– REV FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
WHAT WOULD FATHER ERNEST SAY?
One thing I have struggled with over the years is how best to deal with destructive criticisms. Someone who has helped me over the years to deal with this challenge is my good friend, Fr. Ernest Mawah. We have journeyed together from high school to college, and we were ordained priests on the same day. Beginning with our high school days, whenever I felt weighed down by some destructive criticisms, I would go to him to share my worries. When I was done, he would ask, “And who made those negative comments about you?” After I gave the name, he would say, “Emmanuel, I have no problem with that person, my problem is you.” I would be shocked beyond words, then he would go on to explain, “Tell me one significant achievement that has been recorded in that person’s name? Let’s back track and see what that person is known for in this area. If the words from such a person can weigh you down, I think you need to work more on yourself. I suggest you use your time and energy to thank God for what God is doing for you, and work on your next achievement.”
It was not a one-time experience. My friend treated me that way many times, and I always left disappointed, because I expected him to join me in throwing a pity party, to talk about how it was unfair to be talked about in such a negative way, instead, he challenged me to grow up and move on. Now, when I face negative criticisms, I don’t bother going to him, I just ask myself, “What would Father Ernest say?” I think we all need such a friend. If you don’t have one, please, find one. And make sure you are one too.
According to Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J., “The more we are aware of who we are and accept who we are and who we are not, the less ‘envy’ directs our attitudes and choices.” I would add that, the more we are aware of who we are and whose we are, the less control people, things and circumstances have over us.
Today’s first reading describes the response of the early Christians to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were of one heart, and with great power, they bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who owned property or houses sold them and brought the proceeds to the apostles to share to the less privileged. Those were people who measured their worth by their material acquisitions, but after witnessing the death and resurrection of Jesus, they changed their measuring stick. They realized that nothing was comparable to what Jesus has achieved for them through his death and resurrection, and so they joyfully shared their possessions. After the resurrection, the main responsibility of the disciples became to bear witness to the resurrection. One way in which they bore witness to the resurrection was by rising above the concerns of this world. Because they were attached to the things of the resurrection and of heaven, they were detached from the things and concerns of this world.
In the third chapter of his Letter to the Philippians, St Paul presented his very impressive credentials, then he went on to say, “Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). Two verses later, he added, “All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection” (3:10).
On this Second Sunday of Easter, I wish to once more congratulate and welcome those who recently joined the Church through the Rites of Christian Initiation, those who received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil. It is my prayer that your new experience may be like that of Paul, that you may look back at all you left behind to follow Jesus, and really see them as garbage, compared to your present state. It is my prayer that like the early Christians, your lives may continue to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
And for us who are old timers in the race, this is a time for examination of conscience and renewal. How convinced are we of the power of the resurrection? What are the things that define us? What are the things that move us? If we know who we are and whose we are, the world will have less control over us. Who do you listen to? Who decides your worth/happiness? God looked at you from heaven, and to tell you how much you are worth, he sent his only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to come to this world and die for you. Whose report do you want to work with? God’s evaluation of you or the devil’s evaluation of you through his human agents? The world has been deprived of many inventions and solutions to many problems because the would-have-been inventors were shot down at the early stage of their innovations by destructive criticizers. If we truly believe in the power of the resurrection like Paul, we will count the world’s evaluation of us as rubbish, we will not allow our self-worth to be determined by the world and by our material possessions.
For the times we have failed, today is Divine Mercy Sunday, it reminds us that Jesus is giving us another chance. He appeared to his disciples today, those who abandoned him on the cross; he forgave them and he gave them another chance in addition to the gift of peace, the fruit of his death and resurrection. For the sake of his sorrowful passion, may God have mercy on us and on the whole world, and grant us that peace, which the world cannot give, and that which the world cannot take away from us. Amen.