By Constaincia Uruakpa
Christmas, an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed December 25 of every year all over the world, means different things for different people. For some people, it is a time for making merriment and enjoyment of all sorts, while others see it as a time to reflect spiritually and draw closer to God, as well as be closer to fellow humans, especially those who are in need. Though this year, 2020 Christmas celebration may look somewhat bleak in various parts of the world stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19, a virus that dealt a serious blow to the human race, and still taking its toll in various countries of the world, as the year comes to a close. In a country like Nigeria where not only the pandemic, but also varying degrees of hazards like insecurity, economic instability, unemployment among others are ravaging, the people have been called to reconcile with God, as he is the only one that can address our shortcomings as a people and shower unto us the spiritual benefits that come with Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the world.
The Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins in his Christmas message and benefits of Christmas, as the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos ordained four new priests on Thursday, 17, 2020 at St. Leo Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos, said people must see Christmas as a sign of God’s love for the human race. He said: “Well, Christmas is the birth of Christ. It is God taking the human flesh in order to be with us and safe us. That is the major, major thing that God has done for human being, and we must take that as a sign of God’s love for us as people. We must recognize that God loves us. And having recognized that, we must also reciprocate God’s love by serving him with all our hearts and minds. “There are many people today who claim to be religious, but the principles of religion, the virtues that we expect of religious people are often times not to be found.
And so we hope that as we celebrate Christmas and recognize the love of God, we reciprocate by loving him in keeping his word and by also loving one another and supporting one another, particularly those who are in need of it. On Christians celebrating Christmas and getting the spiritual benefits, he said: “The spiritual benefits of Christmas first of all depends on grace. You have to have the grace in order to get the spiritual benefits. And that means that you need to first of all prepare yourself for the coming of Christ, first of all by going for the sacrament of reconciliation. The sacrament of reconciliation ensures that whatever shortfalls we have, we can redress them and get back to relationship with God. So, confession, confession and confession is important in preparing to receive the graces. And to be able to celebrate it well, ensure that you let the love of God rule our lives and dictate our relationship with other people, so that those who are poor will not be left out at this time.
Those who need support will also be supported. On the class of eight which he belonged to being the highest number of priests ever being ordained in the Archdiocese of Lagos, the Archbishop said: “That record has been broken. It’s been broken years after that. We have had twelve. Speaking on what he intends doing to ensure that in his tenure in office, the Archdiocese would have more than enough number of priests, he said: “Well, we can only pray for it. Of course, there are many people who want to become priests, but we have got to pay adequate attention because of the situation of the world and so be able to identify genuine vocation as different from ones that are not genuine. But, definitely, we are looking forward to be able to have to identify one day. On how many priests there are in the Archdiocese with the four newly ordained priests, he said: “There are religious, there are diocesan, so I cannot really tell you the exact figure now.
But all in all, they will be close to 400 priests. Concerning the economic and security situation in the country, the Archbishop advised the government to create new opportunities for people to go and develop their business acumen and also for security units by states as instruments for supporting the police. He said: “Well, we know very clearly that the economic situation of this country is well, well below expectation. People are suffering. There is a lot of hunger, a lot of homelessness, lack of job opportunities, and therefore, we hope that government and its agencies will begin to create new opportunities for people to go and develop their business acumen. As it is today, many are losing their jobs; they are not able, as it were to start whatever it is they want to do because of the environment. “So, we pray and hope that government will do that. But security of the nation is obviously a very dicey thing. And when we have people; farmers being abducted from their farms and slaughtered like chickens, when we have children being taken from their school in the dead of the night, when we have people being kidnapped in their homes, on the streets, in the farm, obviously, it’s a very, very worrisome situation.
And I think it is important for government to do something differently than they used to do. They are doing the same thing all over, and the security situation is still the same. The police as it were today, is literarily unable to man the security situation of our nation in terms of their number, in terms of their equipment and all. “Therefore, if there are proposals for state police for instance, why should it not be considered? If there are proposals for units of security started by state, why are they not being supported? These are supposed to be instruments for supporting whatever police arrangements there are. And of course, we have the Boko Haram and so called bandits operating freely all over the place. And at the same time, we still have the same Security Chiefs in charge for God knows how long, even after their tenures have expired. Isn’t it necessary that government should try and do something different? I mean, we can’t continue to do the same thing and expect a result that is different from what we are getting now.
And so, we hope that our president and his government will really do the needful because this country is gradually, gradually sinking into anarchy. Into anarchy where people are simply unable to feel secured wherever they may be. So, let government do something differently.” The Archbishop also advised the newly ordained priests to be mindful of the friendship they keep, and not to joke with their prayer life. “Prayers can do very much more than we can ever dare to hope for. Prayers are capable of bringing mountains down. Pay attention to your prayers and ensure that you don’t joke with them. It will see you through in moments of difficulty. It will also be your guide at all moments of your lives”, he said. He also reminded them that the mysteries of the Church that are handed to them are not theirs, but of God, and of the Church, as he urged them to handle these carefully.
“The mysteries that are handed to you are not your own. They are of God, they are of the Church, and therefore, handle them with care. Handle them with the fear of God. Handle them with sacrificial love because we know in all of these things, you will find joy and fulfilment in the Holy Priesthood”, he emphasized. While noting that the priesthood is not a career, he advised the newly ordained priests not to be career minded. “I join the homilist to remind you that the priesthood is not a career. The priesthood therefor is not for those who are career minded. Career minded people set their own life stories. Career minded people determine ahead what they want to be, how much wealth they want to acquire, and what else it is they want to achieve. For those who have vocation to the priesthood, they live their lives and their paths in the hands of God. They live their lives and their paths in the hands of the Church; the Church that loves and takes care of you”, he said While calling the attention of people of the Archdiocese about some career minded priests going around in the Archdiocese, selling all kinds of things to the people, the bishop condemned the act, and disassociate himself and the Archdiocese from such people.
He said: “I want to seize this opportunity to say there are some men; priests who are going about the Archdiocese of Lagos, priests who are more career minded than vocation minded who go from shop to shop pretending to be praying for people, priests who go from place to place selling all kinds of oil, all kinds of materials, taking advantage of the credulity and the faith of our people. There is one in particular that is called Joy Clinic Foundation. Joy Clinic Foundation is not approved by the Archdiocese of Lagos. Even though the one who says he is the founder of the clinic says he is a friend of the Archbishop, and that the Archbishop is aware of everything that he is doing, that is not true. That person is actually pursuing a career and not a vocation.”