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THE YEAR OF FAITH HELPS THE WEAK AND LOST FAITH (III)

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Rev. Fr Dr Benedict Ohabughiro Okike

Rev. Fr Dr Benedict Ohabughiro Okike

1. As the Year of the Faith continues, it is my wish in this write-up, dear friends to unveil yet another aspect of the lessons of the year of faith and that is: “The Year of Faith helps the weak and lost faith”. Faith we know comes from hearing and must be believed, professed and lived. Lack of professing and living the faith, leads to weak faith and weak faith may lead to the lost of faith. Faith as a theological virtue needs to increase and therefore, cannot be inactive. If it does not increase, it may be bound to decrease and decrease of faith may eventually lead to lost of faith. Faith therefore, is a dynamic virtue and not a static one. We must always pray for the increase of faith as did the disciples (cf. Luke 17:5-6), in order not to drift into weak or lost faith. There is no doubt that full profession, celebration and witness of faith, keeps the Christian on his or her feet to resist any drift in living the authentic faith in Christ Jesus.

 

2. Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, targeted that this Year of Faith will among other things arouse and achieve increase of faith among the faithful and therefore, a better opportunity to profess, pray, celebrate, live and witness faith creditably. He thus said: “We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, … At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated,  lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year” (Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio Data”: Porta Fidei, 11 October, 2011, No. 9). The act of faith drives itself from God’s own infinite perfect and blessed in himself, who in the plan of his absolute goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness of time, he sent his own son to redeem mankind after fallen into sin and through the work of the Holy Spirit has made all who believe in him the adopted children of his kingdom and eternal happiness. That is why man must continue to long for God who loved him first and made him in his image and likeness. Saint Augustine therefore, opined that: “You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised … You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you”. It is only in faith that mankind has the capacity to realise that: “by nature and vocation, therefore, man is a religious being, capable of entering into communion with God. This intimate and vital bond with God confers on man his fundamental dignity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium, no. 2).

 

3. Christ from on set was never at ease when people showed any sign of weak or lack of faith. As an infant, the parents, Joseph and Mary did not take proper care of his where about, as they where leaving the temple at Jerusalem after the feast; and as such they where going home without the holy one. When they realised the enormity of not having the holy one in their midst, they were no more at ease. When they finally found him in the temple, Jesus did not reply with too much cordiality. “Why were you looking for me? He replied. Do you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs? But they did not understand what he meant” (Luke 2:50). At the occasion of his pastoral tour, when the wind storm stroke while Jesus was with his disciples, they showed lack of faith, by being afraid even as they were sitting together with Jesus Christ in the same boat. When they woke Jesus up and he calmed the wind, then he turned to them and said: “How is it that you have no faith?” They were filled with awe …” (Luke 5:35-41; Mt 8:18). In another insistence, at the healing of the epileptic demoniac, the disciples showed little or weak faith in performing the healing. Of course he told them straight forward: “Faithless and perverse generation! … He answered, ‘Because you have little faith’. I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustered seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you” (Mt 17:14-20; Mk 9: 14-29; Lk 9:37-41). It was at Caesarea Philippi that Peter gave the pre-eminence of the profession of his faith, which gained for him a place of honour of becoming the Head of the apostles [primus inter peres] (cf. Mt 16:13-19). On the other hand, because of Peter’s human instinct and frailty of faith about the sufferings of Christ, Jesus Christ called him “Satan”. That is the man who lost his faith and become a devil [diabolist] (cf. Mt 16:23). It was also Peter’s denial outside the courtyard before a servant-girl that brought down his honour. However he repented: “And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Mt 26:69-75; Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:55-62; Jn 18:5-18, 25-27) and got his forgiveness. Judas was a typical person in the Bible who showed weak faith by the way he was going about with money and consequently sold his master Jesus. He manifested lost of faith, when he could no longer turn to faith for repentance and hanged himself (cf. Mt 27:3-10). We need to over come weakness of faith by true repentance and contrite of heart as St Peter did. Peter’s action and that of the parents of Jesus Christ demonstrated to us that no matter how far away we have wildered away from Jesus Christ we can freely come back to him any time, anywhere, whether in the temple or outside his house. God is everywhere and sees us at any moment, even when we are not conscious of his nearness or farness from us. What is required of us at any moment when we find ourselves not in harmony with our faith in God is to come back to him and recover our faith by confessing, professing, praying and celebrating our faith.

 

4. Faith as we know is a spiritual gift of God which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed; as our Catechism tells us. It is the indication of the heart that is the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of the grace of God which acts and transforms the person deep within. “It is through faith that the walls of Jericho fell down when the people had been round them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). It was the fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary that brought about the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “… said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me” (Luke 1:28). This was the greatest expression of faith in the Scriptures; without which, there will be no salvation. So, faith is not a magical thing; it is real, yet mysterious because, even though it pertains to the very spiritual aspect of humanity. As St Paul said: “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved … But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as the Scripture says: … So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ” (Romans 10:10-17). Whoever that does not believe cannot profess, confess, pray, celebrate or witness faith. We profess our faith in God simply because we have heard of him and believed him in our hearts and can then express ardently that God is the Lord. We begin by firm trust that God created us and that he is our Lord and God (saviour), who is manifested in the Trinitarian revelation of himself through the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whoever has a weak faith can hardly pray fervently to God. If you work so much that you cannot pray, know that you are working more than God wants you to work. A faith that is celebrated is that which is expressed in the sacramental economy; “especially in the Eucharist, which is ‘the summit … and also the source from which all its power flows” (ibid. no. 9). Here we must ask ourselves how do we really prepare and celebrate the Eucharist, which is the highest prayer of the Church? Man who is created in the image and likeness of God has to live according to the will of him who made him. Faith has to be lived in holiness of life, according to God who said: “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; Leviticus 19:2). Faith which is not lived, celebrated, prayed and witnessed in holiness is a faith not yet fully lived and its credibility is questionable. Holiness of life is the irreplaceable form of evangelization and the soul of evangelization (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, (RM), nos. 42, 90).

The highest profession of faith is that of martyrdom. That is why to bear witness to Christ means to be ready to die for Christ’s sake.  No wonder, the words martyr and witness have the same root in Greek as martus – marturein. In the Islamic Religion martyrdom is

To be contd ….

_____________________________________
Rev. Fr Dr Benedict Ohabughiro Okike
Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri. 

 

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The Data of Forgiveness

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The Universal Character of Salvation

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.

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Imo Deputy Governor’s giant strides towards revitalizing agriculture

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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.

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Child Abuse: A case of betrayal of reciprocal trust

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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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