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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Scripture Corner…

EASTER OF BLESSING FOR THE AFFLICTED

EASTER IS THE HIGHEST point of our Christian faith. We celebrate the uniqueness of our religion: the Cross has become the Triumph of Easter. Ash Wednesday has led us to Paschal Fire! It is a celebration  of  the triumph of  good over evil, of light over  darkness,  of peace over chaos.

The darkness and sadness of Good Friday have transformed into the light and joy of the Resurrection, of Easter. God's promise to raise Jesus up has become a reality beyond doubt. "They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him up on the third day and made him manifest to us who were chosen by God as witnesses" (Acts 10:39-41). It is a time of blessing for all us, more so, for the afflicted.

The Gospel of Matthew puts in the first place the 'Blessings" - from the Beatitudes text - which form the key to the whole Sermon. And Jesus pours these blessings when he is on top of the mountain so that each of those listeners could listen to him and understand his message, and that his very blessings could reach everybody present and far. This is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' blessings proclaim accordingly the greatness of the gift God offers, and at the same time how arduous are the demands made on those who listen, understand and accept them. In other words, these blessings of the Lord are a paradox in a sense that they are a total gift from God, yet it is  something that we must work for.

Therefore, the word "Blessed" means fortunate, favoured, valued, approved, esteemed, upheld by God. It is a form of praise or greeting, often used in the Old Testament (cf. Ps. 1:1; Prov. 8:32-34). It declares that certain way of acting leads to happiness, and therefore, highly recommended. It is highly recommended with the sense of being ready to take up the consequences. When we embrace the Beatitudes we must be ready to bear the consequences. Just like Jesus himself who underwent the way of the Cross for the sake of our salvation. He had to bear the consequences of it.

"Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (are Afflicted), for They Will be Comforted": Humanly speaking, the so called 'blessing' in the Sermon on the Mount is difficult to comprehend it! Jesus speaks of the language and truth that is greater than the logic of the world; the truth and language that breaks through the hearts of his listeners. Jesus, however, does not say that the sufferers should embrace or accommodate suffering for nothing. The real sense of embracing suffering where possible and necessary is to launch oneself into a lasting solution against suffering or affliction. Just as Jesus speaks of poverty, he does not approve it; on the contrary, he disapproves it and condemns it! God has endowed us with intellectus (intellect) and rational capacity to encounter the reality at hand intelligibly. We are not 'mumus' or idiots! As human beings, and more so, as religious beings, we are intellectual and rational beings.

Jesus contextualised his teaching to the reality of the life his listeners were living or facing. The people of Israel were an oppressed, living under the tyranny of the Roman regime. Even their own religious leaders laid heavy, legalistic burdens on their shoulders so that the very religion that should have brought them some comfort only drove them deeper into bondage. Oppression, exploitation, sickness and death were daily realities for those who struggled and toiled through life in a fishing and agricultural area of an insignificant province of the mighty Roman Empire.

Let us take a look and ask ourselves: Who are the oppressed today, if we are to contextualise the reality of Jesus' time, in our own contemporary milieu? These are the anawim of Yahweh such as apprentices of all sorts - mechanics, hair-dressers, house-maids, tailoring learners, private nurses on training, workers in private firms, and some of our own workers in some of the religious or Parish houses. They part of the afflicted ones! In other words, those who mourn or suffer, and they can be put into different categories. Firstly, Physical suffering: the handicapped, the lame, the sick, those forced into prostitution, the unwilling trafficked persons; those who do not only encounter human physical labour but also social and psychological suffering. This category also includes accident and disaster victims such as that of August 26, 2011 in Ibadan and other places of the country, extortion of the properties of widows, child labour which is common in our country - very young children hawking whole day long instead of going to school, etc. Secondly, Economic suffering: Poorly paid young workers, peasants, children who cannot go to school simply because of the lack of school fees, the Beninoires coming to work here as house maids. At the same time you have the presidential budget for books alone over 20,000,000.00 (cf. Presidential budget of 2012). This amount did not include that of the presidential library which has its own budget! Thirdly, Social suffering: marriage breakdown, family disintegration, individualism, lack of community spirit, xenophobia, racism, etc. Fourthly, Political suffering: lack of democracy (eg. Uganda, Rwanda, or dictatorial-led countries). All those who are kidnapped or killed simply because they are a challenge or threat to some political aspirants or staunch politicians. Fifthly, Religious suffering: lack of religious freedom or religious expression, imposed or forced religion such as Boko Haram sect, Al-Shabab, being misunderstood because of one's vocation like Jesus himself: "Jesus went home, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced that he was out of mind" (Mk. 3:20-21). What would Jesus tell us today if he was to preach to us? Lastly, Academic suffering/intellectual suffering: mistreating students in the academic institutions or even using them for one's personal advantage or selfish reasons in some (if not many) of our institutions of learning. You also have the mentality of some Europeans who think and say that Africans are incapable of doing philosophy in its substantiality; they can only be narrative!!! What is behind that kind of mentality? Africans can't think and write as Westerners do?

With all this analysis, none among us can stand and testify that he has never gone through any of the afflictions, sorrow, suffering, or mourning; gone through Good Friday. This proves that being a Christian or a good follower of Jesus Christ is not a ticket-free to suffering. It is not a guarantee at all. Even most of the saints whom we admire today went through that way, through some sort of affliction. In fact, for them, "Jesus was indeed everything! Jesus was to them not only the visible incarnation of the Father but also the companion, the elder Brother holding their hand and guiding their steps on the daily journey to the Father, on the path toward the high peak of holiness, walking through the alleys of poverty, mourning, suffering, searching and caring for the needy and the lowly" (cf. Luigi De Giambattista, CAN/EWTN, Vatican City July 01, 20110). In fact, in life we do pass through such experiences; and at times we as followers of Christ, do face tougher and harder moments to the extent of even asking ourselves, "God, Where are You?" In those moments, therefore, if we sustain the affliction and the sorrow in the name of the Lord, God will certainly bless us abundantly. He will never leave us alone or abandon us. But if we entrust our injuries and afflictions in the hands of babalawos and juju people, sorry that blessing will escapes us for good!

 


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