ome people were born with golden spoon hung around their neck at the birth-stool. But I was born with a heavy golden cross hung around my neck. This made my birth difficult. It was also on April-Fool day. My parents were happy that a bouncing baby boy was born to them. However, they were confused at the golden cross that accompanied my entrance into the world. Was I born a fool? April-Fool palaver expires at 12.00 noon. Luckily I was born exactly at 12.05 p.m. as my birth certificate shows. As a result my parents gave me the name Amaobichukwu (No one knows God's mind), shortened simply as Amobi.
The golden cross that accompanied my birth was moved into the Laboratory for medical analysis. All scientific tests were conducted by the medical experts to ascertain the significance of the golden cross. At last they could not reach any conclusion. Nevertheless they could only establish that being born with a cross is beyond medical analysis. It was agreed that spiritual analysis could give a better solution. Consequently, the golden cross was carried into the Sanctuary for spiritual analysis. After nine days of intensive fasting and prayer by spiritual experts, it was divinely revealed that being born with a cross signifies that this world is not an easy place to live. The world is filled with thistles and thorns. Also it signifies that there is no victory without the cross. Even those who claim to be born in favour room are economic with the truth. Once you cried at birth, you were born in the labour room like my humble self. Those who were really born in the favour room do not cry at all at the birth-stool. Crying entails that you are born to carry a cross that would make you shed tears in this world from time to time. This spiritual analysis relieved my lovely parents from the tension surrounding my birth with a golden cross hung round my neck.
Jesus Christ made the cross the sign of his followership, when he says, "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me" (Lk. 9:23). Could it mean that I became a Christian from my mother's womb?
There is no Christianity without the Cross. Before one is incorporated into the mystery of Christianity at the baptismal fond, the Sign of the Cross is made at the forehead. After being baptised in the Name of the Trinity, the person is signed again with Chrism oil at the forehead. At prayers we made the Sign of the Cross. To be successful in our lives as Christians, we must be able to reach Calvary carrying our crosses. On his way to Calvary, Jesus Christ fell three times under the burden of the Cross. But he did not despair. He got up and continued his saving journey. On reaching Golgotha he was cruelly crucified like a thief just to save you and me. He died on that Gibbet and was buried. On the third he conquered Mr Cross and his sister Lady Death. According to St. Paul, "While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God; for God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor. 1:22 - 25). Can you see why I was born with a golden cross on April-Fool day? It is to show God's glory. Nothing happens accidentally. Just last year I celebrated my Golden Fool Birthday. Have you read my Book titled, "The Golden Fool: My Birthday Gift"? If not, see me for some copies. If you combine it with my first Book titled "Wonderful Package" you will carry your cross with smiles and High Blood Pressure will never be your lot. Then you will be transformed from Calvary to Paradise.
My brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross today, let us bear in mind that there is no victory whatsoever without the Cross. St. Andrew of Crete says, "The cross is called the glory of Christ, and his exaltation; it is the chalice for which he longed, the consummation of his sufferings on our behalf." The Cross can come in various ways. Whatever hardship you experience is your own cross. The other day I was admonishing my parishioners on the necessity to carry the Cross with patience. One lady among the congregation stood up and shouted, "Not my portion!" I looked twice at her and asked her, "Whose portion?" She walked away like a hopeless person.
Last week a young married woman came into my office crying hopelessly. On consoling her, I found out that she wore her wedding ring on the wrong finger. I asked her why so. She regrettably told me with tears that she married the wrong husband. Please look around you to see if any married person is wearing the wedding ring on the wrong finger. If a woman wearing the wedding ring on the wrong finger married the wrong husband, likewise a man wearing his wedding ring on the wrong finger married the wrong wife. Marrying the wrong (bad) husband or the wrong (bad) wife is a heavy cross to bear. I have narrated before how a young married man came to me shedding tears like a hungry baby. I asked him what was wrong. He told me vehemently that if he had known that married life would be difficult for him, he would have become a Reverend Father. I laughed and looked foolishly at him. Please go and tell that young man that Paradise is not on earth. The cross in the Priesthood is equally very heavy. Who will help me carry mine? I have fallen on the way to Calvary more than hundred times. But I managed to get up each time. I pray that I may meet Simon of Cyrene to assist me before I die on the way. But I shall not despair. I must reach Calvary from where Mr Victor will lead me to Victory.
When Jesus Christ was arrested and condemned to death on the Cross, many of his followers ran away for their dear lives. St. Mark in his Gospel narrative reported that the Jews attempted to arrest a young man who accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. The man was putting on only a linen cloth around his waist. The man left the linen cloth in their hands and ran away naked (Mk 14:51). This particular passage was read during the Holy Week in those days when we were at Bigard Memorial Seminary (now St. Joseph's Major Seminary) Ikot Ekpene. The laughter merited us three days manual labour. The cross is not a laughing matter.
We must not toil with our Faith as Christians. What is a Christian doing in an idol shrine or in a native doctor's shrine? Some Christians use charms as necklace and waist-lace. Many Christians today abandon their faith because of one cross or the other. A good traveller cannot abandon his journey due to the roughness of the road. St Paul in one of his Epistles asked, "Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ: can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence ... No; we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us" (Rom. 8:35,37).
Many Christians in believe in the modern Pentecostal concept that suffering is not their portion. Hardly can you see any Christian today bearing the name Job. They think that by answering Job you become jobless and thereby suffer immensely. Rather many go by such names as Joy, Happiness, Miracle, Goodluck, Prosperity, Favour, Delicious, Success, Paradise, Cake, Aeroplane, etc. If I were married and have a set of twins, I would have given one Goodluck and the other Badluck. If God blessed me with another set of twins, I would have named them Prosperity and Poverty respectively. Married couples at the Altar promise to live together 'for better, for worse.' This is just a lip-service. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Some married couples divorce themselves when the worse comes. I have witnessed a marriage which lasted only three days after the wedding. Marriage is a life-long affair. I kindly advise intending couples to take their pre-marriage course serious.
Marriage is for companionship. The gift of children comes from the lovely companionship. Therefore, married childless couples should accept their cross and trust in God. It is God who gives children. If the worse comes, they should go for legal adoption of children. My Bishop Most Rev. Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor maintains that God adopted us as his children through the mystery of Salvation. Therefore the adoptive parents should have a positive mind toward their adopted children.
On the other hand, everybody must not marry. Those who see themselves under this condition should not think that their cross is the heaviest. If such people go to Orthopaedic hospitals and see young single ladies crying daily from morning till night due to pains, they would thank their God that they are healthy. Sickness has indeed crucified many people on the cross. But after rain comes sunshine. This sun may shine in this present world or in the next. I still maintain that there is hope in hopelessness. Therefore, when we are pressed down, let us look at the Cross of Christ. Glory comes from the cross.