EASTER MESSAGE 2020
Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo
Oyo Catholic Diocese
If Easter was ever necessary in the world it is now. Easter Sunday is the day on which Jesus won the victory over sin and death by his resurrection. Easter Sunday is a day of joy. It is a soothing, consoling event for a world that is reeling with death, disease and conflict and suffering. Easter answers all the question which Good Friday and other such contradictions raise, like: Why is there suffering in the world? Why do good people suffer? Will good ever bring any reward? Could there be any meaning in suffering? etc. Easter tells us to look at Jesus Christ as the practical answer to such questions.
Jesus obtained his victory through obedience to God (Phil 2: 5ff), selfless service (Mk 10:45), humility and love (Jn 13:13-17). He went through every pain we can be going though now and more, isolation, hunger, rejection, abandonment, quarantine, persecution and death. Then he rose again as he promised (Matt 16: 21). Whenever we have problems, let us remember that Jesus identifies with us and that should give us hope and courage. God will come to our rescue. At Easter we rejoice because we have this hope and God is trustworthy.
The restrictions and lockdown caused by the Corona Virus epidemic have brought much suffering and pain to the people, compromising the Easter celebrations. So, the Church identifies with all the people of God. Churches may be closed to normal celebrations at this time, Christianity is not closed down. Our gathering together in large numbers is only one way for the Church to celebrate and worship God. (Jn 4:21). The basic, domestic church which is the family must continue to function. Wherever two or three of God’s children are gathered, Jesus is among them (Matt 18:20). So, even at this Easter the Church thrives and celebrates in family prayer, group prayer and private meditation on the Scripture and works of charity. Christianity thrives on the traditional media, print and electronic media on the social media and even in the songs and stories we tell. When the restrictions caused by the COVID 19 pandemic would have disappeared we must not lose this newfound capacity to pray in our families, engage in (Lectio Divina), meditation on the word of God and our communion in the work of charity to the needy. This is the silver ining in the dark cloud of our empty churches during the Lenten period and Easter celebrations.
But more important however is that all of us Christians live holy lives of concrete action, because a life of sin is incompatible with the resurrection and with Christ (1 Jn 3: 4-7). We must strive to be worthy of Jesus’ resurrection, caring for the poor and the needy as he taught us. We also pray for the dead from various tragedies to rest in peace and for the sick to find healing. The prophet Hosea invites God’s people to such renewal and hope. “Come, let us return to Yahweh. He has rent us and he will heal us; he has struck us and he will bind up our wounds; and after two days he will revive us, on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his presence” (Hos. 6:1-3).
Nigerians must not lose hope. In fact, we have a reason to be hopeful. We have seen heroic action from some government officials, private donors and institutions too since the COVID 19 pandemic broke out. Many doctors and nurses have put their lives on the line and other people of good will have done the same. May they all be adequately rewarded. For this reason, the Catholic Church Dioceses and institutions with its unmatched reach all over Nigeria have committed money to help families and feed the poor. 400 catholic hospitals have been offered to Governments all over the country as possible isolation, care and counselling centres for victims of the virus. This we do to care for the soul and body of people and to help them feel the hope of the resurrection.
I therefore commend the civil authorities at various levels for the effort made so far especially on COVID 19. I wish they attend to other problems in Nigeria in the same manner. Government cannot operate restrictions the same way as is done in America or Europe in a detached manner. Life is much tougher for people here and social facilities are weak. Poor people should be helped more. People are hungry and understandably angry. Hungry people might not care about virus or bacteria, because hunger kills faster. Easter is the feast of God’s love and mercy and we should be more caring and loving.
So, I call on all Nigerians to please help somebody out. Christians have a special obligation here. On this shall be based our final encounter with God as Jesus warned (Matt 25:31-46). After his resurrection Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17). Those who love Jesus must always help others not care for themselves alone. COVID 19 has taught us that anybody can be affected and no one is exempted. I plead with the public to cooperate with all the effort put in place to save lives and bring sanity back to our society. Keep praying especially the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father”, which takes care of all our concerns in summary and let us hope in God that we shall all outlive this virus and the tough times. To all I wish a very happy Easter.