The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka diocese, Most Rev Godfrey Onah has given reasons why Christians and Nigerians must continue to be joyful at Christmas even though things may appear to be rough.
In his Christmas message titled “JOY TO THE WORLD, THOUGH THE TIMES ARE TOUGH”, the Prelate noted that “Christmas pervades the air; everybody smells it, everybody feels it. The enthusiasm, the preparations, the expectations, and the projects: no other feast in the year, anywhere in the world has that level of importance and excitement”. Why? Because, “the birth of Christ, the incarnation is an eruption of God in human history. The mystery of the human condition was confronted by the mercy of God as St Augustine says and a title that is reclaimed by the Holy Father the Pope in his message at the end of the Jubilee year of Mercy “Misericordia et Misera”. The miserable is confronted by mercy. God looking on us with the eyes of mercy of the loving father sent his son “for God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that all those who believe in him will not perish but will have eternal life.”
Underlying the challenges that many Nigerians are facing amidst the many failed promises of Nigerian government budgets that has failed to alleviate the problem of the ordinary Nigerian, the prelate who is also the Episcopal Chairman of the CBCN on social communications noted that “Christ is the perfect revelation of God’s love and God’s love is expressed primarily in his mercy that redeems us from sin and misery; that is why we celebrate, that is why we are happy and that is why we are joyful.”
But the prelate did not fail to point out that just as we expect good results, “there are certain things God cannot do; Jesus could not work miracles in his own village because of their lack of faith. God will not force his love on us if we refuse to accept that love.”
“Just a few days ago the president of our country General Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 annual budget in the usual high figures in their trillions of naira. But to the ordinary Nigerian on the street, those trillions mean absolutely nothing. Those trillions will not alleviate the problems and the sufferings of Nigerians today. Just before the president presented his budget, a Pentecostal pastor I imagine, a woman led the prayers and among all things she said, may this budget wipe away the tears of all Nigerians. But she forgot that there are certain things God cannot do; Jesus could not work miracles in his own village because of their lack of faith. God will not force his love on us if we refuse to accept that love.” He said
Going further he said: “For decades Nigerian bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful have been praying to God to deliver this country from chaos, anarchy and doom. Year after year however, our leaders have been portioning large sums of money belonging to all of us and those sums eventually end up in private pockets and private bank accounts. “Nothing so far convinces any of us that the trillions mapped out for 2017 will not end the same way that the trillions before it went. The people are suffering, the people are restive, the people are nervous. Many people are doing what they did not do before. Once in a while it now happens that mothers with children and kids are caught stealing food and the police instead of imprisoning them, console them and give them money to go home. I am sure Nigerians will say this is not the change they voted for. But I am also sure that many more people corrupted in the hands of the government will say that, it will always be darker before dawn. It does seem however, that this darkness is lasting much longer than we ever expected.”
Bishop Onah was however optimistic that whether “Things are hot or not, whether the budget will ever bring down the price of rice or not, whether they will bring down the price of cement or not, whether they will bring down the price of fuel or not, “What we know however, is that it was not better when God looked from above and saw the misery of His children and sent His son to comfort us and to deliver us from misery. And that is why we say joy to the world even though things are tough. Joy to world because the Lord knows how Nigerians live today. If anybody understands us, He is the one and that is why he is telling us “he who is born among us today and whose birth we are celebrating today is Emmanuel (God is with us).”
“All the more reason we have course to rejoice because just this year we concluded a special year of grace, a year which everyone one of us wanted, touched God’s love with bare hands through prayers, pilgrims, confessions and absolutions, plenary and partial indulgences. We were filled with God’s grace; we were filled with His mercies. So filled with His mercies that we were invited to extend that mercy to others, by showing them loving forgiveness.”
“Now I say joy to the world although things are tough, but now I conclude by saying “joy to the world precisely because things are tough”, because it in this toughness of things, the real character of Nigerians emerge, it is in this toughness of things, that the real character of the true Christian emerges. It is in this toughness of things that we experience God’s love, His presence among us, His dwelling among us, to save us from misery and sin. If you accept this, Christ living in your heart, in your family, in our Country will definitely bring you joy and this will make your Christmas happy.” He concludes.