Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Sunday, March 25, 2018
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here is a grammatical difference between 'It is finished' and 'It has finished.' The former is indefinite while the latter is definite. What is finished? What has finished? As I was writing this article, I heard the ill feeling voices of two men behind my residence quarreling around 10.00a.m when others have gone to work. Indeed an idle mind is a devil's workshop. One of the men shouted to the other, "Foolish man! I will finish you!" The other fired back, "Idiot, you can do nothing!" What do you think about 'finish you'? Does it involve murder?

There was the story of one hardworking farmer married with four children. He was very caring and meticulous. He trusted his wife more than himself. She was his banker. He gave her all his income to keep for him. But he kept the money for capital expenditure by himself. He was planning to erect a small bungalow in his village with the money kept by his wife. Little did he know that the wife was a clever hawk. She was bubbling always with vitality. Her extraordinary fashion was the talk of the town. People were wondering the source of her income because it is said, "Good soup na money mekam." On a certain day, the man asked his wife to submit the whole money he gave her to keep because he was about to dig the foundation of the bungalow. The wife snubbed him and uttered, "It has finished." The man asked, "What? Are you dreaming?" The man's blood pressure rose very high. Consequently, he slumped and became unconscious. Out of confusion, the wife urinated on her dress. She raised an alarm. Sympathizers gathered and rushed the unconscious husband to a nearby hospital where he was confirmed clinically dead. The medical doctor asked the wife, "Madam, what happened?" The wife in tears replied, "It has finished." In other words, it has finished was the cause of her husband's death.

In another town, the village women after their annual meeting took an emergency decision to keep the huge money they realized on that day with the head of the village vigilante group in whom they reposed an unflinching trust. They did so because it was getting dark and it was too late to go to bank. So, for security reasons they kept the huge sum of money with the village chief security man. They intended to collect the money from him for banking on the next day. But due to unforeseen circumstances, they only went to him after one week. He welcomed the women executives with sore face. Then the women greeted him very friendly before asking him to give them the money they kept in his custody. The chief security man opened his mouth and closed it without uttering a word. The women repeated their demand. He sighed and boldly said, "It has finished." The women became furious and vowed to set his house ablaze if he failed to handover the money. He went in angrily and came out with a pump-action gun with his finger on the trigger. He threatened the women, "If you don't get out of my house now, I will finish all of you." The women took to their heels without looking back. The money has finished. Their dear lives cannot also finish. Life has no duplicate. If your money has finished and you are alive, you can still replenish it. But if your money has finished and you are finished also, then all hope is lost.

Some years ago, the leader of the Youth Organization in one of the parishes where I worked was the president and treasurer of the Organization. A lot of money came in from their Gospel band outings, which was kept by the president-treasurer. After some time, I asked him to surrender the whole amount to me for opening of bank account for the Organization. At first he was reluctant to do so by giving flimsy excuses. Later, I ordered him to surrender the whole money and written account within three days. The three days elapsed and nothing was done. On the morning of the fourth day, I laid ambush with six huge boys at his gate. He came out dressed in nice safari outfit with a befitting suitcase trying to sneak out. My boys grabbed him. I frowned at him asking, "Where is the money?" With a stammering tone he replied, "Sir Father, it has finished." In other words, he squandered the whole money through a life of debauchery hidden under religious piety. He later died a miserable death. And he was finished.

Now let us venture into the real subject matter: It is finished. Annually we mark the Holy Week to commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There are 52 weeks in a year. Does it mean that only this particular week is holy? The answer is capital no. Every week is holy but the Holy Week is holier than the others. The Holy Week is most holy because Jesus Christ is involved. He suffered, was crucified on the infamous Gibbet and died in order to save us from eternal damnation. It is in this Holy Week that the 'It is finished' is accomplished.

On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. He was hailed as the King on this day. Out of humility he rode on a common ass instead of on a prestigious horse like the proud kings of today. The people were spraying their articles of clothing and olive branches on his way. They shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel" (Jn12:13). Jesus entered Jerusalem with joy to be crucified. How do we handle the problems before us? Do we accept with joy the pleasant and unpleasant situations we find ourselves in? Are we unhappy that we must die one day? Shakespeare says that cowards die many times before their actual death. Are you a coward? A terminal patient was told by his doctor that he had only three months to live. The patient who was rich shouted, "I am finished!" He slumped and died after three days. Grief and loss of faith caused him to die quicker than expected. This type of finish entails hopelessness. Do not despair no matter the adverse condition. There is hope in hopelessness.

On Maundy (Holy) Thursday we mark the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It was on this day that our Lord Jesus was arrested as he was praying in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was tried before kings Herod and Pontus Pilate. He was found not guilty of their allegations, yet Pontus Pilate condemned him to death. In fact he was unjustly sentenced to death. Fair trial is supposed to take place during the day. But Jesus was tried at night. Hence the power of darkness convicted him unjustly. Few days ago, a Kenyan Lawyer filed a petition with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging that the trial and crucifixion of Jesus was unlawful. The lawyer, Dola Indidis, insisted that the Jews unjustly killed Jesus Christ. I would like to attend the court session if anyone can sponsor my trip to The Hague. Will Jesus Christ get a fair hearing this time, after so many years of his crucifixion? In fact I want to appear as one of the witnesses of Jesus Christ in that court.

Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. Why is this particular Friday of the Holy Week regarded as Good Friday? Does it mean that other Fridays are bad? Is the day someone dies regarded as good day? Normally we refer to such a day as a black day. Deductively, Good Friday can also be known as White Day. Jesus Christ died on the Cross in order to save us condemned sinners from eternal damnation. Therefore it is good to die in order to save others. Jesus Christ says, "There is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). How many people have you and I died for? On the Cross Jesus was very thirsty. He was given vinegar (dry gin) to drink instead of water. He tasted it and shouted, "It is finished!" (Jn. 19:30). Then he bowed down his head and died. Remarkable wonders took place immediately. There was total darkness over the land for several hours. The good people who died long ago came out of their bondage to rejoice over their liberation from the shackles of death. They could now enter into heaven having been held for long in the world beneath. The veil in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem tore from top to bottom. The veil was used to separate the temple from the Holy of Holies. The tearing signifies that the old covenant between God and the Israelites have become obsolete. The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross is now the symbol of the new covenant between God and mankind.

'It is finished' therefore means that Jesus Christ by dying on the Cross to redeem sinful mankind has accomplished his divine mission on earth. He therefore brought universal salvation for all. The onus on us then is to strive for our personal salvation. God can only work with us and not for us. Grace works on nature. Even though God wants us to be saved, but he cannot coerce us. We are free to accept or reject God's invitation.

As individuals, we ought to accomplish our own divine mission on earth in order to be saved, whether as priests, religious, laity, politician, soldier, policeman, civilian, businessman, farmer, herdsman, governor, lawmaker, president, etc. Each and every one of us must render an account of our stewardship on earth before God's judgment seat on the last day (cf. Rom 14:12). When we shall breathe our last breath on earth we shall either proclaim, "It is finished" or "It is not finished." Each has its own reward, positive or negative.