By Rev. Fr George Nwachukwu
Today is Easter Sunday. For us Christians, Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Easter Sunday service holding in Churches across the world today is among the most attended Sunday services as it marks the end of Lent, a 40 – day period of fasting, prayer, almsgiving and spiritual discipline that is observed by every Christian faithful. While Easter is being marked with great pomp and revelry in certain quarters, we should not lose sight of its overall significance. Beyond the culinary pleasures associated with the feast let us not forget that, had the enemies of Jesus succeeded in obliterating him, the forces of evil would have triumphed over goodness, falsehood would have overcome truth and man’s hatred would have subdued the love of God.
After the death of Jesus, the hopes and dreams of his followers were completely shattered. It was only when Jesus resurrected that the minds of his : disciples opened to a new truth, hope returned, the meaning of life became clearer, , darkness became light and the collapsed dream of his adherents was reborn. The resurrection therefore forms the central plank of Christianity and the stupendous claim upon which the Christian faith is staked.
Writing on the importance of the resurrection, J.S. Whale said, “The gospels do not explain the resurrection rather the resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the resurrections is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith itself”. Consequently every other doctrine of our Christian belief takes its bearing from our faith in the resurrection.
The delight of the resurrection is that it does not end with Jesus. It extends to you and me. Jesus did not rise for himself but for, us ail. According to St. John Chrysostom, “Those who were formerly living in the shame of sin are now living in confidence and in justice”. He added, “True believers are not only free, but they are saints; they are not only saints but just men; not only just men but sons; not only sons but heirs; not only heirs, but brothers of Christ, not only brothers of Christ but his coheirs; not only his coheirs, but his members; not only his members but temples, not only temples, but instruments of the Holy Spirit”.
Let us not forget that Easter is about spiritual reawakening, it is about inner change, and it is about being truly born again, in this context born again implies an ardent decision to seek sincere forgiveness of sins accumulated in our life’s struggle using the medium of sacramental confession. Easter calls for resurrection from anarchy, lawlessness and mediocrity both in the civil society and in the Church. The inordinate pursuit of power and wealth runs contrary to the Spirit of Easter. Easter therefore is a clarion call for all and sundry to rely on the Spirit of the risen Lord.
We emphasize the fact that following the resurrection of Christ, Christians have become sons and daughters of God. We have become brothers and sisters of Christ, his members and temples of the Holy Spirit. But are we really all these? The answer is Yes and No. Yes because the resurrection of Christ has put it all within our reach but we have to stretch ourselves to posses it. We should consider Easter as a moment for the awakening of the inner self; a “resurrection” of our individual spirits from spiritual slumber. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to doing the Will of God so that we who have journeyed as immature spirits into the deep valley of the World of Matter may one day be able to ascend into Paradise which is our permanent home. The Easter celebration reminds you and I of the need to make Nigeria a country in which we can all be rationally proud of. This feat has to be achieved through concrete deeds and not by mere words. In this Easter we pray that all Nigerians, particularly our various Leaders should be imbued with the sense of love, justice, humility, and tolerance.
It is on record that our country has never had as many Churches as it has today and it has never known a greater intensity of religious activities. Yet we witness so much hatred and distrust among religious groups. We witness a dogged resistance against peaceful and just solutions to our multifarious problems – all of which are rooted in spiritual immaturity. Those who are most flagrantly corrupt and who grossly abuse public office are to be found in the ranks of the self-proclaimed religious champions. May be that we are mere hypocrites? We do not need to think deeply before we come to the conclusion that Christian ideals are at present clearly lacking in the economic and political life of Nigeria.
As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, He is urging every true Christian in this country to believe in his resurrection and in his abiding presence among us. If we do that then no storm, no arm robbery, no kidnapping, no economic recession and no amount, of corruption will overwhelm us.
Presently, many Nigerian citizens are being crucified in various forms. Some are imprisoned unjustly, some men of God have had their images destroyed even by their counterparts, calumny of innocent Christians by fellow Christians increase by day, ethnic clashes are becoming the order of the day. some individuals are hunted and their lives are in death list, some Citizens of this country are victims of excruciating painful economic situation, some graduates have remained applicants for years unending, some could not graduate because they have no money to bribe their professors and moderators, workers are owed months of salaries, pensioners are dying in penury, the litany is so long.
In the midst of all these confusions, the message of Easter emphasizes that the resurrection of Jesus spells the victory of good over evil. That is the good news of Easter. The resurrection of Christ gives us the assurance that things can be better in the Nigeria of tomorrow. But our co-operation with Jesus will hasten the dawn of that new day, when a typical Nigerian citizen will become his brother’s keeper; a day when love will reign supreme among Christians; a day when our citizens will become love-animated, a people disseminating love to everyone. We pray that these desired virtues will be translated into actions, so that rays of spiritual light may begin to break through our habitual ethereal darkness. Happy Easter to every Nigerian.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
Director of Media/Communications
Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri