbery, corporate or organised robbery), assault, rape, drug trafficking, currency trafficking and money laundering, arson, affray, treason, abduction, vehicle traffic offences, unlawful possessions of fire arms and other state properties, bribery, abuse and misuse of office, illegal payments, kickbacks, tax evasion, customs fraud, misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement of public funds, false accounting, abuse of public grants, environmental damage, smuggling, violation of labour regulations, over invoicing, over pricing, illegal monopolization and restraint of trade, exploitation of labour, fraudulent sales, importation of sub-standard and unsafe or obsolete goods or machinery, sale of adulterated foods or hazardous drugs, acts of constraint or distortion of development plans, contract inflation, certificate forgeries, examination leakages, misconducts, and malpractices, (ibid.) etc. we can go on and on. These are all familiar crimes that are daily perpetuated all over our country. The most popular in recent times is the graduation from 419 to yahoo yahoo. Olu Maintain aptly captures that in his Yahoozee. The description of our situation in Nigeria at this point of our national history may not be an easy one. It is full of complexities especially on the political and economic terrain, which invariably bears on and determines to a large extent the moral and social life of the people. Our case is that of a nation that seems to be gradually taking a nosedive into a pathetic and deplorable state. With bastardised politics, marginalized economy, traumatized religions, our social and moral life cannot but follow suit. It is therefore not surprising that sexual morality within and outside marriage in Nigeria has approached the verge of total collapse. The mysteries that use to surround the whole issue of sex,
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which makes it a taboo for public discussion has been ripped apart. Pre-marital sex, which includes teenage sex, is just one of those things today. Worse still, extra-marital sex has become fashionable; we cannot even begin to describe the age long practice of sex for money as we are likely to run out of appropriate adjectives. All we need to confirm the veracity of sexual degradation in Nigeria today is a visit to the many night clubs in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin, etc. and see what the female folk have reduced themselves to thanks to patronizing male folks. These clubs are packed full to the brim with half dressed girls; all the dark corners in the clubs are filled with boys and girls in all forms of sexual positions. Many of the men in these clubs are married. There is even no guarantee that their wives are not taking advantage of the absence of their husband to play their own games; after all, they probably think, how am I sure he is not in the arms of another woman now? These attitudes that berate our morality cannot be divorced from the faith most Nigerians have in the various contraceptives now in use. Having bought the idea of safe sex thanks to contraception, abortion, and prevention of the HIV/AIDS scourge, married women and men see nothing wrong with having sex partners other than their husbands or wives. Neither does the younger generation see the need to wait till marriage before part taking in sex; in fact a single sex partner is an out dated idea. Come to think of it our sexual organs keep no records of their activities! It is out of fashion to be a male or female virgin at the age of 16 or 17 for both sexes. Your friends and colleagues will laugh at you and you are made to feel there is something you are missing out on or something wrong with you. With such a pervasive break down in sexual morality in our society, we cannot but expect a break down in the family. When either the man or the wife has compromised conjugal fidelity, the seed of disharmony is sown. This eventually climaxes in a broken home. The ultimate resultant effect is that the children of this home lack basic and necessary upbringing as there is no one to guide them. They gradually become street wise children and crime is their hobby. The unbridled drive to be wealthy by whatever means in our country has widen the horizon for crime and moral laxity in Nigeria. Hard work, honesty, dedication, commitment and patriotism are no longer recognised or rewarded. What is in your pocket defines you now, not what you are. Be anything, the colour of your money, the cars you ride in, the houses you own and live in, the sorts of clothes you wear are what define you in the Nigeria of today. Since the governance of our country is making it increasingly difficult for unconnected persons to rise and shine in their chosen fields, and human nature naturally dislikes failure, young boys and girls are left with no option but to choose the way of crime and wave off morality so as to achieve some measure of recognition. Thus, we blame the governance of our nation for the crime wave and low moral standards. THE WAY FORWARD It is however not enough to blame the governance, we must ask, what is to be done. This hammers the nail on the head. Minimize the rate of crime and raise the standards of morality. If the young man going to school is sure that on merit he would be given employment after school, that there are job opportunities waiting for him if he merits them, he would most likely concentrate on his
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studies rather than get involved in cult related activities in school. If the undergraduate is guaranteed of his safety in the campus, and protection from the exploitation of lecturers, he would not think of seeking same from secret cults. Would a girl put on public display half of her boobs and the upper divide of her ass in the name of fashion if she does not intend to catch attention? Not the attention of her fellow females but of the male folk. And why? That they can bid for it that she may raise enough funds to do the right and wrong things of life. If she knows that society will jeer at her and the men she intends to attract would spit at the sight of her laxity, she would guide, protect, and hide those things God has endowed her with, to be her pride. But who are the ones teaching them that they could use these assets to gain undeserved marks, and employments; those entrusted with the responsibility of educating them. Why are they doing that? When those who are less educated, those who are drop outs, are having more access to the national cake as political thugs and they who have struggled to be something are not even sure of that for which they have worked. They begin to satisfy and compensate for their frustration using the dubious means they now use. If Nigerians are sure of their security, if they are guaranteed of the safety of their lives and properties, if they know that being honest and patriotic would be rewarded, they perhaps may jettison crime and become more committed to their fatherland. When we hustle honestly and nothing comes out of it, the next likely thing to do is hustle dishonestly if that helps us to sustain our lives. When a society creates the atmosphere for crime and smiles at moral laxity, the citizens take to crime, which always creates easy access to wealth. When leaders that ought to be models of service become models of corruption, the younger generation grow with the belief that looting and defrauding is an acceptable means to wealth and power. Thus, the resources provided for social amenities, become the target of individuals who can reach them. Development is stalled. When the satisfaction of our socio-cultural needs are guaranteed by providing the opportunities by which we can attain and satisfy these needs an atmosphere for growth resulting from the individual contributions of citizens is created and development begins to take place.

NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. I. Kucuradi, (1993), The Idea of Development. Its Past and Its Present in I. Kucuradi (ed.) The Idea of Development Between Its Past and Future, vol.1 (Ankara: METEKSAN Co. Ltd.)

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2. Odera Oruka, (1993), Freedom and Independence in Development: The African Case in I. Kucuradi (ed.) The Idea of Development Between Its Past and Future, vol.1 (Ankara: METEKSAN Co. Ltd.) 3. Rev. Fr. G. Ehusani, Religion and Corruption in Nigeria (1) in CSN News No.6, Vol.III, January June 2003 4. Transparency Internationals year 2002 Corruption Perception Index 5. Fr. Nicholas N. Obi, (1987), This Odd World, (Lagos: Joe En Jude Printers)

CHAPTER SEVEN HOLY PRIESTS HOLY PEOPLE: BUILDING A HOLY PARISH


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(Personal reflection during my private retreat for the 10th Anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood as directed by Sr. Pope Edinburgh, Scotland. 2004)

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. (Is.2:3). Isaiahs reference to the mountain of the Lord here is a reference to mount Zion; the hill in Jerusalem on which the temple is built. The top of the mountain in biblical language represents a place where the Lord is to be found. Thus, in contemporary spirituality it is common to hear people say, I am going up the mountain meaning, I am going to seek the Lord. It might well be said to be a figurative way of referring to our desire to be in the Lords presence. And it is in this sense that I mean to use it here. As St. Paul told the Romans, it is full time now for you to wake from sleep the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. (Rom.13:11-12). I think it is precisely the same for us priests and the people of God. It is time to wake up from our spiritual slumber to an active life of holiness. Thus, we should prepare to go up the mountain of the Lord, to the house of God and seek His ways, listen to His teaching in the silent voice of His spirit and walk in His paths in a world already darkened by sin. This makes us truly the light of the world. The call to holiness begins from the example of the priest, especially the priest in the parish. To be effective in the parish, we need to be a symbol of holiness. The parishioners, more than anything else, want a priest they can go to and ask for prayers. They can only come to us when they think we strive ourselves to be holy. To be holy does not necessarily mean to have attained righteousness; it is a striving on our part as priests to be righteous. We need to set aside times every day for personal prayers no matter how short the time is. We need to let the parishioners know we believe in prayers not by what we say but by how seriously we take our prayer life and how they perceive this. I mean here that it is not enough to be prayerful; the parishioners need to see and know us to be prayerful. This is not an invitation to be pharisaic or hypocritical; it is a call to make sincere and genuine efforts to pray and affect the lives of those we serve by setting an example of prayer life for them. We need to give them an example to copy as Christ gave us all an example to follow. You call me Teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.(Jn 13:13-15). Our parishioners should be able to say of us, this is not a good time to see Fr.; he will be at his prayers now. This is simply because over a period of time, they have learnt that you have hours of the day when you say your prayers. In a practical way, let us ensure, if we have boys and girls staying with us, as most of us often do have, that at a suitable times during the day, we call everyone together for common prayers; preferably the rosary. It is important that these boys and girls know that beyond every other thing, Fathers house is a house of prayer. Striving for holiness through prayers should be our first step to effective parish ministry. Come to think of it, we, as priests, are first and foremost called to a life of holiness. As the old adage goes,
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no one gives what he does not have. As priests we cannot offer prayers for and on behalf of the people when we are not men of prayers ourselves. Parishioners become more confident in us when they realize that we make efforts to be truly holy. It is however a shame, if whenever the boys and girls in the house wonder where we could be in the house and none of them think we could be in the chapel. On the alternative, the first thing that should cross their minds, when they wonder where we could be, should be are you sure he is not in the chapel? Or have you looked in the chapel? Let them not look everywhere but the chapel for us. This immediately brings the question of the state of the chapel in the rectories to mind. I have often observed with dismay how shabby looking and un-kept most of the chapels in our rectories are. It is not enough to designate one room in the rectory as the chapel and repose the Blessed Sacrament there, and the only time we go in there is when we come back from out-stations and are too tired to take the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle in the Church; or worse still, when we have to do a private baptism for the child of some wealthy or influential person or pray for same on their way to some meeting or function and decided to say hello to us. It is sad to note that the chapel in most of our rectories is the most neglected part of the house. We strive to make our personal rooms comfortable. As it turns out, the best in the house, this is understandable perhaps. But ought it to be better than Jesus room in the house? The chapel could be the smallest room in the house, but should be best kept and most maintained. What stops us from putting descent curtains and blinds on the windows? What stops us from providing it with descent sittings instead of the half broken chairs we dump in it? And why can we not cover the floor with nice looking rug or tiles, especially when our own rooms have been so covered? The attention we give to the chapel shows to a large extent, the respect we have for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament reposed in it. It determines the respect and reverence the boys and girls in the house give to the chapel too. Some chapels in some rectories go un-swept for days and weeks and we have to dust and clean the seats when emergencies call for its use. If we strive and make sincere efforts to gather together everyone in the parish house to pray the rosary or any other prayer of our choice in the chapel, we are being Reverend Fathers in the true sense. We, by so doing, teach the children in the house what our call is about. We inspire vocations in them, and we quietly, but very firmly, instill in them what living with Father is all about. It is not about eating and drinking alone, nor is it about the prestige of being close to Father; it is rather about being close to God as Father himself tries to be close to God. PRAYER IS INDISPENSIBLE Prayer is certainly the most import aspect of our ministry as it is the source and foundation of our holiness. Raising money to accomplish parish projects is a great thing, co-coordinating and running groups in the parish is a wonderful thing. To be social and make the parish house a warm and receptive place for all is excellent. But none of these on its own or all put together is as important as our striving to be holy and consistent in a life of prayer. If we really think about it,
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others can actually do any of the above things and even better than us, but no one can be holy for us. Rather we need to be holy and prayerful for all in the parish. Our life of prayer, which underlines our holiness, is the backbone, the blood vessels, and the blood that keep our ministry alive. Yes, we are called to be scholars, we are called to be gentlemen, we are called to be social workers, we are called to liberate, we are called to radiate joy and bring happiness and life to people. The root and strength of all these are in our holiness. Without prayer and our striving to be holy, whatever we achieve in all the above sooner than later dries up like leaves that fall off the tree. A life of prayer shields us against sin and occasions for sin. A life of prayer covers and fills the emptiness and gaps of loneliness in us. Thus, sin finds no space and no gaps to fill. A great life of prayer dilutes our pride with the required dose of humility and thus enables us relate with everyone in the parish, irrespective of social, political, economic, and intellectual status. A great life of prayer douses our anxiety and strengthens our trust in the Lord. This makes it easier to trust our parishioners even when they have in the past betrayed such trust and failed us. In our trust of God, we get to see, even in the betrayal and failure of the past, the presence and will of the Father, whose work and not ours, our ministry is about. Prayer is the heart and soul of our ministry and priestly life. It is the sure way to holiness to which we are called. It is the gateway to faithfulness and the guarantee of effective ministry. A vibrant life of prayer bestows on us the beauty and dignity of our call. Some of us have the false belief that the beauty and dignity of our being, i.e. what gives us the respect we get from people, results from the flashy car and modern electronics we have acquired. We therefore tend to seek satisfaction in bottles of beer and women, and other material and vein things. All these may give us momentary satisfaction and pride as they fan our ego and give us the false sense of beauty and integrity. When they are blown away like dead leaves from the tree, as they surely will, we are stripped nude and exposed to the ridicule of nature and humans. With prayer as our cloak of beauty, our garment of dignity and integrity, our perfume of sweet smelling aura, come gale or storm, we remain clothed and stand out as the beautiful lilies of the valley. We are all familiar with the letter to the Hebrews 5:1-10, which often marks the beginning of our reflections on the priesthood. This passage is itself about the person of Christ rather than the priesthood per se, but nonetheless offers a great insight into a call to service that the priesthood is. This passage gives us an insight into who is called, from where he is called, what he is called to do, how he is called to do it, and most significantly, the fact that the call is not about him who is called but about the one who calls him. IT IS GOD WHO CALLS And nobody arrogates the honour to himself So it was with Christ: he did not confer upon himself the glory of becoming high priest; it was granted by God. (Heb.5:4-5). This is the first and most basic point that all priests need to take note of especially in a climate like ours today. A climate that is dominated by what some have referred to as a sense of priestly triumphantism, that is, the sense and carriage associated with many of us that suggests we have arrived and therefore in-charge. Therefore, we should be revered and honoured, giving the parishioners the
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impression that they need to be grateful to us for being priests and no matter what we do or say, they should always submit to our demands with a yes Fr. This is in fact a false sense of success and accomplishment. It is a wrong claim to what is not ours. It is an attempt to arrogate to ourselves a glory and honour that properly belongs to God. The call to the priesthood is not about the man who is called. It is about God who calls him. God loves his people and listens to their cry for help. He has called us as priest, to be, in some sense, His physical presence amongst those whom he so much loves and want to be with. The truth is that God does not really need us priests to be present among His people but He has chosen to use us as a symbol of His presence. In other words, it is not out of necessity that God chooses people to become priests so that He can be present among His beloved. It is just a matter of the way He wants it to be. Thus, we need to ask ourselves what glory has the clay in the hands of the potter or the pen in the hands of the scribe? It is not the clay that makes the pot, neither is it the pen that scribbles the words! The potter shapes the clay to make the pot as the scribe scribbles the words. The glory therefore goes not to the clay or the pen but to the potter and the scribe. The glory goes to God who calls and makes us priests as instruments of His presence among His people. When the Lord chose us from the many young men on earth to be priests, it was not because in any way we were better than the others he did not choose. The word of the Lord says, For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your God; of all the peoples on earth, you have been chosen by Yahweh your God to be his own people. Yahweh set his heart on you and chose you not because you were the most numerous of all the peoples indeed you were the smallest of all but because he loved you and meant to keep the oath which he swore to your ancestors: that was why Yahweh brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the place of slave labour, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Dt.7:6-8). Our call to be priests is not about anything special in us; intelligence, beauty, physical strength, popularity, wealth, or even holiness. But the Lord said to him, Take no account of it if he is handsome and tall; I reject him. (1Sam.16:7). God chose and anointed David who was the least and last of the sons of Jesse while rejecting the outwardly better qualified elder brothers. Human as we are, we look on the outward appearances but the Lord looks on the heart. And when He calls us, He calls us to be a people of the heart from whence comes true love and care. Thus, He was well pleased that Solomon asked for a heart not a head, to listen and to understand. (1Kg.3:9-10). This is what our call to the priesthood is all about; a heart with the skill to listen and understand what the Lord wants of us in relation to His people. We are called to listen to God and to His people. We listen to God who is calling us and to His people, whom He is calling us to serve. We may understand Gods call but it is not absolutely necessary that we do. What is important and absolutely necessary is that we listen and heed His call. Understanding is about the head, it is a rational endeavour, while listening on the other hand is of the heart, a willingness to accept the will of God for us and readiness to cooperate with His will. When there is a call there is a reason why the call is made. Without listening, we may never know why we are called. We then become victims of illusion thinking that we have made a choice, when in the real sense, the choice is Gods and we, rather than making a choice to be priests have
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been chosen by God to be priests. When He called Samuel, Samuel had to be prepared to listen before He spoke to him (1Sam.3:1-14). Like Samuel, we need to ask the Lord to speak to us as His servants who are prepared and disposed to listening. HOLINESS FOUNDED ON HUMILITY To be able to do this, we need first to rid ourselves of the false sense of priestly triumphantism and put on the humble cloak of a servant called by his master. That is to say, give up our pride and self aggrandizement and humbly submit to the one who has called us, to listen to Him as He sends us on a mission. Take not this honour upon yourself for you have been called by God. Our priestly holiness that is nourished by our prayer life finds a solid foundation on the humility that comes from our realization of this fact. That we were called and chosen and not the other way round i.e. that we made a choice. It is utmostly fundamental that we get rid of any idea in us that because we are priests, we should be respected and revered. It could be a serious stumbling block to our striving for holiness. To be conscious and deliberately work towards and even demand for respect may at best make some fear us. But fear is not what we are called to give the people of God. We are called to be a sign and symbol of Gods love. Thus, when the people of God fear us as priests, let us find out where something has gone wrong. This is not an invitation on the other hand to be weak and permissive of things that should not be so as to make the people to love us, but a call to shepherd the flock in love and care, uprightness and truth, justice and sincerity. True respect from the people we serve would naturally come when we are what we are called to be: holy men of God. The people of God will see in us a reflection of God. They will develop affection for a man they truly conceive as their link to God. They will have no doubts as to where to go when in difficulties and need someone to talk to. Most times, all they require from us is to just listen to them. They feel wanted, they feel dignified, they feel a sense of worth that a priest has the time to just sit and listen to their stories. There is no gain-saying some of these stories can go on unending and at times boring, and even lacking any sense. But listen to such stories all the same; you never know what process of healing is taking place in the depth of the heart of the person talking. To re-schedule appointments with parishioners seeking to speak to us is okay, but not because we need to attend to some clandestine matters, not worthy of our vocation, calling for our attention. Let our reasons for doing what we do be worthy and for the good of all concerned. WE ARE HUMAN Another dimension of the priesthood that the Letter to the Hebrews gives an insight into is the very fact of our humanness. Every high priest is taken from among men. We are human and not angels. We are subjects to human weakness and temptations, and we have to acknowledge this fact. To pretend about this would be dangerous and impede our struggle for holiness. But are we to wallow in our human weakness? That would pose a more serious danger. This is where again we realize our need to turn to God who has called us. He is aware of our unworthiness on account of our human frailty, yet called us. This means, He is ready to accommodate and take us as we are with the intention of shaping us into what He wants us to be.
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We can either resist Him or submit to Him. More often than not, we tend to resist Him. We live like we are not conscious of Him. We go away to distant countries and squander our lives in debauchery. But, God waits patiently for us to return home; then comes the moment of grace. Again, if we are not attentive and listening, this moment will pass us by. This moment of grace may be a scandal that we are involved in. It may be a moment of shame and disgrace that suddenly prompts us to question our very being and what we are. On the other hand, it may be a moment of joy when we have just achieved a great feat and getting compliments left, right and centre. We suddenly realize that this is God calling us to come back home and regain our dignity of sonship. Or as the case maybe, that with Him, we could achieve much more. At times, we really find it difficult to retrace our steps after our misdemeanors. We think God may not take us back or we have been a source of great loss and embarrassment to Him. But did God not actually say of Christ, This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased? (Mt.3:17). And was Jesus Christ actually not the prodigal son who had squandered all that he had and yet God is well pleased with him? (cf. Nouwen, 1992:58-61). THE PRODIGAL LOVE OF CHRIST Do not be surprised that I am bringing in Jesus as prodigal! Was he really not? He left with all his possessions and came to earth. Here, as man, a distant country from heaven his true home, he squandered all he had on sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. And at his death was left with nothing but a tunic for which the soldiers cast lot. When he had dispossessed himself of all his possessions, Jesus went back to the Father. For him, then, the time had come. Left with nothing, he had to go back to the Father. Well, he did not go back alone; he went back with all on whom he has invested his possessions. He went back with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. And the Father accepted him as a true and perfect sacrifice, as in his parable, the loving father welcomed back the prodigal son. I really think and agree with authors like Henri Nouwen who have suggested that Jesus parable of the prodigal son is the story of his own mission. This is the story of our salvation. Perhaps the difference would be that Jesus was prodigal by obedience to the will of the Father unlike the prodigal son of his parable who was prodigal out of disobedience. And also that Jesus did not squander his possessions on a life of debauchery but rather invested it all on those who live a life of debauchery. (cf. Nouwen, 1992). But did the prodigal father of his parable not accept the son back as the Father welcomed Jesus and his new friends back? Take other prodigals for instance; the likes of Simon Peter, Zaccheaus, and Mary Magdalene. What about Judas Iscariot? Yes, Judas was a prodigal who denied his master just as Simon Peter did. And as the life style of Zaccheaus, the tax collector and Mary Magdalene, the adulteress, did. Simon Peter held on to his dignity as a disciple and turned to the master asking for forgiveness as he wept bitterly. Zaccheaus and Mary Magdalene did the same as the prodigal son of the parable in his realization of his stupidity and wastefulness, yet recognized that he was still son of the Father. Judas lost this sense of belongingness. He could not imagine himself taken back; he could not imagine himself regaining his true place in the family, so he refused to try to go back. He condemned himself. The difference between him and the other prodigals is that while Judas
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condemned himself, the others did not condemn themselves. They gave it a trial to go back to the Father and ask to be forgiven even at the cost of losing their original places in the family. The Fathers idea is however different. Here are the children who were lost and have found their way back home. The Father quickly restored them to their original places in the family and rolled out the drums of celebration. Why do we resist to go back home? Why do we refuse to retrace our steps? Why do we think we are done in the sight of God because of our sins? Why do we not see the opportunity of a new beginning? In fact, it is the new beginning. It was for Simon Peter, it was for Zaccheaus, it was for Mary Magdalene. It is and should be for us all. Let us not forget that according to St. Paul, where sin abounds grace abounds the more. (Rom.5:20). Did not the prophet Isaiah say, though your sins may be like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be as crimson red, they will be white as wool? (Is.1:18). With this realization, we should never find it difficult to retrace our steps and the Fathers hands are spread wide open awaiting our return. The question is how much longer shall it take us to return? Today is the greatest opportunity as tomorrow may turn out not to be there. God who calls us to be priests knows us much more than we know our own selves. He does not cast us away on account of our iniquities or human weaknesses. In fact, in the first place, He would not have chosen us if that is what counts for Him. But He has chosen us, well aware of our shortcomings that in the realization of these shortcomings of ours we appreciate and deal patiently with the ignorant and erring. This constantly keeps us aware that we need to make sin offerings for ourselves as well as the people of God. This gives us another insight to this passage of the Letter to the Hebrews. We are called first to be holy and then to make Gods people holy. Holy priest holy people. To create a kingdom of holy people for God we need to be holy ourselves. To be holy we need to be prayerful. Let us not make mistakes about this as we often do when we rationalize matters. There is no alternative route to holiness than prayers. Prayer has been and always will be the key to priestly holiness and the holiness of Gods people. As we sing: Prayer is the key; prayer is the key, prayer is the master key. Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer, prayer is the master key. Jesus himself, the symbol and model of our priesthood gives us a perfect example of prayer life as the only route to holiness. The importance of prayer to Christ was so clear in his attitude of always taking out time to be with his Father in prayers, especially before any major event in his ministry. He also taught his disciples to do the same as he called them out to be on their own away from the crowd. Before his public ministry, he allowed himself to be led by the Spirit into the wilderness. After forty days of fast, he had a resounding victory over the tempter, a sign of his final victory over sin that was to come on Calvary. Christ at all times was open to the Spirit and listened to the Spirit. Thus, he said; The Spirit of the Lord is on me (Lk.4:18). Our path to holiness depends much more on our disposition to listening to the Spirit. The Spirit speaks to us at all times but the ability to hear him and discern his voice from the many voices of this world is very crucial, for indeed there are many voices in this world.
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voices that are loud, full of promises and very seductive. These voices say, Go out and prove that you are worth something. Soon after Jesus had heard the voice calling him the Beloved, he was led to the desert to hear those other voices. They told him to prove that he was worth love in being successful, popular, and powerful. Those same voices are not unfamiliar to me. They are always there and, always, they reach into those inner places where I question my own goodness and doubt my self-worth. They suggest that I am not going to be loved without my having earned it through determined efforts and hard work. They want me to prove to myself and others that I am worth being loved, and they keep pushing me to do everything possible to gain acceptance. They deny loudly that love is a totally free gift. I leave home every time I lose faith in the voice that calls me the Beloved and follow the voices that offer a great variety of ways to win the love I so much desire.(Nouwen, 1992:40) AVIOD BEING TOO BUSY We are often too busy minding our pastoral and other non-pastoral activities. Our world is characterized with so much activities that we could hardly afford or find time for quiet moments in which to listen and discern the voice of the Spirit. For the few of us that make efforts to pray the Office, we either say or recite it. We really do not pray it as we should; we are in a hurry to get back to work or perhaps other things. It becomes a mere fulfillment of an obligation. Thus, we fail as it were to benefit from the riches of the Psalms. They become boring poems of ancient times, at times, incoherent with the changing times in which we live and therefore not sensible. But still for the few that have learnt to actually pray and not just recite or say the Office, they find the richness of the voice of the Spirit speaking to their hearts. Each day, each time, they pray the Psalms of the Office; they discover a new insight and a new meaning. They hear again and again the Spirit speaking in fresh new voice. As priests striving for holiness, no matter the pressure of work, be it pastoral or social, ecclesial or civil, we should set aside specific times each day for prayer. As a rule, never go out to meet people until you go in to meet God. The truth remains that as priests, each time we go out to meet and work with and for people we need to take God to them. Whether they mention it to us or not, they always expect that from us. If however, we have not gone in to meet God ourselves, how do we expect to take Him to others? Never be too busy to pray. Never say later; later like tomorrow never comes; it is always in the future, for it is yet to be. As we are not expected to remain in the past that is forever gone, so we should not wait for the future that may never be. Always be in the present, for that is what we have. So later is never better even if it is; now is best. To push what you should do now to later is to refuse to live the present and the present ticks away with every passing second into the past. So, what happens is that we fail to live the present by pushing it into the future thereby wasting our present as it falls into the past. At the end we may loss not only the present but the future as well.
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It is quite true that the people need us now as they needed Christ in his time, yet he still took time off to be alone for a while so as to return to them renewed. Every moment we spend in prayer away from the busy environment of the parish, we come back to the same parish fuller in grace and stronger in faith to meet the demands of our pastoral ministry. The greatest gift we can offer to our parishioners is ourselves filled with the Spirit of God. Giving ourselves without the Spirit of God is to dish out recipes without the means to prepare them into a meal. They remain recipes and ultimately useless recipes. As James would say; what gain is it to say to a hungry and cold man, be satisfied and keep yourself warm without providing him with bread and clothing by which he is to be satisfied and be kept warm. (James 2:15). The situation in our ministry today is filled with excellent testimonies of great builders of beautiful structures, wonderful fund raisers, brilliant and eloquent preachers, and courageous social workers. It is however unfortunate that the same cannot be said of the most important thing of them all; holy men of God. There is no doubt that we have a handful of them here and there, but all of us are supposed to be holy priests before anything else. The prayer life of many of us over the years have become restricted to the celebration of the Eucharist, recitation of the office, at times once in a while, and maybe the rosary at times. Many of us seem not to have private prayer life. CALLED TO BE FAITHFUL AND NOT TO BE SUCCESSFUL These days we talk about successful priests in the context of their possessions and the structures they build, the amounts of funds they raise, the brilliant sermons they preach, and the social consciousness they arouse. These are definitely important but are they the true measure of priestly success? In fact, is the word success itself not a misnomer? Are we called, as priest to become successful? Our call is to be faithful and to be faithful is to be holy in the sight of God and men, to be one in God and one with God. Every structure not built on God, every fund not raised on God, every sermon not founded on the Spirit, every relations not based on Gods love, no matter how beautiful, how magnificent, how eloquent and how excellent, is bound to collapse. In vain the builder builds, if the Lord does not build the house. (Ps.127:1). Prayer is the amour of God by which we shield ourselves and blast into enemy territory to destroy sin and evil both in our lives and the lives of those placed in our care. St. Paul writes that we should take up Gods armour; then you will be able to stand your ground when things are at their worst, to complete every task and still to stand. (Eph.6:13). Having listed the content of the armoury, Paul concludes that prayer is what it all amounts to. So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the evil one. In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all Gods holy people. (Eph.6:14-18). I call on all of us priests today to be a people of prayer and thus constitute a holy nation, a priestly people, Gods chosen people and in turn pass this holiness to the people we are called to serve. Forget what your past has been. The truth is that God called us and bears us; He carries us as a father carries his son. (Dt.1:31). Consider how a mother bears her baby on her back in a busy city
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centre. The child completely oblivious of any dangers around, sucks away turns left and right struggles to free one leg or the other and just enjoys himself/herself; simply not bordered about anything because of the trust that he/she has in the mothers care. And the mother keeps ensuring that the baby is safe behind her; that the stripe is tight and no matter how reckless the baby is that he/she does not fall off her back; that no one stretches a hand to hurt the baby. This recalls the words of the Psalmist; You need not fear the terrors of night, the arrow that flies in the day time, the plague that stalks in the darkness, the scourge that wreaks havoc at high noon (Ps.91:5-6). We are like babies on the back of their mother who is God. We may have been really reckless and careless, troublesome and rascally, but God bares us and carries us ensuring no harm comes to us. After all, He has carved us on the palm of His hand such that even if the mother forgets the child in her womb, He will never forget us. (Is.49:15-16). Should we remain babies forever? Should we not grow up and allow God enjoy us as we become peaceful and less troublesome and therefore calm in the presence of the Lord? The past was the age of our babiness let the present be the age of our maturity. The age of maturity is the age in which we strive for holiness as our heavenly Father is holy. Be holy for I your God is holy. In our striving for holiness, the question is not for us to find God but to allow ourselves be found by God, to allow ourselves be known by God and be loved by God. It is time for us priests to simply allow God into our lives so that He can make us truly holy priests for His people. HOLY PEOPLE The call to holiness is not a call for the priest alone; it is a call that goes out to all Gods people. So parishioners should strive after the example of their priests, even in the absence of this example, they should make personal efforts to be holy. Needless to say that many parishioners contribute to the waywardness and indifference in many priests. Beginning with the man who would not give the priest peace of mind because the priest must account for every kobo he spends in the parish, to the C.W.O. woman who cannot stop spreading rumours and stories about who goes into the rectory, at what time and how and when the person came out. Of course the choir girl who wants to know what it would feel like to get down with the priest. The C.Y.O.N. young man cannot but feel resentment that too many girls go easily in and out of the rectory therefore something must be going on there. Maybe, just maybe, these are true or maybe, they are stories resulting from jealousy and envy. Be that which they may be, our call as Christian people is to build in love and not to destroy in hatred and envy. Praying for the priest is a better option than making a public issue of his shortcomings, which ultimately destroys him and along with him, a lot of others who have put their hopes in him. It seems some of us parishioners feel a sense of victory and satisfaction when our priest falls from grace to grass. Have we ever thought of how God feels in situations like this? Do we think He smiles with us at what has happened? Or perhaps gives us a part on the back for a job well done in helping to bring disgrace and shame to a priest? Well we have to compare this portrait of God with that of a God who welcomes sinners and dines with tax collectors and prostitutes. I rather think God will bend down and pick up His priest than applaud those who have dug his pitfall. Such a picture of God looks more like Him who said to Zaccheaus, come down for today I shall dine
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in your house (Lk.19:1-10) and to the woman caught in adultery, has no one condemned you, neither do I, go and sin no more. (Jn 8:10-11). This picture looks more like that of the Father of the prodigal son who runs out to meet him having sighted him from afar. The prodigal father did not even give a thought to what the son is coming back to do; perhaps to ask for more, or even murder the father to steal what is left. He did not spare a thought for that because it is not in His character to do so. What is in His character is to think of the positive side always. Thus, he rather most likely thought of the fact that the son has come back in repentance. So, he goes out to meet him and welcome him back and how right he was! Though God does not praise you for helping to expose His priest and bring him down for his sinfulness, after all, does He really need you to do that for Him if that is what He wants? He also strangely does not condemn you either because again it is not in His character to do that. He comes out to you as the father came out again to the prodigal elder brother, urging him to come inside and join in the celebration. God does not wish that a sinner should die in his sins but to turn away from wrong and be saved. Thus, He would always extend the invitation to the sinner to come in to His presence and receive salvation. I hope I have not disrupted your understanding of the parable of the prodigal son by referring to the elder brother as prodigal? He was indeed as prodigal as the younger brother who asked for his share of the inheritance and went to a far away country to squander it on a life of debauchery. It is true that he was always with the father and had always done the fathers wish but he has nursed resentment and hatred in his heart; resentment against his father and younger brother. Resentment against his father because he has internally craved recognition, praise, and acknowledgement, but the father had never given him even a calf for him and his friends to celebrate. And here his younger brother whom he disowns as this son of yours no longer his own brother, returns from nowhere after greatly insulting the father and wished him dead, and the father orders a celebration. He resented his younger brother for his audacity and courage to be disobedient to the father and had wasted his inheritance on a life of debauchery. How dare their father kills the cow they have been fattening to celebrate the return of a scoundrel son! He cannot forgive the father who has been so mean to forgive his younger brother. He would not even allow himself be associated with this celebration. Is this not being prodigal too? Is this not the attitude of parishioners who keep condemning the excesses of the priest? Fortunately, God is not like us, He forgives the excesses of the priest and picks him from the floor after the parishioners have given him a stud that sends him rolling on the floor. And then the good God turns on the parishioners and ask them to come in and celebrate the recovery of a lost son even though they had contributed to his been lost. It is kind of strange that Jesus did not tell us whether the elder son accepted the fathers invitation to join in the recovery party or not. Neither did he tell us whether the younger son remained faithful and obedient to the father afterwards or not. He left these options open. Herein comes our freedom to choose to listen to the voice of the Lord that calls us to repentance or not. We are absolutely free to join in as the father of the prodigals made it clear but whether we join in or not is our choice.

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We are invited to change our ways and be holy but with the possibility of an R.S.V.P. So, if it is the case that we are just married and have to go for our honeymoon, or we have just acquired a field and need to commence development there immediately. Maybe we need to say goodbye first to our parents and friends, or one of us just died and needs to be buried, and etc. The choice is ours to accept the invitation to holiness, prayer, and righteousness or not. HOLY PARISH The call to holiness as the call to prayer is a call for all and sundry. The Church, as the people of God gathered together in love has prayer as the blood that runs through the veins of this body of Christs faithful. As a prayerful and holy priest transmits the Spirit of God to his parishioners, so a prayerful and holy parishioner transmits the graces of the Spirit to the priest and the whole community is enlivened with the Holy Spirit. There is life in the parish as the light of the Spirit shines on all and through all. There is health and joy in the parish as the fresh gentle breeze of the Spirit blows across and caresses everyone; priest and parishioners alike. The presence of God is felt; the kingdom of God is built in and through a holy priest and a holy people and a holy parish community evolves.

NOTES AND REFERENCES All Bible references from Christian Community Bible, (2000), (Philippines: Claretian Publications) 2. Henri J. M. Nouwen, (1992), The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Home Coming, (Bandra: St. Paul Press)
1.

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CHAPTER EIGHT THE MINISTER OF GOD FOR THE 21ST CENTURY


(A Reflection shared as Vocations Director with aspirants to the priesthood and religious life in 2005)

It is appropriate and fitting that as we progress into the 21st century which is already characterized by events that are bound to change the face of the earth and thus human relations, men and women of God, especially those with special ministries like priests and religious, should re-examine their call and ministries in view of catching up with the world. This is to make them remain relevant agents of God in sustaining human faith in God and be signs of Gods presence in a world that is fast decaying. The century opened with dangerous acts of terrorism, an amazing spate of moral laxity, unbridled glorification of material wealth, all with its attendant pollution of humanity. As circumstances change, approaches to particular issues would have to change as well. We cannot continue to address issues arising from new circumstances the same old way. Our proffered solutions would become obsolete in the face of those seeking the will of God in the face of these new challenges. It is within this context that we need to address the issue of the kind of priests and religious that are better suited for this century. It should be immediately noted here that we are not talking about changing the concept of the priesthood or religious life. Rather we are talking about a more appropriate way the ministry of priests and religious would be exercised especially pastorally
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that priests and religious may continue to be for the people of God, plagued by the challenges of this century, a light shining inside a dark tunnel. A priest we know is first among other things, a man of God. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, he is a man taken from among men and appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God. (Heb.5:1). This applies also to male and female religious. The implication of this statement is that men and women of God with special ministries like ours and the ones you young boys and girls aspire to, are in the world though not of the world. We should never lose sight of this fundamental fact. Still drawing from the Letter to the Hebrews, the minister of God should be only, and nothing else, at all times, a man and woman of God. That is to say, that the people he ministers to should be able to see in him or her, without extra effort, one who is close to God. Seeing you as close to God, the people are confident to approach you to mediate between them and God. You should be able to take their petitions, praises, and thanks to God on their behalf. A necessary corollary to this is the fact that men and women of God in the 21st century should be morally upright and financially transparent. Moral uprightness and financial transparency should be noticed at one glance by the people of God to whom they minister. This is very important, for if they are not above board and in fact, seen to be above board, the confidence of the people in them will fail. The men and women of God in the 21st century are definitely going to be dealing with a more enlightened audience than what the 20th century had. To meet up with this challenge, they should be enlightened persons. They cannot afford to fool around before Gods people or make a parade of intellectual ignorance while chatting or counseling people. Let us not delude ourselves that the people do not know, they know, and some actually know more than we do. Majority of the children of God are experts in their various fields of operation, while ministers are not called to compete with them, they should at least be knowledgeable enough to interact in meaningful discussions and offer useful advice with practical relevance to the issue at stake. In line with the last point, the men and women of God in the 21st century should be scholarly. They should be abreast with developments in the various fields of study. Obviously they cannot be experts in all the fields of study, but they should make sincere attempts to know the current developments in all fields relating to human activities. The reason is simply that these developments have corresponding moral implications and thus raise new moral questions in human life. The people of God will always seek clarifications over these developments in relations to their moral life. Following from the above, the men and women of God in this century should be adequately educated. Not just literate, they should be cultured and refined in behaviour. The world is getting to a stage where primitive and unrefined attitudes and behaviour would be publicly reproached on the spot. Finally, since the world from all indications is more and more charismatic, the men and women of God cannot afford to be cold and lukewarm. They need not only excel in their area, they should try
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to develop their talents to the fullest for the good and growth of the people of God. They should develop new and charismatic methods to catch the attention of the men and women of this age. It is only when you have their attention; you can share with them the goodnews.

CHAPTER NINE REDISCOVERING OUR PRIESTLY IDENTITY AND RESPONSIBILITY IN A VASTLY MATERIALISTIC WORLD
(A Reflection given at the Monthly Recollection of the Clergy of Auchi Diocese at St. Jude, Afuze. 2004)

The question I wish to ask and attempt to answer here is why am I a priest? It sounds simple and straight to the point and many of us would have ready answers to it. Our answers may range from spiritual to theological explanations. Some of our answers might just betray a tint of political and economic colouring. This would not be surprising especially in the light of current trends, which sadly to say, indicate that some of us have lost focus and urgently need to re-examine our call and our response to this call. I want to begin by proposing the gospel of Luke 5:1-11 as the rotating point of this reflection. It is more likely to be true than false that all of us here today preached a sermon based on this particular passage of scripture two Sundays ago. One day, as Jesus stood by the lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around him listening to the word of God, he caught sight of two boats left at the waters edge by the fishermen now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There he sat and continued to teach the crowd. When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch. Simon replied, Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets. This they did and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help
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them. They came and filled both boats almost to the point of sinking. Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus knees, saying, Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made and so were Simons partners, James and John, Zebedees sons. Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on. So they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything. There are five expressions here I wish to return to later, offering both theological and spiritual explanations on them as they relate to our priesthood. But before then, let us briefly consider the issue of our priestly identity. We are priests because God has called us. It is true that the entire people of God are a holy people and therefore constitute a royal priesthood. This priesthood is however different from our ministerial priesthood. Our ministerial priesthood is not derived from our baptism, which made us children of God and members of the body of Christ, nor from our confirmation, which strengthens us in our Christian endeavour. It is not derived from the Christian community to which we already belong. It is derived from the fact that God has already called us for reasons best known to Him. And that another priest, a high priest, who has the fullness of the priestly power, laid his hands on us and pronounced the sacred words of consecration over us. Our priesthood should therefore be an unreserved gift of ourselves to God on our part. By our consecration, we are made true priests of the New Testament. Our priesthood is to consist in preaching the gospel, sustaining the people of God and celebrating the sacred rites. Our priesthood is and should never be a side-occupation. While addressing the World Council of Churches, Pope Paul VI said, My name is Peter. The people knew what he meant, he knew what he meant, i.e. he knows who he is. He was not seeking identity. As priests, we should know who we are. So, who are we? We are priests of God; we are other Christ. Our name is Christ. The priest is first and foremost, beyond and above every other thing, a man of God and not a man for others or a man of the people. He is only a man for others or a man of the people when he is living for others because he is living for God. He is only a man for others when he loves others because he first loves God. In the scriptures, we read that Jesus was given over to the service of others because he was completely given over to His father. If the priest is another Christ, if he wants to be a man for others, as he must, he must first be a man of God, a man of prayer, a man of holiness. (Pimenta, 1999:14). A priest is the instrument and minister of Christ. He is not to be measured by an intellectual, spiritual or physical paradigm. All these come in different sizes, ages, weights, and these days, dress. The measure of a priest lies in the kind of instrument he is in the hands of God. The kind of instrument a priest is in Gods hands is viewed from two dimensions; (i) the vertical dimension, and (ii) the horizontal dimension. The vertical dimension identifies him with Christ while the horizontal dimension relates him to the needs of the people. Today, there is a dangerous trend, especially among the younger priests, to overemphasize the horizontal dimension and thereby minimize the vertical dimension. This trend
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is given expression in the inordinate desire for popularity and acceptance, which is manifested through various outlets. Some of these outlets include: i. ii. iii. iv. Celebrating the liturgy outside the provisions of the rubrics, all to gain admiration of the people. Organizing crusades and all nights to the detriment of normal pastoral activities in the parish. Flippancy in the midst of the lay faithful, in which priests run down fellow priests (in some cases, their Bishop), seeking sympathy. Wanting to associate with the wealthy and influential of the society, etc.

We should note an important fact, that a priest who forgets the vertical thrust or pushes it to the background, and highlights only the horizontal dimension, is doing so at the risk of his very vocation. (ibid. 17). There must be a proper balance of both dimensions. In fact, the balance is such that the horizontal dimension rests on the vertical dimension from which it gets inspiration and being. Our priesthood is a mystery of Gods presence and availability to His beloved people and children. This mystery, i.e. the mystery of the priesthood is summed up in three simple concepts, (i) vocation, (ii) ordination, and (iii) mission. As noted above, our priesthood is, and should never b a side-occupation. The truth is that the priesthood, properly speaking is not even an occupation. It is a vocation, a call, a call by God, a call by Christ, and a call by the Church. This is not a call to do something; it is a call to be something. If it were a call to do something, it would be an occupation, a job, a profession, and perhaps, a career. But it is a call to be something. A call that demands we remain in a particular state, a perpetual state of being. What is this state of being? Follower-ship follower-ship of Christ. In this state of follower-ship, a job is done. Our positive response to this call to be must have upset some attractive plans we may have had for life. I am sure all of us here may have a story or another of what we wanted to be prior to our choice of the priesthood. It is not impossible that some of us still nurse and cherish such idea, but the fact remains that today, this is what we are, Priests! The existential fact, i.e. that we are priests may have robbed us the company of our dear ones and peers. It has made us renounce sexual love; we must own up though that very many of us are not faithful to this renouncement. It has more importantly made us exceptional individuals, nearer to the angels, at least by virtue of our priestly character, if not by our life style, than to men of this world. To enable us remain in this state of being and fulfil our vocation, our priestly ordination makes us into vehicles of the divine action. It enables us to dispense the mysteries of God. As dispensers of Gods mysteries, we become bearers of a mission. This mission consists in service for the one who bestows the mission came not to be served but to serve. (Mk 10:45). Our mission is principally that of mediation, mediation between God and the people. In our mission, the fact becomes clearer that the priesthood is not just a personal dignity or an end in itself. It is rather a ministry meant for the church, the community, the brethren and the world. Let us at this point return to the gospel of Luke 5:1-11. There is a clear distinction in this passage between (i) when Jesus was not around, and (ii) when Jesus was around. Master we worked hard
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all night and caught nothing. This captured the frustration on the mind of the fishermen at their lack of success after a long and fruitless nights job. But with the presence of Jesus, they recorded such a huge success. The irony here is that it was a carpenter, whose profession deals with nails, harmer and wood not nets, boats and water that pointed out to the fishermen, who are supposed to be experts in their own field where to pay in the nets for an embarrassingly huge catch. Put into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch. Jesus told Simon and his companion. Commentaries seem to be agreed on the phenomenon that played itself out here. It is the phenomenon of sight; deep insight, we may call it. Simon and his colleagues did not see what Jesus saw because they lacked the sight ability. It is said that many people saw an apple fall; only Isaac Newton went on to think out the law of gravity. The same way many people saw steam raise the lid of a kettle; only James Watt went on to think of a steam engine. (cf. Barclay, 1975:57). Jesus did not suddenly put the haul of fish in the lake, he just had the keen eyes that saw and understood. My brothers, we are priests, other Christs. Like Jesus, we are supposed to have that keen insight to see the needs of the people of God. But what do we see in our vastly materialistic world today? We see our needs. We do not see the needs of the people; rather we see our own needs to acquire irrelevant properties. Some of which we may never make use of because they are not or may never be necessary for us. The annoying part of it, is that as we focus attention on our needs and are thereby blinded to the needs of those we are suppose to see, we begin to affiliate with those who can satisfy these personal needs. And what do we then hear from the lips of many of us, some of my friends, the list of these friends never leave space for the poor. Let us not deceive ourselves by rationalizing, as some of us may be wont to do right now. Just within yourself, quickly make a list of those you sent Christmas cards to during the last yuletide and perhaps you might understand what I mean. The materialism of our present world has caught up with a good number of us priests and we are blind-folded to our responsibilities. It is pathetic that in our days many of us priest no longer make efforts to be different from others. We want to be thought of as being the same. My brothers, it is true that we are human and taken from among men, (Heb.5:1), it is however also true that having been chosen, we have been set apart. We have been set apart so we are different, whether we like it or not. We are priests! In our dressing, in our attitudes and behaviours, in our speeches, people are no longer able to distinguish us from others. Where is the difference? Why is it that we want to return to where God has taken us from? He has called us and set us apart, we cannot be apart and still remain with that from which we are set apart from! We are set apart to be with them in a different mode of being, guiding and leading them to God; so that they may not be like sheep without shepherd. The issue is not really what we wear, the issue is not what we do, the issue is not what we say; the issue is how we wear what we wear, how we do what we do, how we say what we say. There should be decorum, awareness, a recollection, a sign of a gentleman around a priest, every time, everywhere. A priest, for instance, should not be known to be flippant, a priest should not be known to be gullible, and a priest should not be known to be garrulous or loquacious. Let us not even talk about a priest being jealous, a priest being envious, a priest telling lies, a priest stealing or a gossipy priest.
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My brothers, none of us is worthy but yet God saw us and from among the very many choices available to Him, He chose us, not because we were the best fitted for Him, but because, He wanted us for Himself so that through us, He would be available to many more. Simon realized this and he said, Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! But the Lord replied, Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on. Indeed, we are sinful men, but that is not Gods problem, because, God can without efforts turn us around. The only requirement is our willingness to allow Him turn us around. This willingness is demonstrated in our detachment from material things to follow him. Simon and his colleagues brought their boats to the land and followed him, leaving everything. Our vow of poverty, which is theologically translated as evangelical simplicity should have taken care of that, but it appears like we are hardly conscious of this vow. The craze that many priests today have developed for material things and possessions is assuming an alarming dimension. Rather than leave everything, we want to have everything, the Englishman would tell us that we cannot have our cake and eat it. We want to have the admiration of the people. We want the people to think we are better than the other priest. We want them to praise us and say we are successful. We want acclamation. We do not need these. They distract us from what we are and make us loss focus of what our responsibilities are. What we need is the spirit that will make efforts, the spirit that is willing to follow the master despite all odds. That was the spirit of Simon and his colleagues. Despite the failure of their hard efforts through the night, they were still willing to make more efforts at the request of the master. My brothers, let us remain truly relevant in the areas where we should be relevant and stop competing in areas where our identity makes us bulls in a China shop. May the Lord who has called us be our strength and guide. Amen.

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NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. Cardinal Simon Pimenta, (1999), Priest For Ever; A Collection of Homilies on Priesthood, (Bandra: St. Paul Press). 2. William Barclay, (1975), The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke, (Bangalore: Theological Publications).

RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING 1. CONNOLLY, Sean. 2001. Simple Priesthood, Staten Island NY: St. Pauls. 2. COZZENS, Donald. 2000. The Changing Face of the Priesthood, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press. 3. FALLON, Michael. 2001. A Priest After My Own Heart, Bandra: St. Pauls. 4. MAESTRI, William F. 1989. A Priest to Turn to: Biblical and Pastoral Reflections on the Priesthood, Staten Island NY: St. Pauls. 5. OREDIPE, Paul Kehinde. 2003. Being in Love: Celibacy in Principle and Practice. IperuRemo: The AMBASSADOR Publications. 6. PIMENTA, Simon. 1999. Priest For Ever; A Collection of Homilies on Priesthood, Bandra: St. Paul Press.

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CHAPTER TEN THE HOLY EUCHAIST: FROM MEDITATION TO IMMITATION


A talk delivered to the faithful of Auchi Diocese on the occasion of the celebration of the Year of the Eucharist / Rosary Carnival at St. Philips Catholic Church, Jattu.

INTRODUCTION In this discussion, we shall first try and understand the meaning of the Eucharist; this would be largely theoretical drawing as much as possible from the scripture. Secondly, we shall look at the implication of the Eucharist for us Catholics, as it relates to our everyday lives, especially in this Year of the Eucharist. I want us to examine the account of the Lords Supper as we have it in the synoptic gospels and the Pauline account and the account of the washing of feet in the gospel of St. John; an event that took place at the Lords Supper, which John preferred to relate instead of the Supper itself as the Synoptic evangelists did. The Synoptic accounts call us to meditation while the account of John calls us to action. Thus, we can re-title this talk The Holy Eucharist: From Meditation to Action. Our action here is to imitate Christ. WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST? According to the simple catechism, the Holy Eucharist is the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, together with his soul and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine. Jesus Christ, at the Lords Supper instituted the Eucharist. At the ceremony of this institution, he broke bread and gave it to his disciples saying This is my body, take it and eat. (Mt 26:26). He did the same with the cup of wine. (Mt 26:28). He asked his disciples to do this always in memory of me. At Mass; the Mass is also another name for the Holy Eucharist, when the ordained priest repeats this action of Christ the material species of bread and wine are transformed into the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Church calls this Transubstantiation. Christ instituted the Eucharist and entrusted it to the Church, his beloved spouse. The Holy Mass, also referred to as the Eucharist, (the Lords Supper) is the centre point and summit of Catholic worship and in fact, the Christian life. (VC II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n.11). It is the
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greatest treasure of the Church. The source of the Churchs power and the visible sign on which the Churchs unity is built. It is both a sacrifice and a meal. In the Eucharist, the Church keeps alive the sacrifice of Christ that perfectly achieves our salvation at Calvary and enables her members to share in the sacred banquet of the body and blood of Christ to which Christ himself in John 6:32-58 invites us to partake. (cf. Dupuis, 2001:605). The Eucharist contains Christ himself, who in it is present to the Church not merely by power of his grace but in the reality of his glorified humanity. (ibid.) Contrary to the opinion held in some quarters that the Holy Mass detracts from the uniqueness of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary; it rather enhances it, keeps it alive and applies its power. As the documents of the Second Vatican Council (Vat. II) puts it, it is the source, centre and summit not only of our individual and community Christian life, but also the source, centre and summit of all evangelization. This means a whole lot. To call it the source means that our very Christian life, both as individuals and as a community begins from the Eucharist. And as the centre, our lives revolve round the Eucharist. As the summit, our lives end with the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice on the cross. By virtue of this sacrifice, Jesus pours out the graces of salvation on his body the Church. The Eucharist is a memorial of Christs Passover the work of salvation accomplished by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is the food of the soul. It strengthens us against the evil one and transforms us into Christ, for it is Christ who gives himself for the world, which we receive at communion (Holy Eucharist). We are in turn, like Christ, to give ourselves for the world. How do we do this? By living and doing everything as though it was Christ living and doing them. The actual and faithful reception of the Eucharist increases grace and adds to the perfection of the spiritual life. The reception of the Eucharist is absolutely necessary for us since Christ himself is the very source of life. The Holy Eucharist binds us closely to Christ provided we receive it worthily and it gives us eternal life. (Jn 6:52). We should therefore, hold the Eucharist in the highest honour. Make it a duty to daily participate in the sacrifice of the Mass and receive the Eucharist with great devotion and reverence it with the greatest adoration. During the First World War newspapers reported so much about the crowds of soldiers who daily attend the services of Catholic Chaplains. This caught the attention of non-Catholics who then started questioning why Catholics attend Mass so faithfully. The fact is that anyone who has a full appreciation of what is involved and what takes place at Mass cannot but be grateful to God for this great treasure. Unfortunately as it is, this treasure seems hidden to many; Christians and non-Christians alike. It is poorly understood by many of those who seem to have found this treasure. Like the man who found a treasure in one of the parables of Jesus, (Mt. 13:44-46) hid it again, went home and sold off all he had so as to raise enough money to secure the land for himself and thereafter take possession of the treasure, so we are supposed to value the Mass. Such an attitude as this is however, only possible when we know the value and worth of what we have. In his profession of faith, Pope Pius IV, had this to say concerning the Mass,
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I also profess that in the Mass there is offered to God a true sacrifice, properly speaking, which is propitiatory for the living and the dead, and that in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the body and blood together with the soul and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly, really and substantially present, and that there takes place a change (conversio) of the whole substance of wine into the blood; and this change the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation. I also confess that under each species alone (sub altera tantum specie) the whole and entire Christ and the true sacrament is received. I have highlighted several aspects of the Eucharist and I want to pick them one after the other for a little more detailed understanding. ON THE INSTITUTION OF THE HOLY MASS: For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. And in the same way, with the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me. When you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lords death until he comes. Therefore anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily is answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. (1Cor. 11:23-27). I am sure that anyone who has heard about the man Jesus would equally have heard about the Lords Supper. Though Jesus is not synonymous with the Lords Supper, it is however true that you cannot think of the Lords Supper independently of Jesus Christ. Here St. Paul reports an account that is most closely connected with the Lords Supper. He refers to it as a tradition he received from Christ; at least, it was not part of the dialogue between himself and Christ on his way, to Damascus. (Act 9: 1-9). Paul is simply referring to tradition that dates back to the Lord. As he did in 1Cor.15:3-7 where he talks about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul is using the technical terminology of the rabbis for the passing on of tradition. From all indications, he was quoting the earliest Christian tradition about the Eucharist. And for those familiar with the writings of St. Paul, the language used here is not typical of him. At the Last Supper, (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25 & Lk. 22:19-20) when everybody had settled down at table; after washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus took bread, said the blessing and gave it to his disciples as his body. The same he did with the cup of wine and he said whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me. Jesus Christ thus invited his disciples with whom he shared his Lords Supper to continue what they have seen him do. The invitation is not an ordinary one, it was an invitation backed with authority to do as he has done. And they did; for the description of the early Christian community highlighted it as one of the identifying marks of the early Church. (Acts 2:42).
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The Lords Supper was a solemn and great occasion. It was as solemn as what obtains when a father gathers his children around his deathbed to give them a final instruction. He tells them the yet unknown secrets of the family and points to family possessions unknown to the children. In the same way Christ gathered his apostles around himself, just before he walked the long and painful way of the cross to his vicarious death. The apostles were his closest associates; he gathered them to give them the final lesson on the path to life. But most importantly, he gathered them to bequeath to humankind through his apostles a memorial service. Catholics do not doubt the fact that the Holy Mass is a true sacrifice instituted by Christ at the Lords Supper and that as a sacrifice; it is to perpetuate the memory, i.e. to keep alive, the memory of the sacrifice of the cross. The general council of Trent in its 22nd session upheld that the Holy Mass is not a sacrifice independent of the cross. As a matter of fact, it is the sacrifice of the cross that is now offered by the Church following the command of Christ, whenever the Church celebrates the ritual of the Lords Supper in which Christ offered himself. (Dupuis, 2001:625) THE MASS AS A MEMORIAL SACRIFICE: The Mass is a living memorial of Christs saving death, a sacrifice of the people and a sacrifice for the people. It is a sacrifice because it re-enacts the death of Christ on the cross. In his death, Christ offered himself as a living oblation, a spotless lamb, to appease humankinds sin. It is in this respect that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is one and the same sacrifice with that of Christ on the Cross. When we talk about sacrifice here, we are talking about the offering of a victim in form of a visible gift. This Christian sacrifice the Mass, is the offering of a victim by a priest, to God alone. In this case, the victim is Christ himself under the appearances of bread and wine as Christ himself did at the Last Supper. Among our people, the concept of a sacrifice had for a long time been tied to traditional worship of idols. As such, it carries a negative connotation in Christian circles. Any mention of sacrifice immediately suggests idolatry. Within this context, the use of the concept for the Holy Mass has created some difficulties for some people. Hence I deem it fit to make a little preliminary explanation about sacrifice in the scripture, maybe it will help to better understand our discussion. The question of a religious sacrifice has been in existence throughout humankinds history. This fact is true even of primitive man who in popular thinking is seen as uncultured. As a matter of fact, primitive man was quite sensible, child-like and intelligent as opposed to the beastly, savage, and ferocious picture many history books tend to present of him. The fact of the existence of religious sacrifice of some kind is also true of great and ancient civilizations and their religions. With the exception of a certain form of Buddhism, religious sacrifice is an essential part of different religions in ancient and contemporary times. The Hindu religion of Vedism and Brahmanism, the Persian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions all bear witness to this fact. In a special way, the Hebrew religion of Judaism, this immediately preceded Christianity, does.

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Among the Hebrews, sacrifice was a frequent practice. The Old Testament gives in fair details, the rules by which the sacrificial rites are to be performed. The book of Leviticus for instance, chronicles the rules for peace offerings (Lev. 3), sacrifices of ignorance (Lev. 4), sacrifices for expiation of various sins (Lev. 5), and sacrifices for sins of injustice (Lev.6). There were also sacrifices for expiation of trespasses and in thanksgiving for some favour (Lev. 7). The Old Testament actually gives a narration of various and individual sacrificial offerings. These include the offerings of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-4, Heb. 11:4) and go through to the sacrifice of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-19), the eternal priest. (Heb.7:3). With the coming of Moses; Gods chosen instrument in liberating his people from Egypt, the land of bondage, sacrificial offerings took a definite form as outlined in the five chapters of the book of Leviticus mentioned above. Afterwards, an official priesthood (those in the order of Levites and the house of Aaron) was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. This is the context that the offering of the religious sacrifice we read in scripture concerning the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the sacrifice of Joseph and Mary falls into. (Lk. 2:22-27). The idea of religious sacrifice was carried over to the New Testament, but it took a new dimension. Jesus Christ in Mt. 5:17 said, Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them, meaning that he has neither come to destroy nor consecrate the Old Testament, but to give it a new and definitive form by his teaching and way of acting. This is to ensure that the goal of the law and prophets are fully realised. In accordance with his claim (cf. Mt. 5:17), Jesus Christ instituted a new and perfect form of Christian religious sacrifice. While not throwing out the idea of a religious sacrifice, he replaced the rather imperfect sacrifices of the Old Testament referred to in the letter to the Hebrews 7:18; 10:1-10 with a new and perfect sacrifice, which is the sacrifice of the New Law. At this point, it becomes important to note that as a sacrifice, the Holy Mass is to be tridimensionally understood. It is first of all, the sacrifice of the New Law. Secondly, it is the sublime sacrifice of Christ himself. Thirdly, it is the sacrifice of the people and for the people. THE MASS AS THE SACRIFICE OF THE NEW LAW: The event of the Lords Supper is a very unique and significant one. It took place at the time when the Jews celebrated the Passover, a celebration in memory of their liberation from Egypt. It was at this memorial celebration that Christ instituted the Mass; the new and perfect sacrifice of the New Law. The Lords Supper thus marked the last of the Old Law and signifies the first of the New Law. At the announcement of the Law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, Moses sprinkled half of the blood of the slaughtered bullocks on the altar and on the people saying; This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you (Ex.24:8). At the Lords Supper, where and when the sacrifice of the New Law was instituted, Christ took bread, said the blessing broke it and gave it to his disciples saying; Take it and eat, this is my body. Then he took the cup filled with wine, having given thanks he gave it to his disciples and said, Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sin. (cf. Lk.22:19-20, Mt.
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26:26-29, Mk.14:22-25). Following what he has done, Christ gave his disciples the authority to do the same as he said; do this in remembrance of me. (Lk.22:19, 1 Cor. 11:23-26). Jesus Christ referred to the cup of wine as his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. This reference is understood in the light of the bitter experience of Calvary, which he was soon after going to embrace. And by which he won salvation for humankind by his vicarious death. In the Old Passover celebration, the paschal lamb was slain and eaten, but in the perfect sacrifice of the New Law, Christ changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood. THE MASS AS THE SUBLIME SACRIFICE OF CHRIST HIMSELF: On Calvary, Christ offered himself as a great sacrifice to God for our salvation. The Mass is therefore not just a sacrifice of the New Law; it is the sublime sacrifice of Christ who freely gave up himself on the cross. (cf. Phil. 2:8). That is to say, Christ was both the priest who offered the sacrifice and the victim offered as sacrifice on the cross. Following the basic understanding of sacrifice, an object of offering is always involved the sacrificial victim. In the case of the Mass, Christ himself is the sacrificial victim. At every Mass, Christ is there, present on the altar as the acceptable and infinitely more perfect and sublime offering that can be made to the Father as compared to the sacrificial victims of the Old Testament. As the letter to the Hebrews says: The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement, may restore their bodily purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God (Heb. 9:1314). In fact, the whole of Hebrews 10:1-18 explains the efficacy of Christs sacrifice as compared to the ineffective sacrifices of the Old Testament. In the same vein, St. Peter talks of the precious blood of the blameless and spotless lamb by which the price of humankinds ransom from futile way of life was paid. (1 Peter 1:18-19). In relation to the Lords Supper where Christ talked about shedding his blood for humankind, the Mass is seen as most closely connected with the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. The meaning of this is that any time the Mass is celebrated, the same offering as at Calvary is repeated, Jesus Christ being the divine victim. And it is done for the same purpose for which Christ died the forgiveness of sins and the glory and honour of God. The only difference between Calvary and the altar on which Mass is celebrated is that the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is presented in an unbloody manner at Mass. Christ having died once at Calvary does not die again at Mass. The consecration of the bread and the wine however symbolize his death, for it figures out the separation of his blood from his body. Christs death at Calvary is not the end of his love for humankind. His life is a continuous sacrificing of himself both before and after his death. Calvary is the supreme realization of his offering. At Mass, Christ continues to renew innumerable times, the offering of himself, for our salvation and Gods glorification. The continuous renewal of the offering of himself is not an indication that his offering has not been acceptable (it is rather impossible that his offering is unacceptable) but an opportunity for us to be freely united with the death of Christ for our sins. This is necessary for it recognises the gift of free will given to us by God. Sin being a result of
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misuse of free will; the salvation of individual members of the human race is also to result from free choice. THE MASS AS THE SACRIFICE OF THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE: Though the priest really represents the people at the celebration of the Mass, the Mass is none the less a collective act of worship. In it, the faithful of God have the right and the duty to play an active role. Thus, Pope Pius X once said, the people should not pray in the Mass but pray the Mass. So, the Mass is truly the sacrifice of the people. Pope John Paul II declared October 2004 to October 2005 as The Year of the Eucharist, and issued an Apostolic Letter titled Mane Nobiscum Domine in which he stressed the same point made here by one of his predecessors, I urge all the faithful he said, to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice with due reverence, offering to Jesus present in the Eucharist, both within and outside Mass, the worship demanded by so great a Mystery. (n.10). I will present my personal reflection and study of the Holy Fathers letter later on as we proceed. The text of the Mass makes the priest the spokesman of the people at Mass. Despite this, it provides or contains what we may call a dialogue in which the people and the priest have their different parts to play. The words of the text of the Mass leave no doubt as to the fact that all present are expected to join their minds and hearts to the action of the priest. By so doing, all the faithful (the people and the priest) offer up the sacrifice together under the leadership of the priest. The priest sings or recites certain prayers of petition during the Mass. They are the Opening Prayer or Collect, the Prayer of Offering and the Post-communion prayers. These prayers are always in the collective pronoun we or our. The priest in a manner that shows they are prayers of the people always introduces them. He invites the people to pray with him the collect and the postcommunion prayers by the words Let us pray (oremus) and as he says the collect and Postcommunion prayers, he extends his hands; a gesture that suggests the inclusion of all present. The priest introduces the prayer of offering by saying: Pray brethren that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the Father almighty. To this, the people respond; May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His Church. This manner of introduction is an invitation to the people to unite their prayers with that of the priest. The corresponding response of the people indicates their acceptance of the priest as their representative and the willingness on the part of the people is as a result of the knowledge that the priest is offering the sacrifice for them. In all cases, after the prayers, the people respond Amen which means, So is it. This signifies their assent to the prayers of the priest. On Calvary, Jesus Christ offered himself as the sacrificial victim for humankinds salvation. Prior to this, he gave humankind the celebration by which his supreme sacrifice is to be perpetuated for he said at the Lords Supper that anytime they break bread and share the cup which is his Body and Blood, they should do it as a memorial of him. Therefore, the Mass, which is one and the same with the offering of Christ on the cross, is not just a sacrifice, but also a memorial sacrifice of Christ. TODAYS CATHOLIC AND THE EUCHARIST: Our Holy Father of blessed memory, John Paul II declared October 2004 to October 2005 as The Year of the Eucharist and issued an Apostolic Letter titled, Mane Nobiscum Domine, which means
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Stay with us Lord. Having gone through this brilliant document I cannot afford to pass it by as it holds a lot of very instructive, educative and definitive proposals for all true Catholics. I wish to start my reflection on the emphasis I have placed on true Catholics as you, [if you are reading this paper right now would notice that true is in italics] would have noticed. By true I mean Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. The term magisterium as used here and in its actual meaning refers to the teaching authority of the Church, in matters of faith and morals and I wish to include in it the infallibility of the Pope when he teaches ex cathedral. I am sure the term ex cathedral is not as familiar to many Catholics today as it was familiar to many Catholics before our generation. This is because there seems to be a systematic design to play down on the authority of the Holy Father in the recent times by some elements within and outside the Church. I however do not wish to go into that here as it would be an unnecessary deviation that would on the long run be unprofitable to our discussion here. Suffice to note that ex cathedral means when the Pope speaks with the authority of his position as the Supreme Pontiff of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (which I will henceforth refer to as MND) builds around what we would often refer to as the Emmaus experience. With the great insight of a man filled with the Holy Spirit, the John Paul II brings out the many aspects of the Eucharist as reflected in the experience the two followers of our Lord had on their way to Emmaus. Moved by their love for a fellow human being, whom they felt should not travel at night; they asked the Lord to stay with them, unknown to them that it was the Lord himself. Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening. (Lk.24:29). With these same words, he opened his MND. In the Year of the Eucharist, Catholics were called to live out the mystery of the Eucharist using the fitting image of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. (MND.2). We live in a troubled world; a world under the constant threat of terrorism and war, a world that has become socially and morally permissive, a world where Christian values are increasingly diminished and pushed to the rear. Living in such a world, we are bound to ask many questions, seeking explanation for many difficulties that plague our true Christian vision and mission. According to John Paul II, the divine Wayfarer [Jesus] continues to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God. When we meet him fully, we will pass from the light of the world to the light streaming from the Bread of life, the supreme fulfilment of his promise to be with us always, to the end of time. (cf. Mt.28:20) (MND.2). The Eucharist is a great mystery that demands absolute worship and reverence. Thus MND calls on us to always celebrate the Holy Mass with deep reverence that is due to it. We are to offer to Jesus, ever present in the Eucharist great worship, within and outside Mass. (MND.10). A primary aspect of the Eucharist that the Emmaus experience opens up to us is that the Eucharist is a mystery of light. (MND.11). This means and implies for us that we should allow our path in life to be guided by the light of Christ, which we experience in its fullness in the Eucharistic celebration. As evident in the Emmaus experience, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Lk.24:27), so too in the Eucharistic celebration, the liturgy of the word of God precedes the liturgy of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the word, we learn about Christ whom we encounter in the Eucharist shortly afterwards. This is why, as the MND pointed out, the VCII constitution; Sacrosanctum Concilium, stressed that priests should treat the homily as part of the
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liturgy, aimed at explaining the word of God and drawing out its meaning for the Christian life. (cf. MND.13). It is a shame that a good number of our priests today do not pay this desired attention to their homilies. Many do not take time to prepare their homilies again under the false impression that they have preached that part of the gospel before and can always preach it again. But the truth remains that every time we meditate on a passage of the gospel, especially with the intention of sharing a reflection on it with Gods people, we are opened to new insights and more so, in relations to the always changing circumstances of the society we live in. If priests refuse to prepare their homilies well, the result is what we observe in many of our Eucharistic celebrations today. They end up depriving the people of God the nourishment they are entitled to from the word of God properly explained to them. It is disappointing to see and hear priests, talk and talk for lengthy periods on Sundays, ending up saying nothing. Some of us spend precious time singing choruses in the name of disposing the congregation to be alive and attentive to what we have to say. Beautiful idea! Except that in many cases, we over step the bounds, and only to reveal to the discerning mind, that we actually have not prepared or have not prepared well. Some of us seek applause by playing to the gallery. We share irrelevant jokes, tell irrelevant stories, wanting to make the congregation laugh and say they enjoyed our preaching. The homily is not meant to be enjoyed, it is not a concert performance, nor is it a presentation of scholarship; it is the sharing of the sacred word of God meant to nurture the faithful of God to maturity of life in Christ. I strongly feel and propose that superiors and local ordinaries should call us priests to order concerning this aspect of the celebration of the Eucharist as with other aspects that would come to the fore later in this reflection. Most pathetic of all is when we insult the people of God from the pulpit. This takes different forms, like bullying them, giving the impression you know all and they know nothing, letting them know you are in-charge and what you say goes unopposed, and etc. I do not think homily time is meant for this. The people have a lot of respect for us when we speak from the pulpit and I think their respect should not be taken for granted. Many of those we preach to are in fact more knowledgeable than us in their various fields. They look up to us to instruct them in matters of the word of God and not to insult them. Besides, the pulpit and the homily we deliver from it are about the good-news of our salvation. Insults, intimidation, disregard, and disrespect, are definitely not part of this good-news. Homilies based on the readings at Mass are meant to prepare the congregation to recognise and meet the Lord at the breaking of bread and sharing of the cup of his blood. As noted by the Holy Father, it is significant that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lords words, recognised him at the table through the simple gesture of the breaking of bread. When minds are enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to speak. (MND.14). The Eucharist is full of dynamic signs, which contain very rich luminous message. I am tempted to emphasise this next passage. Hear the Holy Father; As I emphasised in my Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, it is important that no dimension of this sacrament should be neglected. We are constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimensions, while in reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimensions of the Mystery. The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation. (MND.14). Going further, he says, The Eucharist is a great Mystery! And it is one which above all must be well celebrated. Holy Mass
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needs to be set at the centre of the Christian life and celebrated in a dignified manner by every community, in accordance with established norms, with the participation of the assembly, with the presence of ministers who carry out their assigned tasks, and with a serious concern that singing and liturgical music be suitably sacred. (MND.17). [The emphases in bold print are the Holy Fathers]. I consider this a five-star statement that each priest and members of the congregation, especially those that play assigned roles, with particular reference to the choristers, should always have in mind at all celebrations of the Eucharist; be it a weekday Mass or Sunday Mass. I find it really disturbing the way some priests celebrate Mass these days. We introduce new signs and gestures, many of which are awkward to say the least, and attempt to use expressions different from what is written in the books, many of which depreciate the actually meaning of what is suppose to have been said. It becomes most appalling, when the reasons we give for doing this is that the people like it. The Mass is not about what the people like or how the people like it, it is about re-enacting the Calvary event. How ironical it is that some of us spend close to forty five minutes or more preaching and allow the offertory collection and thanksgivings, and all sorts of second collections for this and that, to go on and on, only to race through the Eucharistic prayers, at times being barely audible as we do not even pronounce the words well because there is no time. Strange indeed! Some choirs have almost turned the celebration of the Eucharist to a musical concert. You hear all sorts of strange and funny music, classical, traditional, and familiar liturgical music are re-invented in the sleek, jazzy, and disco-like fashion of todays modern musical trends. Most annoying is when the responsorial psalm is so twisted that the entire congregation is at times lost as to how to respond at the end of each verse. The celebration of the Eucharist is not about the choirs competence in producing good music, though this has its important role in enhancing a great celebration; but to lead the congregation in worship not as an opera. Most important is that the celebration of the Eucharist is an act of divine worship. It should be conducted with reverence and solemnity for the great mystery involved. I again call on superiors and local ordinaries to call erring priests to order. Ask us to study and respect the rubrics and celebrate the Eucharist, as it ought to be celebrated. Give it the dignity and solemnity it deserves. To ensure that choirs do not hijack the celebration, they should use songs and produce music that is liturgically appropriate and easy enough for the congregation to join in. We can understand when at appropriate times during Eucharistic celebrations, the choir renders a piece of sung alone. This should however be about enhancing the beauty of the celebration and not about the choirs ability to provide sensational musical hits. It will be all too great, if they can organise concerts for this purpose outside of Mass. The Eucharist is a meal that brings together the body of Christ in the sharing of the bound of love and family. As a meal, it has a sacrificial meaning and recalls the fact that we bring to the present what occurred in the past, while at the same time, it impels us towards the future. (MND.15). The Holy Father reminds us also of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Because Christ is truly and really present in the Eucharist, we should endeavour to take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of
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carelessness and neglect, and even the insults which our saviour must endure in many parts of the world. (MND.18). We can use the recitation of the Rosary, when we properly understand it in the biblical and christo-centric form as presented in another Apostolic Letter; Rosarium Virginis Mariae of His Holiness, as a fitting introduction to our Eucharistic adorations and contemplations. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus requested the Lord to stay with them, but Christ gave them a greater gift in response. He found a way not to stay with them, but to stay in them. This was through the Eucharist. Thus, in the Eucharist, Christ provides us the opportunity to stay in us, if only we open the doors of our hearts to him. He promised us in Jn.15:4 abide in me, and I in you will abide. The Eucharist calls us out on an evangelising mission. Upon recognising the Lord, the two disciples set out immediately (Lk.24:33) back to Jerusalem to report what had happened. In like manner, our encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelisation. (MND.24). This summon to the mission of evangelisation is given as a charge to us at the end of every Eucharistic celebration in the words of dismissal, i.e. go in peace to love and serve the Lord, and etc. It is a charge to spread the gospel and bring it to bear on our society e.g. reactivating the Christian values in our society. According to the Holy Father, In this Year of the Eucharist Christians ought to be committed to bearing more forceful witness to Gods presence in the world. We should not be afraid to speak about God and to bear proud witness to our faith. (MND.26). The Eucharist bestows on us the mission to promote peace, justice, and solidarity. The Christian who takes part in the Eucharist learns to become a promoter of communion, peace, and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our troubled world, which began the new millennium with the sceptre of terrorism and the tragedy of war, demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, can become promoters of dialogue and communion. (MND.27). One of the very important missions the Eucharist bestows on us is that of Christian service. We are living in a world where power, wealth, popularity and stardom are the order of the day. Ours is increasingly becoming a world where only the fittest survives. Our nation, Nigeria, for instance, continues to plunge into the dark recesses of uncertainties as our leaders, purported to have been democratically elected even though we all know there were foul means involved in the said democratic election, have continued to show unveiled signs of dictatorship and gross insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary citizens. Within this context, this aspect of the Eucharist cannot but be given prominent attention. MND refers to the Eucharistic call to service as the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal society. (n.28). The Eucharist is a call on us to be at the service of others and not to be lords but servants of all. The Lord showed extreme love in the Eucharist as he gave himself to us as food and drink. He overturned all those criteria of power, which govern human relations and radically affirmed the criterion of service, of which he had said, If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and
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servant of all. (Mk.9:35). As the Holy Father resolutely affirmed, the evangelist John did not by chance omit the account of the institution of the Eucharist but decisively reported instead the washing of feet. (cf. Jn.13:1-20). The very act of Jesus bending down to wash the feet of his disciples explains the meaning of the Eucharist in unequivocal, unambiguous terms. This is also affirmed by St. Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians about the impropriety of a Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the poor (cf. ICor.11:17-22, 27-34) (MND.28). As this Apostolic Letter powerfully stated, the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations will be judged by the criterion of service to the needy. Come to think of it, it is in our love for one another that we will be known and recognised as true followers of Christ. (Jn.13:35). The reality of communion is revealed when it comes alive in our services to one another, then meditation becomes action. THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST: Very important and significant among the events of the Lords Supper is the reference of Jesus Christ to bread as his body and wine as his blood. It is not on record anywhere that Jesus was a daydreamer or a fantasiser. Also, it is not written that Jesus was a jester or a clown and as such he is not to be taken seriously at all times, he really may not mean what he has said. Instead, the portrait we have of Jesus, both in religious and secular literature is that of a serious minded man, a man with a singular sense of purpose and mission, one who goes about his set goals with integrity, and commitment not equivocating or trying to please any person. Even pagan historians like Josephus Flavius who at times spoke scornfully about a man called Christ who was the root cause of civil unrest in the Roman Empire, never referred to him as a jester. On this account therefore, we cannot say that Jesus was not serious when he referred to bread as his body and wine as his blood at that Supper. So too we cannot say that he was out of his mind when he made these pronouncements. The occasion was solemn, the audience was his disciples, to whom he was to entrust his mission, and it was a moment of great significance and importance. A specific occasion Christ has chosen to institute a special form of prayer. Given that Jesus Christ knew what he was saying; it becomes important to note that he did not say the bread looks like his body and the wine like his blood. Neither did he say that the bread represents his body and the wine his blood. These are possibilities of what he could have said so as to avoid equivocation. Christ did not say any of these, rather he said; This is my Body and This is my Blood. The whole question of Jesus, giving his body as food and his blood as drink for mans eternal salvation goes back to his discourse in the theological gospel of St. John. This discourse opens with the miracle of the loaves, (Jn. 6:1-15) a miracle whose setting recalls the anguish of Moses when the people cried out in tears to him in the desert for meat and Yahwehs subsequent response (Num. 11:13ff). It also recalls the multiplication of loaves by the prophet Elisha at Gilgal (2 Kings 4:42-44). Out of what we may call human feeling, Jesus Christ asked Philip how to get some bread to feed the crowds surrounding him. In the opinion of Philip, this would not be easy, as it will cost some good money; besides the only boy selling food around has just five loaves and two fish. Little did Philip know that the five loaves and two fish were all that the master needs. Having given thanks, the five loaves and two fish fed all present and twelve whole baskets of leftover were collected.
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Impressed by this great miracle, the crowds went in search of Jesus the following day. When they found him at Capernaum, they displayed their relief by telling him how much they have searched for him. Jesus however was not given to their material way of thinking, he puts it straight to them that they were seeking him because of bread and not because they really love him and his teaching. He used the opportunity to advise them once again to seek and work for bread that endures for eternal life which the son of man will give. Thus, he started the gradual task of exposing the great mystery that was to come. The mystery of the vicarious death of the Son of man, who has come to give new life to the human race, by inviting the human race to share in the life giving meal of his Body and Blood. Jesus drew the attention of the crowd to the manna their ancestors had in the desert. He explained to the crowds that it was his Father, God, who gave them the manna and not Moses as they thought. This same God, he tells them is going to give them the true bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. In response to the crowds craving for this bread, he declared; I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst. (Jn. 6:35). With this declaration, which is more of an invitation, Jesus presents himself as the wisdom of God, which invites all peoples to her table (Proverbs 9:1 ff). The Jews had problems with this. They knew the father and mother of Jesus, how could he claim to have come from heaven as the bread of life? They started to complain. Aware of their rather quiet grudge, Jesus explained further. He concluded the explanation by declaring again; I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. (Jn. 6:50-51). Gradually, Jesus Christ is exposing the meaning and purpose of the incarnation and the mystery of the passion. The Jews however, were not following. They were still thinking on the realm of man, and their grudge was becoming louder; How can this man give us his flesh to eat. They definitely do not understand what Jesus meant. Again, Jesus tried to lead them from the darkness of their human thoughts to the light God is offering them. His efforts seemed futile as the crowds started to leave him one after the other, perhaps afraid of being lured into cannibalism. They perceived Jesus talk as intolerable teaching, unacceptable to anyone. The listeners of Jesus are agreeable in their understanding that Jesus meant what he has said to be taken literally and not to be understood in any other way. In other words, they knew Jesus was not speaking in metaphors. At that point they started deserting Jesus one after the other. We would expect that Jesus who does not want anyone entrusted to him to be lost (Jn. 17:2) to call back his followers and soften his teaching so as to make it agreeable to them. No! Jesus would not do that; he meant every word he said, exactly as he has said each word. For him the Jews were unteachable (cf. Mt. 19:8) and he would not because of that water down the truth, nor twist it so as to win their continuous followership. The truth, no matter how bitter, is the truth and only the truth shall set you free. He turned to his disciples instead and made it clear to them that they too can leave if they so desired (Jn. 6:67). To this Simon Peter, the self-appointed spokesman for the apostles replied, Lord to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God. (Jn. 6:69). The reference of Jesus at the Lords Supper to bread and wine as his body and blood respectively is traced back to the above discourse. It is a fulfilment of his promise to give the people the bread of
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life, which has come down from heaven, the bread that is his flesh, for the life of the world. The bread and wine thus offered on the altar at Mass is the body and blood of Christ after the words of consecration ordained by Christ himself (Mt. 26:20-26, Lk.22:19-20, Mk.14:22-25) are pronounced by a validly ordained Catholic priest. This whole process is called transubstantiation. TRANSUBSTANTIATION AND CONSUBSTANTIATION: What happens on the altar is a great mystery, which the Church calls transubstantiation. The doctrine of transubstantiation was formally defined by the 4th Lateran Council of 1215 based on the Aristotelian distinction between substance and accident. For Aristotle, the substance is the essential nature of a thing while the accident is the outward appearance, e.g. taste, colour, shape, smell, etc. Thus, the doctrine of transubstantiation holds that the accidents (the outward appearance) of the bread and wine, i.e. smell, taste, colour, shape, etc, remain unchanged at the moment of consecration but its substance changes from the bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This doctrine faced a heavy Protestant criticism especially during the reformation. The 1551 Council of Trent however vigorously defended both the doctrine and the terminology of transubstantiation in its Decree on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. The opening statement of the Decree strongly affirms that after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really and substantially contained in the venerable sacrament of the holy Eucharist under the appearance of those physical things. It proceeded with the affirmation that; By the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood of Christ. This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation. The meaning of this is that after the consecration there is a change, in the ontological reality, in the significance and in the purpose of bread and wine. When we talk about a change in the significance we are talking about a change in the meaning of the bread and wine, a change in what the bread and wine represent or signify. Hitherto, the bread and wine meant nothing other than earthly food, food for human (material) nourishment and satisfaction. With the spoken words of consecration, this meaning is changed. The bread and wine now mean more than earthly food. It is now the body and blood of Christ, a heavenly food. It now signifies food and drink for human spiritual satisfaction. This mystery can therefore, be expressed as transsignification, that is, a transformation in the significance or meaning of the bread and wine. This concept however does not fully express nor explains what has happened. It leaves out the change in purpose of the bread and wine. It is therefore not a correct expression but a one sided expression of the mystery that has taken place. In addition to the change in significance, there is also a change in purpose. The purpose of the earthly bread and wine lies in ministering to the natural bodily life. After consecration, a new thrust and dynamism appears. The bread and wine, which is now the body and blood of Christ minister and nourish the life of God in us and therefore strengthen us for eternal life. Because of this change in finality, the mystery may be expressed as transfinalization. Again,
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like the former expression this expression is incomplete as it expresses the change in purpose alone and not the change in meaning. A full and complete expression is obtained in the concept of transubstantiation. It expresses both the new significance and new purpose that the bread and wine now assume after consecration. The changes involved affect the whole being (substance) of the bread and wine. So it is most appropriate to talk about a transformation in the substance; the substance being what makes a thing what it is. There is a change from the substance of bread and wine to the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a transformation from the substance of bread to the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Though it still looks like bread and wine, it still tastes like bread and wine; it is in fact, the body and blood of Christ since the substance that makes it bread and wine is now the substance of the body and blood of Christ. The official position of the Catholic Church is that as long as tanssignification and transfinalization are understood within the context of the traditional understanding of transubstantiation, they are acceptable. (McGranth, 2001:526). Pope Paul VI in his 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidei stated the issue thus, As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food. Yet they take on this new significance, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new reality. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species [that is, what is now the new substance of the elements] is not what was there before, but something completely different namely, the body and blood of Christ. As long as the appearance of bread and wine remains, Jesus Christ remains sacramentally present in the consecrated species. This is why, in the Catholic Church, the sacred species, that is, the Holy Communion, the Blessed Eucharist; the consecrated bread is preserved in the tabernacle and adored even outside Eucharistic celebrations, for instance, at benedictions. This teaching on the Eucharist is very central to Catholic doctrines and it is not to be confused with the teaching of consubstantiation of some other Christian churches. The concept of consubstantiation, which is especially associated with Martin Luther talks about the simultaneous presence of both the bread and the body of Christ at one and the same time, i.e. Christ coming to dwell with the substance of the bread and wine. In other words, the bread and wine do not become the body and blood of Christ. Thus, after the Communion Service as it is often called in these other Christian churches, Christ departs from the substance of the bread and wine and it once again becomes ordinary bread and ordinary wine. I want to acknowledge that there seems to be a shift in recent times in this understanding as there is an increasing reverence given to the elements of bread and wine and a tendency to consume all that is left-over and not just dispose of them by these other
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Christian faiths. There is however a fundamental difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation as Christian doctrines concerning the body and blood of Christ. Finally, I want to mention that while in the other sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony, we encounter Christ in his action and power, in the Eucharist we meet Christ in an objective way. That is why we talk about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This does not mean, in fact, it does not even suggest that Christ is not present in the other sacraments, but that his presence brought about in the Mass is presence in its fullest sense as Pope Paul VI puts it in his Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei. THE HOLY MASS AND THE CATHOLIC PRIESTHOOD: The Mass being a sacrifice needs a priest for its celebration. A sacrifice, in the biblical perspective, is the offering of a victim by a priest to God alone". The Catholic Priesthood fulfils this requirement. As a point of note, Jesus Christ is both the priest and the victim of sacrifice of Calvary. In other words, he was The Priest at Calvary. And the victim of offering was himself. He did not offer bulls or rams, he offered himself as the spotless lamb acceptable to God. Thus, Catholic teaching holds that he is both the priest and victim at Mass. The role of the priest then at Mass, as in the other sacraments of the Church is that of a representative of Christ. So, in the celebration of the Mass, the officiating priest stands in the person of Christ as another Christ (Alter Christus). In the face of contemporary Pentecostalism, the Catholic Priesthood, noted for its celibacy has generated some mixed feelings. As some desire and respect it, others do not see the justification for its celibacy nor why the Catholic priests should be called Reverend Fathers against the biblical injunction that call no one on earth Father (Mt. 23:10). Perhaps an insight into the concept of the priesthood may clear the air and help a better understanding of the Catholic celibate priesthood. Doing that here will be a diversion that is not necessary. Suffice to note that for the Eucharist to be the Catholic priesthood is necessary. AN EXAMPLE THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW In the accounts of Luke and Paul concerning the Lords Supper (Lk.22:19 and 1Cor.11:24) there was a command; Do this in memory of me. Likewise, in the account of John there was a command I have given you an example that you should follow. (Jn13:15). These two commands are closely related as they express the two sides of the same coin. The first has to do with worship doing a memorial and the second has to do with living out our worship. It relates to our faith and the practice of our faith. It is a movement from memorial to action, a movement from worship to practical living. In Johns account of the washing of feet, he decided deliberately to shift attention from the liturgical aspect of the Eucharist to the practical aspect. He placed emphasis, not on the sacrament but on the practical implication of the sacrament. He moved our attention from the sign to what the sign signifies. In doing this, John reminds us that the sacrament has a practical obligation.

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The washing of feet has a deep affinity with the hymn of praise that Paul gave to Jesus in Phil.2:111. This praise is an invitation that we are all called to imitate Christ. The washing of feet summarizes the theme of the New Testament. Namely that Jesus is the servant of God and man. It is a live parable of Christ teaching about service and humility. It was a summary of the whole life of Jesus Christ a life of service to humanity, a life lived for others. Jesus gave us an example of a life lived for others; a life that became broken bread for the world. By asking to follow his example, he raised service to a fundamental law or better still, to a way of life and a model of all relationship. Service is not a virtue, but an off-spring of virtue. It springs from love. Service is the greatest expression of the virtue of charity. Christians cannot limit themselves to celebrating the Eucharist; they must themselves become Eucharist with Jesus. To be Eucharist with Jesus is to live the life of Christ. About this, we have no option, for in the real sense the life we live after baptism is not our life but the life of Christ. And we all owe Christ the obligation to live his life as he would have lived it. The life of Christ gives us the model to adopt. This is the model of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:118). I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Not so the hired hand of any person who is not the shepherd and to whom the sheep do not belong. They abandon the sheep as soon as they see the wolf coming; then the wolf snatches and scatters the sheep. This is because the hired hand works for pay and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father. Because of this I give my life for my sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. These I have to lead as well and they shall listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock since there is one shepherd. The shepherd-hood of Christ implies: (i) That he gives his life to the sheep so that the sheep would have life to the full. God has always invited his people to the fullness of life as in Isaiah 55:1-3 he calls all to come and partake of him. Oh come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Buy and eat, come buy wine without money, free Listen carefully to me and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. (Is.55:1-3). In Mathew 11:28-30 he repeated same when Christ said, Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. No wonder St. Augustine noted that our hearts are restless until they find rest in the Lord. (ii) That Christ would lay down his life for the sheep. He taught us the path o truth and love, won back those who strayed, and defiled those who want to defile the Lords temple. For these he was hung on the cross. No greater love than this to give ones life for ones friends. (Jn.15:13). And as St. Paul puts it, was it that we were justified and therefore worthy of his loving self sacrifice? No! For we were yet sinners when he gave his life for us. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us: when we were still sinners and unable to do anything. (Rom5:13). (iii) That he should show care and concern for his sheep. In the sermon of the mount, he intermittently made it clear that the care of the sheep is the priority of the Lord. That we may not mistake his intention, he said, That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear .. your
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heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first and on Gods saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. (Mt.6:25-33). (iv)That he leads the sheep. His leadership is sure for he knows the way as he himself is the way, the truth and life. At the last meal with his apostles, he clearly showed that he has come to lead and left the apostles in no doubt as to his method and style of leadership. He was not the leader who would lord and boss over his people, neither was he the leader who would misappropriate and embezzle their funds. He was not the leader who would pick quarrels with his subjects and dismiss their concern. He was the leader who cared and not only wishes but works to actualise his wishes of good and well-being for his people. And what did he say after that, I have given you an example that you should copy. (Jn.13:15). As we worship with reverence and devotion Jesus truly and really present in the Eucharist, let us translate our worship into action. Let us make efforts to be Christ to each other and be sources of strength for each other. Let us move from Eucharistic meditation to Eucharistic imitation.

NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. Documents of the Second Vatican Council on the Sacred Liturgy 2. Jacques Dupuis, (ed.), (2001), The Christian Faith: in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, - Seventh Revised Edition, (Bangalore: Theological Publications in India) 3. Alister E. McGrath, (2001), Christian Theology: An Introduction, Third Edition, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.)

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EPILOGUE
After a careful reading of this book again and again, I can convincingly says that with the papers and talks collected in this volume, Fr. Jimoh has set in motion, a world-transforming machine realizable in the resolutions and commitments of each individual reader to personally make a positive impact in his immediate environment and the world at large. The intensity of encapsulation that pervaded my whole being in the course of my reflection on the content of this book cannot be overemphasized, and I strongly believe that the same experience would come for those who read it reflectively. I therefore wish to use this opportunity to extol the ingenuity, creativity and vision of Rev. Fr. Anselm Jimoh who so carefully and systematically put materials together in a spiritually edifying and pastorally yielding manner to bring about this result-yielding compendium. For the much that he has taught us, all must know and remember that the shortest and easiest step to take on the ladder of progress is what St. Paul summarily states as: Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and admire, and everything that is virtuous and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). Rev. Fr. Stan-William Ede

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