Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has called on Christians and non-Christians alike in the country not to consider this peculiar Easter celebration amidst the COVID-19 as a period to be in despair. Rather it is a time for people to look out for one another.
Most Rev. Kukah stated this in his 2020 Easter Message, entitled, “The Empty Tomb & Empty Churches: A metaphor for our times.”
He said, “This is an Easter like no other that the world has seen. It is not time for despair nor should we be casting aspersions and seeking scapegoats.”
The bishop added that “This pandemic is a crisis that contains an opportunity. The worst that can happen to us is if we return to our old ways and divisions after the pandemic is over.”
The full text of the Easter message reads:
1: An empty tomb! Another name for Easter! The tomb was the most grievous wound ever inflicted on the world. Yet, rather than seeking a healing for this wound, Christianity believes that instead, this wound has brought us healing (Is. 53: 3). Christianity is a religion of contradictions and irony, defying logic and human reason. How can a Virgin conceive without knowing a man? (Lk. 1:34). How can a man with nowhere to lay his Head proclaim a kingdom? (Jn. 18:36). How can a man who claimed he would rise again (Jn. 2:29) not even defend himself, nor avoid the humiliation of being nailed to the cross with robbers? The third day of all the drama changed all that.
2: As with Christmas, Woman is at the centre of the resurrection. Mary of Magdalene and her friends, faithfully went to anoint the body of Jesus, weeping, and wondering who would roll the stone away for them (Mk. 16:3). Jesus rewards her and she is made the principal witness of the risen Christ. She has a new mission: Go and tell my brothers (Jn. 20:17). By letting a woman be the first to see Him after the resurrection, Jesus dramatically resets the gender template of the culture of the time. In a culture where a Jew thanks God every morning for not being born a woman, in a culture where a woman’s testimony is not admissible, even the Apostles did not believe Mary’s story and dismissed it as a woman’s tale (Lk. 24:11). In doing this, Jesus conquers and resets the history and anthropology of the time. In seeking to change our world, we must respect women.
3: Christians are well placed to appreciate the pall of anxiety, fear, suspense, tension, foreboding that now hangs in our skies following the explosion of the coronavirus. Our world has changed so dramatically and, as in Rama, the sound we hear everywhere is one of lamentation, weeping and mourning (Jer. 31:15). Let us therefore; be still and listen to the voice of God (Ps 46: 10). The Resurrection is the greatest assurance of God’s faithfulness. Let us heed the voice of Jesus: Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God and trust in Me (Jn. 14: 1). Let us banish the feelings of emptiness, confusion, vulnerability and silence knowing that we are bearers of Hope which does not disappoint (Rom.5:5).
4: You recall the story of the trees in the forest when the logger came for them. First, the trees said that there was no way the logger could be their enemy since the handle of the axe was one of them. They decided to relax. By the time they realised it, all of them had fallen to the logger’s axe. Every tragedy, from wars, famines, to plagues and pandemics start small and we often find reasons to ignore solidarity. Cultural, religious, ethnic, class and gender differences often serve as a balm to lull us into indifference until it is too late. This pandemic is a crisis that contains an opportunity. The worst that can happen to us is if we return to our old ways and divisions after the pandemic is over. It would mean that we have failed to learn the historic lessons of the time.
5: This is an Easter like no other that the world has seen. It is not time for despair nor should we be casting aspersions and seeking scapegoats. The world must look back and ask how we got to this point. We Christians must ask how we allowed the tares and thistles to overwhelm the good seeds of our common humanity (Matt. 13: 24ff). We must remember that none of us is healthy if one of us is sick. None of us has a full stomach if anyone of us goes to bed hungry. None of us should be proud of their wealth as long as one is poor. Nothing calls on our common humanity like now.
6: Finally, the empty tomb is a metaphor for our empty churches today. The Church started from our hearts and homes before it became a physical structure. Perhaps, we have mistakenly allowed the structures to take the Church from our hearts and made us less humane. As the angel said to the Apostles; He is not here, he has risen as he said(Mt. 28:6). It is not time to feel sorrow or sadness for ourselves. Rather, it is time to rethink how we have always seen faith and our common humanity. The resurrection of Jesus is a celebration of God’s redemption, His renewal of the world. Light has finally overcome darkness and we must remember: Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overpower it (Jn. 1:5). For you were once darkness but now you have light. Walk as children of light. (Eph. 5:8).
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