Tuesday, September 8, 2020

very journey has a destination. One hopeless man got up early in the morning and dressed up for a journey. He hurried with his bag to the motor park. Many buses where already there looking for passengers to their various destinations. When the loaders saw this seemingly gentleman, they asked him one after the other, "Oga, where are you travelling to?" He smiled and replied, "I am travelling to no destination. Is there any bus going there?" One of the touts made mockery of him and asked, "Oga, you dey craze? Which place is no destination? Please go and take your drugs." The hopeless man went from one bus to the other looking for a bus to no destination, but he couldn't find any. He stood there from morning till evening, all to no avail. At sunset he went back to his house. Indeed madness is of different degrees. Thank God he returned to his house after the fruitless and useless endeavour.

When I travelled to Germany for the first time, I was heartily received by my German hosts on arrival. One of them came forward and asked me my name. I gladly told him. Then he asked me when I was born. Indeed I was embarrassed with this second question. I was asking myself why he was anxious to know how old I was then. Also I was wondering if my facial appearance showed that I might be too old to come to Germany. However I reluctantly told him my age. What baffled me most was that he asked again on that spot when I would be returning back home. I sighed internally and answered, "I am just arriving today. Why are you interested in knowing when I shall return home?" He smiled and told me that he just wanted to know. I grudgingly told him that my return home (Nigeria) would be after my studies in four years time. At last he led me to the room reserved for me. The next day I began my German language course at Kreuzberg in Bonn. After two months' stay I developed a home sickness which the German's call 'Heimweh'. It is nothing but a desire to return home.

Recently, a man called Ijeuwa set out from his remote village for a journey to Abuja to look for greener pasture. He had a wife and three children. On that fateful day, his lovely wife escorted him to the motor park where he boarded a commercial bus with the inscription "Slow and Steady" which was heading to Onitsha. On arrival at Onitsha, he booked a luxurious bus to Abuja known as "A Nata E Were Transport Limited. "A nata e were" means readiness to accept good return or no return. The luxurious bus left Onitsha at 9.30a.m. Ijeuwa sat comfortably at his assigned bus seat praying for safe journey and to return sooner or later to take his wife and children with him back to Abuja. Unfortunately, his desire was never to be. Two kilometers into Lokoja, the devil struck. The driver slept off and the journey ended in the bush. The driver and seven passengers including Ijeuwa died at the spot. Many who sustained different degrees of injury were rushed to the hospital. A few others came out unhurt. When the ugly news reached home, his wife and three children couldn't bear the sudden death of their breadwinner. It was a journey of no return.

This journey of no return can be undertaken through various means. It can be through accident, sickness, drowning, sleeping without waking, collapsing, air crash, murder, poisoning, surgery, coma, etc. All these can lead us to the journey without return, which is universally known as Death. As I was writing this article, sad news came from Douala in Cameroun. A priest called Father Jude, who was the Spiritual Director of CMA Diedo, dropped dead while he was preaching at Mass on Monday 31 August 2020. From the earthly sanctuary he proceeded suddenly to the heavenly sanctuary. He left without saying goodbye to the congregation he was preaching to and will never return. During his last preaching on earth on that fateful day, he was wearing a face mask against Covid-19 and was speaking like a masquerade. Could his death be as result of suffocation? It might be that oxygen couldn't penetrate his face mask. May his soul rest in peace! Let us beware of how we use the face mask.

Many who have undertaken the unavoidable journey since the world began have not returned. A certain dead man was believed to have returned to his family after two years of his death. He came in as his wife and five children were saying family night prayer. Immediately they saw the apparition, they abandoned their prayer and ran away in different directions. Up till today they have not come back from the run. The dead man waited and waited before he disappeared. Can you see that the dead are no longer welcomed if they return?

Death is the biological cessation of life. Every second we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. But when we breathe in and fail to breathe out, we become motionless. Immediately the bodily metabolism ceases. We transit from mortality to immortality. The earthly life ends while the life beyond begins. The body which is material decomposes while the soul which is spiritual goes back to the spiritual world. Human death remains a mystery till today. Science and technology have tried to unravel the mystery of death, but the result is fruitless. Only the Almighty God has the key of life and death. He creates and takes away at his own time. Many have come and gone. While some are born, some are dying. Only God can balance birth rate and death rate. Can you estimate how many babies are born daily and how many people die every day worldwide?

All mortals must die. This is not debatable. I met a man known as 'Anwuanwu' (Immortal). He boasted that no human being could kill him in any way. Eventually he died shamefully while having extra-marital sexual affair with a prostitute in a hotel. Has he not been killed by a prostitute? In fact no human being has power over death. Therefore all those who go by the nickname 'Anwuanwu' (Immortal) must change name before the hammer strikes. Animals and plants die and are annihilated because they are made of matter only. On the other hand, human beings die and transcend because they are composed of matter and spirit. In other words, they do not end in the grave like brutes and plants. Death is the end of earthly life and the beginning of eternal life. No one has gone over there and returned. In the biblical story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man asked Abraham to permit one of the prophets in heaven to come back to earth and warn his ailing brothers so that they may not end up in hell with him. Abraham turned down the request, saying that his brothers should listen to the prophets on earth (Luke 16:19 - 31).

Three things await you and me. They are death, judgment and reward or punishment. After death comes God's judgment. After studies comes examination. Hence the eternal judgment is compulsory for all human beings. On that day we shall not require the services of lawyers to defend us. I wonder if lawyers will have advantage during the divine judgment since they are learned men. A certain lawyer was on the point of death. He parked all his Law books and journals in a bag and asked his wife to make sure the bag is inserted inside his coffin during his burial, so that he would utilize the Law books and journals to defend self as he stands before the judgment seat of God. The widow did so eventually. When the termites saw those Laws books and journals, they laughed as they ate up all of them before descending on the learned corpse of the deceased. There is no delay in divine judgment. Also there is no adjournment and no appeal. On that day, each and every one of us will render account of his life (Rom.14:12). We shall give account of our thoughts, words, actions and omissions. Are we ready? Indeed if God does not temper justice with mercy, then heaven will be empty.

Heaven is the reward for those who lived good lives while on earth. It is the heavenly home for the just and repentant sinners. The Scripture wonderfully describes the glory of heaven as "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it dawned on the mind what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Who would behold those heavenly glories and decide to come back to earth? All Nigerians in heaven have vowed that nothing will entice them to return to this country where hardship and corruption strangle the citizens. The worst thing that will happen to us is failure to see the Beatific Vision at the end of our earthly lives. As a priest I wish to approach my Bishop soonest to ask for a recommendation letter to heaven, which I will present to God on the day of my death, so that my entrance into heaven will be easier. If you a lay faithful, hurry now and obtain the heavenly recommendation letter from your parish priest and put it in your heavenly file.

Hell is a place or condition of eternal chastisement for stubborn sinners. The men of Fire Brigade cannot quench the inferno in hell. It is better described than experienced. Many damned souls in hell want by all means to return to earth, but they cannot. The security there is very tight. There is no way or means to sneak out from there. The walls of hell are unbreakable. Hence there is no possibility of hell-break like jail-break.