Then the massacre of the Holy Innocents. Does that incident hit us? Think of it! : The first effect of the Saviour’s birth was that almost every family in the area with a male child was plunged into mourning. Every babe under two years was murdered, butchered. And as a mother, Mary knew the impact on the mothers whose children were massacred. What excruciating agony and desolate darkness her faith must have gone through! What a superhuman effort it must have taken for her to remain loyal, to continue to believe, respect and even remember the words of the Magnificat: “His mercy extends from generation to generation. He exalts the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. Mindful of his love, He protects Israel, his servant” (Luke1:50-54).
Our reaction would be: Really? And he let those infants be slaughtered and those families plunged into mourning! Mary was satisfied to let God do great things in her through the grief and the suffering of his handmaid. Mary remained unshaken, unequivocal, sure that all was right and that the Lord knew what he was doing better than she. In the circumstance, we imagine her saying: Just as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his ways above our ways and his thought above our thoughts”(Is55:9).
According to Mauric in his Vie de Jesus, the Blessed Virgin never forgot the sharp point of the sword Simeon had talked about, and at certain moments she asked herself whether the suffering he had foretold did not consist in always being the sole witness of this immense love. God was living there, and she was the only one to watch with him, the only one to serve as sanctuary lamp.
Nevertheless Mary did not say anything nor run about telling people. She held her tongue and believed, believed that Jesus could save the world while he remained silent, as the Apostles should have believed he could save them while he slept.
Mary was consistent. She was constant. She did not make a single mistake. She held fast, believed and stayed in her prison of faith. She continued to hope. We have to hope against all hope. Christian faith, says Gilbert K. Chesterton, is believing the unbelievable; Christian hope is hoping when things are hopeless; Christian charity is loving the unlovable.
Faith does not entertain doubt. It does not make room for understanding. It does not welcome questioning. It demands absolute obedience. Zachariah had resigned himself to being childless. God sent his angel to inform him that his heart’s desire would be fulfilled. ”Your wife Elizabeth is to bear a son and you must name him John.” He doubted. He questioned: “How can I be sure of this? ”He violated a cardinal principle of faith. We know pretty well what happened to him (Luke 1:18-22). Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ almost always looked out for faith either on the afflicted or on the relation of the afflicted to effect a cure or raise the dead.
When Jesus was twelve years old, he very tersely told his parents that he had to tend to his Father’s business (Luke 2:49). They did not understand what he meant, but Mary understood that she did not understand and she was willing to have it that way. When it comes to faith, hope and trust, God makes shocking demands and his saints are people who have made up their mind to believe without doubting, without understanding. Charles de Foucauld used to say: “I’ve got to cling to faith for dear life; and I don’t even know whether God loves me, for he never tells me so.” Have we ever taken out time to meditate on what happened at the Temple when Mary and Joseph met Jesus there after looking for him for three straight agonising days? (Luke 2:41-50). Think of it. A boy of twelve, who stayed away from his parents for three days, and when his mother found him and gently asked, “My son, why did you do that to us? your Father and I have been looking for you, just heartsick with worry! ”He replied: “why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know…?’ We feel that Jesus could certainly have found something else to say, but that is because we do not know a thing about it. Jesus was twelve, and that pilgrimage to the Temple was his first since the day he had been circumcised. Around the holidays, at that time, Jerusalem was said to be the scene of delirious excitement; trumpets sounded in the distance, and singing crowds came to pray. Jesus entered into the Temple where God was loved, where everything reminded him of His Father, where all was associated with worship and liturgy, adoration, thanksgiving and sacrifice. There, he felt happy and at home. He stayed put when other pilgrims had left. He was there when his parents searched for him for three days.
Most of the harshest words of Jesus recorded in the Bible were spoken to his mother. At Cana Galilee, He told her: “woman, leave me alone. My hour has not come yet” (John2:4). Some other time when someone whispered: “Your mother and your relatives are outside and want to see you ”(Matt 1247-50). The expectation was that Jesus would get up; but no! he looked at those that he was talking to and said: “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother” ( Matt 12:50). Certainly, it must hurt a mother to hear that sort of thing. But Mary absorbed it. That was how she served God. She did so wholeheartedly. Sometime a woman exclaimed: “Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!” (Luke 11:28). The woman might have missed the point. She was, we imagine, thinking of physical relationship and motherhood in the flesh. The focus is on listening to and doing the will of God, following and believing in it. Those who do so are the fortunate ones. Mary alone truly understood what Jesus had said. She alone had been testing that bliss for years. Her faithfulness was uniting her very closely to her Son and preparing the way for total communion. Jesus spoke harsh words to his mother partly because he knew that she would cooperate much better than anyone else would and partly because he wanted her to resemble him more than anyone else did. Mary knew that the words of Jesus and his exigencies were the outward proof of the deep accord between them. She was never scandalised. She bowed to his will and told herself that he was right. On Calvary Hill Mary was there. “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 8::21). But all those who sat around and listened to Jesus as he declared them “brothers” and “sisters disappeared from Calvary Hill. But Mary was there. She agonised because of the word. Her heart was pierced because of it. The cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”! ( Matt 27:47), must have wrenched the very sinews of Mary’s faith and hope. Nevertheless, deep down her heart, she believed that everything was right and in order; that it had to happen that way; that God in his infinite wisdom knew what he was doing.
Our Blessed Lord did not begin his work of Redemption, St. Pope Pius X said, without the consent of Mary, solemnly asked and freely given. Likewise he did not complete it on Calvary without her presence and her consent. From this union of sufferings and of will between Mary and Christ, His Holiness continued, she merited to become most worthily the Restorer of the lost world and the Dispenser of all the graces Jesus purchased by his death and by his blood.
St. Alphonsus Liguori has presented a condensed, vivid, illuminating and penetrating image of Mary’s faith: Mary’s faith surpassed that of all men and all angels. She saw her Son in the stable at Bethlehem and she believed that he was the Creator of the world. She saw him fly from Herod and she never wavered in her faith that he was the King of kings. She saw him born, and she believed him eternal. She saw him poor and without even the elemental necessities, and nevertheless she believed him to be the Master of the universe. She saw him lying on straw, and her faith told her that he was the All powerful One. She saw that he spoke not a word, yet she believed that he was the eternal Wisdom itself. She heard him cry and she believed that he was the joy of Paradise. And in the end she saw him dying, exposed to all manner of insult, affixed to a cross, and though the faith of all others was shaken, yet Mary persevered in her unhesitating belief that he was God.
The concluding prayer of the members of the Legion of Mary at every meeting and function is exemplary. In it faith is mentioned five times: Confer, O Lord on us, who serve beneath the standard of Mary, that fullness of faith in Thee and trust in her, to which it is given to conquer the world. Grant us a lively faith, animated by charity, which will enable us to perform all our actions from the motive of pure love of Thee, and ever to see Thee and serve Thee in our neighbour; a faith firm and immovable as a rock, through which we shall rest tranquil and steadfast amid the crosses, toils and disappointments of life; a courageous faith which will inspire us to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for God and for the salvation of souls; a faith which will be our Legion’s Pillar of Fire – to lead us forth united – to kindle everywhere the fires of Divine Love – to enlighten those who are in darkness and in the shadow of death – to inflame those who are lukewarm – to bring back life to those who are dead in sin; and which will guide our feet in the Way of Peace, so that – the battle of life over – our Legion may reassemble without the loss of any one in the Kingdom of Thy Love and Glory. Amen.
The above prayer, emphasis added, should be said regularly by all Catholics.
______________________________________Patrick Chukwukere 08187160379; 08154696765; 08033775551.
The Data of Forgiveness
The most important ingredient in today’s media economy is data. The amount of data available determines how much and how long we can work or play on the internet. Currently, many of the service providers offer unlimited data plans but we know that those “unlimited” plans are not always unlimited. Sometimes, your download speed can get slowed down when you cross a certain point. Today, however, Jesus gives us the divine model of an unlimited plan. It is the unlimited bundle of compassion and forgiveness which never gets slowed downed shut down for maintenance. The theme for this week is that we must learn to forgive without limits no matter the injury committed against us.
In Matthew’s Gospel, today’s teaching on unlimited forgiveness comes after Jesus had told his disciples the parable of the wandering sheep, so it is plausible that some would have wondered among themselves how many times a good shepherd should go after the same sheep if it keeps wandering away. In those days, people believed that forgiveness was limited to three times only – a fourth transgression was not to be forgiven. So, by asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, Peter was probably aiming to increase the limit to seven times. And Jesus makes it clear that we are to forgive others, “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22).That means we must dispense an unlimited data bundle of mercy.
In Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of a debt we could never pay. Sin is an offence against God and a direct rebellion against his authority and creation. The debt of 10,000 talents mentioned in today’s parable symbolizes the magnitude of the offence that sin causes in God’s eyes, but he is always willing to forgive without limits. However, we can easily cut ourselves off from God’s river of mercy when we refuse to forgive others. We end up restraining God’s mercy and putting ourselves under strict justice. To unfold his mercy without compromising his justice, God leaves each person free to choose between the two. If we insist on strict justice when we are offended, we bring God’s strict justice upon ourselves. But if we offer an unlimited bundle of mercy to others, we draw God’s unlimited data of forgiveness upon ourselves.
The secret to forming a forgiving heart lies in recognizing the evil of our sin and the immensity of God’s goodness in forgiving us. Until we see the ugliness of our ingratitude and selfishness, we will never appreciate the generosity of God’s forgiveness. Let us examine ourselves now to see how much forgiveness we are giving. Is there someone we still cannot forgive even after they have expressed sorrow for their actions? Have we judged someone too harshly because of something they said or did that we did not particularly like? How many times have we failed to help somebody because we are still dwelling on an injury that we suffered many years ago? How many times have we treated someone differently based on preconceived notions or stereotypes? These are some of the factors that shackle us like chains and that disrupt the unlimited data of divine grace in our lives. When we close ourselves off to people or dismiss them based on our preconceptions, mistaken judgments, and prejudices, not only do we make them suffer, we suffer as well.
But it does not have to be that way. Jesus came to free us from and the burden of sin and unhappiness. Forgiveness is like mercury, which runs away when it is held tightly in the hand but is preserved by keeping the palm open. When we lose forgiveness, we lose the ability to give and to receive love because love is the foundation of forgiveness. And since God is the foundation of love, whoever refuses to forgive automatically rejects the love of God. This is the essence of today’s parable and it is highlighted by the contrast between what was owed by each man. The wicked slave owed his master some 10000 talents. In gold terms, that is 350 tons and at today’s price, he owed his master USD21.8 billion. This was way more than King Solomon made in a year which was 666 talents of gold or USD1.45 billion in today’s value (cf. I Kings 10:14). So, this unforgiving servant owed his master what no individual could never payback. In contrast, his fellow servant owed him the equivalent of one talent of gold or USD2.1 million; so a man who was forgiven $21.8b could not let go of $2.1m, and his wickedness landed him in the hands of torturers.
Dear friends, forgiveness is an act of compassion which is expressed in the free choice to pardon one another’s shortcomings every day, and to also pardon ourselves for own mistakes Forgiveness transcends the fear of being wounded again; it is a deliberate act in imitation of the redemptive work of Jesus, the advocacy of the Holy Spirit, and the loving kindness of the Father. The whole point of today’s parable is that our Father in heaven will do the same to anyone who refuses to forgive others. Whoever refuses to forgive is doomed to a life of bitterness, and as the ugly trend continues, the person ends up building invisible walls of resentment around themselves, thereby blocking off not just one’s relationships with other people but with God as well. Forgiveness is not just an emotional expression or a sense of righteousness; it means being merciful not only when there is an explanation or apology, or a promise of amendment from the offender, but even when the offence is deliberate, and the offender is adamant. Forgiveness is a precious gift of grace, which does not depend on the worthiness of the receiver. Forgiveness is what we called to do, and the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us in that regard. Amen.
Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture
By Joy Opara
The increasing cost of Agricultural products in Imo State in recent times has continued to be a major source of concern to the citizens of the state.
A critical appraisal of the development of Agriculture in this state reveals that successive governments had neglected this major sector of the economy, over three decades now, and this has adversely affected the revenue of government.
In line with the vision of the “shared prosperity” government of the Hope Uzodinma administration, the revolution of agriculture is among its cardinal programmes for which a high powered committee (on agricultural master plan for Imo State) has been set up.
For the purpose of resuscitating all moribund agricultural industries and facilities in the state, it is not surprising that this committee is headed by a world class Professor of Agriculture and Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku.
The need to diversify the economy cannot be over-emphasized. It is a well known fact that there is no better and more sustainable means of diversifying the economy than through agriculture. It would be recalled that after the inauguration of his committee, the deputy governor went into action, first by visiting all moribund agricultural facilities in the state, which included Adapalm in Ohaji/ Egbema LGA, Avutu Poultry farm in Avutu, Obowo LGA, Songhai farms, Okigwe road, Owerri, ADP farms in Nekede, Owerri West. Others are Acharaubo farms in Emekuku, Owerri North, Imo Rubber Plantation in Obiti, Ohaji/ Egbema, amongst others.
Prof. Njoku in one of his speeches during the tour described agriculture as the economic base of most countries of the world. Considering the dwindling oil revenue, he said it should be a source of worry to people of good conscience that the vision of our founding fathers to generate revenue, food security, economic advancement, industrialization, employment and eradication of poverty was destroyed by successive governments.
The Deputy Governor, who not only is acknowledged as one of the greatest professors of Animal Science, a renowned Agriculturist and former Vice Chancellor of a leading University of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, made it clear that the present government led by Governor Hope Uzodinma is desirous to return agriculture to its former glory.
The Ikeduru-born technocrat and farmer per-excellence said that the 3R Mantra of this administration namely: Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery is a base for making the dream of Imo State as the food basket of the nation come true.
Noting that government is a continuum, the deputy governor promised that his committee will build upon what is already on ground by rehabilitating the ones that could be rehabilitated and bringing in new facilities where necessary to ensure that the passion of the governor towards agricultural revival is achieved.
Meanwhile, in most of the establishments visited by the committee, it was discovered that indigenes of the communities had badly encroached into the lands and converted them to personal use. Investigations by the committee revealed that agents of some past governments in the state connived with the communities to make it possible, for their personal aggrandizement.
The deputy governor, whose humility has become legendary pledged his total support to the Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma whom he described as God sent to right all that were done wrong by the previous administrations in the state. He called on all to give this administration the needed support to rewrite the history of Imo State in gold, especially the agricultural sector.
Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust
By Christian Uzoukwu
Some years ago, while as a kid, I fell out with my father due to an occasion of sheer disobedience and on that very day, I was given no food and was ultimately battered by hunger. Child abuse includes both acts of commission and omission on the part of parents, guardians as well as care-givers.
These acts have led to a lot of actual and threatened harm meted out on countless number of children. In 2014, the WHO made an estimate of 41,000 children (under the age of 15) that are victims of homicide and other related offences. This estimate, as expounded by this world body is grossly below the real figures due to the views of the society in relation to corporal punishment experienced by children. Girls are always most vulnerable to different forms of child abuse during unrests and in war-thorn territories.
Cases of child abuse can be established in some deadly human vices such as child trafficking, child labour, forced adoption as seen in the one-child policy prevalent in China. In the Asian country, women, by law are only allowed to have one child. Local governments would sometimes allow the woman to give birth and then they would take the baby away stating the mother violated the one child policy. Child traffickers, often paid by the government, would sell the children to orphanages that would arrange international adoptions worth tens of thousands of dollars, turning a profit for the government.
Other striking examples of child abuse are the various forms of violence against the girl-child which involves infanticide, sex-selective abortions, female genital mutilations (FGM), sexual initiation of virgins in some African cultures, breast ironing in some parts of Cameroon – involving the vicious use of hot stones and other tools to flatten the breast tissue of girls who have attained the age of puberty. As if those were not enough, female students are also subject to maltreatments in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not to talk of recurring kidnapp of female students in some parts of Nigeria, as we saw in the case of Dapchi and Chibok schoolgirls.
Based on simple analysis, child abuse can be defined as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.
This definition by WHO also falls in line with the definition propounded by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that child abuse are acts of commission. This commission includes “words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child”, and acts of omission (neglect), meaning “the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm.
In Nigeria, most cases of child abuse have become cumbersome due to the fact that these acts of abuses are regarded as mere punishments to unruly young ones and by so doing, should be justified and doesn’t call for any further discussion and/or scrutiny. According to various statistical studies and researches, child abuse is a vast societal cankerworm and has four profound tentacles viz:
Physical Abuse: this involves undue hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning, strangling, insertion of pepper into the eyes and pubic regions of children, maltreatments from house-help(s) and seniors at boarding/day schools, suffocating and forcing children to live in unwholesome conditions.
Sexual Abuse also includes persuading a minor into acts of sexual intercourse, exposure of the child’s private parts, production of child-related pornographic contents and actual sexual contacts with children.
Psychological Abuse of children can be seen in cases of excessive scolding, lack of proper attention that children should be receiving from their parents and guardians, destructive criticisms and destruction of a child’s personality.
Neglect of children can also lead to children dropping out of schools, begging/stealing for food and money, lack of proper medical care for minors and realities of children looking like ragamuffins.
Consequently, the causes of child abuse can be judiciously related to sex, age, personal history, societal norms, economic challenges, lack of Rights’ Protection Agencies, parents battling with traits of alcoholism and family size. These causative agents of child abuse can bring untold effects upon the society at large and these effects can be emotional, physical and psychological as the case may be, giving rise to individuals with dissociative lifestyles.
Furthermore, the treatment of individuals who have been malformed with respect to the abuses they experienced abinitio, can be a long process because it involves behavioral therapy and other forms of neoteric therapies. Treatments of psyche-related problems are not just a one-day process due to the long-lasting effects of abuses on various conscious mental activities. It is also noteworthy to point out that, prevention is always better than cure and holding fast to this true reality, entails that agencies who have the responsibility of protecting the rights of children must continue to do the needful which requires proper oversights of parent-child relationships.
To conclude this piece therefore, we must agree that untold hardships have been a great challenge for children especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. Children with long histories of abuses turn out to become societal misfits. To this end we encourage that: Children should be given a free platform to express themselves on many topical issues and issues relating to their existence.
Children should also be allowed to freely ask questions on any issue, no matter, how weird it seems to be.
Governments should make regulations outlawing societal norms and values that might amount to child abuses.
Corporal punishments by parents, guardians and care-givers should be discouraged at all levels, thereby making parents/guardians/care-givers who seem to be incorrigible, to face the full weight of justice enshrined in the law of the land.
Education system (both conventional and unconventional) in Nigeria should be able to train up young ones into becoming critical, analytical and evaluative individuals with a view of defending the vulnerable.
And again, since children are said to be leaders of tomorrow, it is pertinent to note that to secure their future, their present existence must be cherished and protected.
Christian Chimemerem Uzoukwu
08100029867 / 09025760804
Admin Critical Thinkers’ Forum.
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