n times of emergency, distress calls are made to persons, agencies or government for immediate assistance. The title of such a call is "Save Our Souls," shortened as SOS. The people making the humanitarian appeal are normally human beings, made up of body and soul. How can you save the soul without the body? The body is a matter while the soul is a spirit. The former is visible while the latter is invisible. A certain foolish man courageously took a sharp knife and bisected his heart to see his soul. But before he could locate his soul, he was pronounced clinically dead due to huge loss of blood. In a twinkling of an eye, the man saw his soul standing before the judgement seat of God. The Angel of God at the gate of Heaven asked the man's soul, "What killed you on earth? He replied tearfully, "I wanted to see my soul by cutting open my heart. But before I could see my soul, I saw my soul standing here as spirit. Please dear Angel, save my soul!"
This reminds me of a mad man in Minna Diocese. Just last year on a rainy day, when the church was empty of worshippers, he took a hammer and a chisel and entered madly into the church. He was anxious to see Jesus. As a result, he walked madly to the Tabernacle of the Real Presence. With all his mental strength, he was able to disembark the Tabernacle box containing the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist from its attached wall. But he was not able to open it. With his tattered clothes and sweating like a mad pig, the mad man carried the Tabernacle and its content (the Blessed Sacrament) on his head. He walked straight to the parish priest's house and knocked madly on the door. The parish priest opened the door. He couldn't believe what his eyes saw. He shouted, "Oh, my God!" The priest nearly fainted as he saw the mad man carrying the Tabernacle with "Monday" hammer and chisel in his hands. As a priest interceding between God and man, he stood his ground and asked the mad man, "What have you done?" The mad man curiously opened his eyes wide and replied sharply, "I want to see Jesus. Please Father, opened this holy box!" Kindly come to my office to hear the rest of the story.
If an insane man wants to see Jesus, what about the sane? Indeed the living and the dead, whether sane or insane want to see Jesus Christ. All are crying, "Save our souls!" Yes, we live to die and we die to live. Our life here on earth is a pilgrimage. We are marching from mortality to immortality. As I was writing this article sitting somewhere, an armed police officer was sitting beside me sleeping and snoring. He was armed with a loaded gun but sleep disarmed him. Instantly, I saw the futility of human life. I was only afraid of any accidental discharge from the armed sleeping and snoring police officer. I raised my voice and shouted, "Officer!" He woke up and saluted me, "Oga sir!" He got up and carried his gun on his shoulder and walked pitifully away.
As human beings, we seem to be important and powerful as long as we live. Unfortunately, death renders us powerless and insignificant. The Igbo hymn book says it all: "Nnukwu mmadu n'ututu, ozu n'uhuruchi. Eze nke mmadu niile; ihe oriri nke aruru" (Big man in the morning, but corpse in the evening. The king of peoples has become the food of ants). The common denominator of human life is death.
In essence, human life begins at conception and ends at death. By birth we come to earth; and by death we leave the earth. All mortals must die. Are you mortal or immortal? The Preface of the Mass for the dead asserts: "Life is changed but not ended." This reminds me of an intelligent teacher from my town. With advanced age he retired from teaching, but by God's grace he was still bouncing with vitality. He decided to delve into commercial driving. Having harnessed his pension and gratuity well, he was able to purchase a 504 Salon car. On the two sides of the car he inscribed "New Dimension." So as human beings, we do not die as such. Life is a transformation from mortality to immortality. When we die, we enter into a new dimension.
Providentially, the three last things that await every mortal human being are Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell (DJH). Death is the ceasing of biological life. All living things must die. For non-human living things, death is annihilation. But for human beings, there is life after death. After death we stand before the judgement seat of God to give account of our earthly lives (cf. Rom. 14:12). God is a just God. He rewards each according to his or her deeds. The Holy Writ states categorically: "The souls of the virtues are in the hands of God. No fire shall torment them" (Wisdom 3:1). On the day of judgement the Lord will separate the good from the bad. To the righteous on his right hand he says, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world" (Mtt. 25:34). On the other hand, he will say to the damned standing at his left hand, "Depart from me with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mtt. 25:41).
In my primary school days during the public announcement of the promotion result, some pupils passed excellently. Some passed weakly. Others failed woefully. The three levels then were: PASS, WEAK PASS and FAILED. Those that passed excellently are instantly promoted to the next class. Those that passed weakly are promoted on trial while those that failed repeated the class. An analogy can be drawn here. The excellent group are qualified for Heaven. The weakly passed are candidates of Purgatory. Those that failed woefully make it into Hell-fire. In which group are you?
The intermediary between Heaven and Hell is Purgatory. If God is so strict with his judgement, how many people would be saved? As a merciful Father, God tempers justice with mercy. Mercy is granted to the venial sinners and repentant grave sinners. Hence, Purgatory is a state of purging away the stains of sins, for nothing impure will enter the Kingdom of God. Some will be saved but by fire (cf. 1Cor. 3:15). The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves anymore. Their quick salvation depends on the intercession and penance of the faithful on earth. Hence the sufferers of the fire of purgatory cry out, "Save Our Souls!" Consequently, on All Souls Commemoration day, 2nd November, we pray for the salvation of our departed brothers and sisters suffering in Purgatory. Indeed they want to see Jesus, but they not seen Him yet. Let us pray for them daily. They are referred to as the Church-Suffering.
The Faithful here on earth are referred to as the Church-Militant. They are the soldiers of Christ on the battle field, fighting between good and evil. Soldiers who are cowards perish on the battle field. But brave soldiers of Christ triumph into Heaven. There they reign as the Church-Triumphant. On 1st November we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. These three Churches relate with one another in Faith. There is a Communion among them. Unfortunately, those in Hell have been isolated forever. They are suffering from Spiritual Ebola Virus Disease (SEVD). The souls in purgatory are quarantined for a while to ensure corporate healing. Those in Heaven are declared innocent forever. The World Health Organization has recently declared Nigeria Ebola free. If all Nigerians want to see Jesus, they must repent now or never. Oh, God, save our souls!