Wednesday, December 9, 2020

was born and brought up at Jos in today's Plateau State, which was Benue Plateau State during my nativity. I was three years old when the bloody pogrom broke out in Jos and in other northern states. The Igbo people were the targets. We were three siblings by that time; I, being the second in rank but the first by right of inheritance. By the grace of God, my lovely and caring parents succeeded in carrying us along from Jos down to our native home. We lost all our property but not our lives. To God be the glory! May God grant thousands of Easterners who were brutally murdered during the 1966 pogrom! Eventually the unfortunate Nigeria-Biafran civil war started in 1967 and ended in 1970. Millions of innocent lives were lost especially on the Biafran side. At the end, the Head of State then, General Yakubu Gowon, declared theoretically that there was no victor and no vanquished. He called for Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. Till today the three Rs are yet to be achieved.

Despite the unhealthy effects of the civil war, life continues. I was seven years old when we went back to Jos, having completed primary one at home. Seven is the formal age of reason. As soon as our feet touched the soil of Jos again, I began primary two at Our Lady of Fatima Primary School Jos. At the same time I was initiated into the spiritual class for First Holy Communion at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Jos. The maiden catechism question I was asked was: "Who made you?" The answer is as simple as ABC. "God made me," I answered with joy. Then second question was thrown to me again: "Why did God make you?" I answered enthusiastically, "God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven." Please clap for me. In spite of my catechetical intelligence, I was denied the opportunity of receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist with others due to my small stature by then. I was as short as small bottle of stout. Thank God I made the first Holy Communion later and also grew tall at the late hour after an accident, during which I was given enough growth nutrients. I have narrated how it happened some years ago. But if you are anxious to know exactly what happened, it will be a topic for another day.

Where am I going? During the process of creation, God created us in His own image and likeness (cf Gen. 1:27). This implies that every human being (man or woman) is made up of matter and form; in other words body and soul. The body is material while the soul is spiritual. It is in the soul that God's image and likeness are found. The body is visible while the soul is invisible. Or have you ever seen your soul in a mirror or by any other means? A certain stupid man cut open his chest with a sharp knife in order to see his soul. Unfortunately he bled to death. What would he tell God? We shall know his fate on the last day.

God is immortal. The human soul shares in this immortality. The body is mortal. Recently, a popular strong man known as 'Anwuanwu' (Immortal) died in a ghastly motor accident. God proved him wrong by his assumption of being immortal. Please if you know anyone answering 'Anwuanwu' by real name or by nickname, kindly advise him or her to apply for change of name before the hammer strikes.

Our mission here on earth is to serve God and humanity through our different states in life. Our stay here is temporal no matter how long one lives. The Prophet Isaiah says that not to live up to 100 years is to die young (Is. 65:20). On the other hand, the Psalmist laments: "Our days pass away in your wrath; our years are gone in no time. Seventy years to our life or eighty if we are strong, yet most of these are sorrow and trouble; speeding by, they sweep us along" (Ps. 90:9 - 10). The above biblical quotation is a lamentation and not our life span. It was the intention of God to make us immortal by nature, but the outbreak of the Original Sin of disobedience and pride changed His mind. Therefore, it has been decreed that all human beings must die. I was officiating at a funeral Mass few days ago when the catechist during the Prayer of the Faithful prayed for those who are afraid of death and for those who will die very soon. Are you in this category? Of course everybody should be prepared to die very soon. Only God knows how soon is the soon, and those who will die soon. To be ready always is an advantage. Ever Ready Battery is a quick reminder to us. Purchase it and keep beside you always. Whether we like it or not, we must leave this world one day, some time and somewhere.

Saint August of North Africa clarifies that we have dual citizenship: citizens of this physical world and citizens of Heaven. Our citizenship here is temporal while our citizenship over there will be permanent. As a result, we ought to make hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly temporal and eternal plans. In other words, we should at every moment make Plan A and Plan B. If 'A' does not work, then 'B' will work. If Plan A is not achieved, then Plan B will be achieved. As citizens of this earth we should aim at doing the right thing at the right time. At the point of our transition to eternity we should leave a worthy legacy behind. We should pass through the world successfully and not vice versa. The Holy Scripture underlines the fact that those who die in the Lord are happy. Indeed, "Let them rest from their labours, their good deeds go with them" (Rev. 14:13). The essential thing here on earth is not how long we lived but what we achieved. A certain priest was sick but he managed to officiate at a church service. While the Word of was being read, he dosed off. He was snoring in the presence of the congregation. When the catechist noticed it, he felt uncomfortable. Courageously he went and tapped the priest at his back and asked, "My priest, are you sleeping?" The sleeping sick priest opened his eyes, sighed and asked, "You who are awake, what have you achieved?" The catechist went away meditating on what he had achieved.

As citizens of the eternal world, we shall reap what we sowed on earth. No wonder Saint Paul does not mince words when he says, "Whatever you sow on earth, that you shall reap" (Gal. 6:7 - 8). Are we sowing good seeds or bad seeds here on earth? Remember the judgment day! St Paul goes on to enunciate: "Each and every one of us will give account of his life on the last day" (Rom. 14:12). We shall account for our thoughts, words, actions and omissions. It will be terrible if God does not temper justice with mercy. After judgment comes reward or punishment. There is heaven. There is also hell. Where will you and I spend our eternity? Let us bear this question in mind always as we struggle to survive.

As we plan to live, so also we plan to die. Have you bought the two most important books titled "Preparation to Live" and "Preparation to die"? If not, hurry now before the stock finishes! Making temporal and eternal plans are very crucial. Any of the two that comes first we should accept it heartily. Few weeks ago, a certain priest packed his luggage in his car for a journey the next day. He went to bed with hope of getting up very early to celebrate Mass before setting out. Unfortunately he did not wake up on that morning. After the parishioners waited and waited till daybreak, no movement was noticed in his room. Later his door was forcibly opened and behold his lifeless body was lying on the bed. What actually transpired at night no one knew. The only account given was that he slept and didn't get up. Sleep is the identical twin of Death. When we sleep and wake up, it becomes a temporal death. On the other hand, if we sleep and didn't wake up, it becomes a permanent death. It was also reported some days ago that a newly married man blessed with a child set off to seek a greener pasture in Germany. His lovely wife with the child at her back, escorted him to the airport and bade him safe journey. The young man was waiting in line to check in. Suddenly he slumped and died. Instead of travelling to Germany, he ended up in the world beyond. This is a great lesson for all. As we plan for earthly journey we should also plan for heavenly journey. Only God knows which one comes first.

In this holy season of Advent, we prepare for the celebration of Christmas as well as for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Any of them can come first. Jesus comes whenever death knocks at our door. The watchword is Readiness. We are advised to keep watch and to stay awake. If we shall sleep at all, then we should engage ourselves in the type of sleep known as 'sleeping-muruanya.' 'Muruanya' is an Igbo word for keeping awake. It is done by closing one eye and keeping the other open. Try to practice it every day because practice makes perfect. If you do so, then you can never be taken unaware. At this juncture, I say "Maranatha!" which means "Come Lord Jesus!" In case Jesus comes before the next edition of Wit's Corner, I say goodbye to you all. We shall meet to part no more in heaven. Adieu the writer and the reader!