FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaSunday, May 1, 2016
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


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THE HEAVENLY TICKET

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ticket is a valuable paper that gives someone access to something else. If you wish to travel by air, land or sea, you must obtain a ticket from a designated office. In Germany, one who travels without valid ticket is said to be engaged in black journey. It is a criminal offence punishable by law. The least punishment is paying double of the transport fare. What is the fate of a black man caught in black journey? I was travelling by train one early morning from Rheinbach to Bonn in Germany for my Language Course. Along the way, a deadly odour covered the coach where I was sitting in the midst of white people. Someone polluted the air that very early morning. Do you know what? The white people pointed accusing fingers on me. For them, this black man must have done it. If you want to hang a dog, you give it a bad name. Angrily, I pointed at an elderly white woman sitting in front of me and I expressed in German, "Sie hat es getan."(She did it). She retorted, "Ich? Schame dich!"(I? Shame on you!"). I was convinced she was the one who polluted the air because of the suspicious movement of her body when the deed was done. As we were coming out of the train in Bonn, her conscience pricked her and she came to me and apologized. She whispered into my ears, "Junge, du hast die Wahrheit gesagt. Ich habe es getan. Wirklich habe ich gelogen. Vergib mir! Weil ich in den Himmel gehen moechte." Translation: "Young man, you said the truth. I did it. I lied. Forgive me. I want to go to heaven." Immediately, I gave her ordinary absolution and she smiled away with gratitude.

The heavenly ticket makes it possible for us to enjoy the Beatific Vision in the world to come. Have you bought your own? If not, why not? Hurry now to number 1 Perfection Street Abuja and buy your heavenly ticket before it finishes. But beware of fake ticket which can land you into hell. Personally I have bought two heavenly tickets in case one is lost. I do not want to take chances because opportunity comes but once. Christ says, "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul in hell fire?" (Lk. 9:25). God forbid!

In the spirit of Ecumenism, I attended a burial service at St. Faith Cathedral Church (Anglican) Awka last week. It was a journey from St. Patrick's Cathedral Awka to St Faith Cathedral Awka. Cathedral met Cathedral. It was a religious visit from Catholicism to Anglicanism. When I arrived at St Faith Cathedral, the gate men gave me a ticket that would permit me to freely drive out when I want. It was only an earthly ticket. I went straight to the front of the Cathedral where the corpse of the deceased I came for was being blessed before procession into the church. I stood close to the praying pastors. Afterwards we marched in procession into the air conditioned Cathedral. I gazed up and down like a newly bought fowl that has just arrived at a strange place. Then I took my seat among the congregation, wearing just my white cassock with a half yard flying over my shoulder. One of the pastors ecumenically approached me and asked, "Are you a pastor?" I nodded in the affirmative and added, "I am a Reverend Father." He smiled and offered me a copy of the burial service brochure. I received it with gratitude.

The first Reading was taken by one devoted woman. The microphone mouth- piece was a bit faulty. I soliloquized, "So this happens here also." A church teacher approached her and changed the mouthpiece. She read the passage fluently in Igbo. Then she concluded, "This is the Word of the Lord." We replied, "Thanks be to God." Thereafter one of the pastors present ascended the rostrum and began his marathon homily. He preached well and admonished us that it is in this world that we obtain our tickets to Heaven. Immediately, I checked my pocket to make sure that the exit ticket they gave me at the gate was intact. It was. Yes, we begin from the known to the unknown. From the earthly ticket we proceed to the heavenly one. I smiled like a newly married girl served with eggs and honey at breakfast. Towards the end of his homily the pastor emphasized thrice that there is no place after death where the departed soul will undergo purgation before entering into Heaven. It seemed he was looking at me while saying it. I wanted to stand up to raise an objection, but it dawned on me that the homily demands no reply from the congregation. Hence I swallowed my objection and wrote the expression down in the brochure given to me. I said to myself, "Mbosi nta ka a chuo n'owere nchi." That is, opportunity for reply will surely come. This write-up is the opportunity. Open your ears!

Yes, after death comes judgment. St. Paul tells us that each and every one of us will give account of our lives on earth to God on the last day (Rom 14:12). After the judgment, one's soul will either proceed to heaven or to hell. Those who lived good lives unspotted while on earth will proceed to heaven. On the other hand, those who lived bad lives on earth and died unrepentant have their eternal place in hell. Where will you and I spend our eternity? We are advised to make haste while the sun shines because it can be too late and there is no repentance in the grave. Some people are of the opinion that the merciful Father cannot allow any of his children to languish in hell-fire. But justice is God's trademark. He would repay each one according to his or her deeds. Indeed I have said it many times that if God does not temper justice with mercy, heaven will be empty.

In primary and post primary schools, academic results are released after examination at the end of a term. Some pupils or students score excellent result. Some get very good, some good. A few are promoted on trial because they neither passed nor failed. Likewise in religious circle at God's judgment seat, some will go to heaven direct while those with little imperfections will be purified in the fire of purgatory. Referring to heaven, we are meant to understand that "Nothing unclean will come into it; no one who does what is loathsome or false, but only those who are listed in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27). How many people here on earth can vouch of perfection? On his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Mtt 5:8). How many of us are pure in heart by thoughts, words and actions? In the First Letter of St. John we read: "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother - provided that it is not a deadly sin. There is a sin that leads to death and I am not saying you must pray about that. Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death" (1 Jn 5:16 - 17). It becomes quite clear that anyone who dies in the state of the deadly (mortal) sin is doomed for hell. Those who died in the state of sins that are not deadly (venial sins) should suffer less punishment. Hence he or she goes to Purgatory for purification for a period of time that runs in human language into days, weeks, months and years. God tempers justice with mercy for the souls in purgatory. The term Purgatory is not found explicitly in the Bible but it is implied in certain passages. For instance, St Paul succinctly makes it clear in these words: "Some will be saved but through fire" (1Cor. 3:15). Even in the Old Testament ( 2 Maccabees12:38 - 45) we learn that the Jews went to war and some of them died in the war front. The warlike leader of the Jews known as Judas Maccabaeus went with some of his brave soldiers to bring back the bodies of the fallen men for burial. Surprisingly, they found talisman in the robe of each of their fallen colleagues. Pitifully Judas Maccabaeus collected some money from his people and sent to Jerusalem for sacrifice, so that God can temper justice with mercy for the fallen soldiers. Emphatically the Bible says, "For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin" (2 Maccabees 12:44 - 45).

This expiatory sacrifice is what we do whenever we gather to celebrate Mass or offer prayer service on behalf of the dead. If there is no Purgatory, then praying for the repose of the dead is useless since either he or she is already in heaven or hell. Those in heaven do not need our prayers since they are already triumphing. On the other hand, those in hell are damned forever. Praying for them is useless. Are we now convinced that there is a place where those who died in the state of little imperfections are purified before their admission into heaven? If you doubt, when you die, you will see things for yourself. Reverend Pastor, Man of God and believers are you with me? We shall all meet on the Last Day to see who is right or wrong.

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