• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

When the coronavirus left the shores of China, nations were fast to close their borders. Laws were enacted, and people were even forcefully quarantined. First, the elderly people, then stores closed their doors, and later, schools and other public buildings were locked down. And when that was not enough, everyone became suspicious of everybody. But the stricter the laws were made, the stronger the pandemic became. And shortly, the world came to learn one painful lesson: we are also vulnerable.

In this 12th Sunday sermon, many preachers must have spent their time explaining how Jesus calmed the sea. I can imagine how more charismatic ones must have insisted on Jesus doing the same even as they were preaching. For these preachers, any Lord who could quiet a raging sea can, of course, speak to your financial situation. He can as well tell that you sickness to submit to his voice, etc. Unfortunately, though God can do all that, it might be very tempting to reduce the readings of this Sunday to such a magical God experience.

In the first reading, we heard God reminding Job that he is the master of the universe. The reading was a faith-lifting passage but must be understood in its original context. Job, we all know, or at least are supposed to know, was never a particular individual. He is the image of humanity in its total greatness, vulnerability, and fragility. Job, like many of us, got rich through honest effort. Like many of us, he remained faithful to God. Yet, he has his children and wealth wiped away. And though it wasn’t God who did it, he was not unaware of Job’s predicaments. In today’s reading, he responds to Job, quiet, be calm, you are also fragile and vulnerable. Your faith doesn’t excuse you from facing the human experience of happiness, wealth, health, sickness, loss of properties, children, etc. But be still, for though you face some hardships now, it will eventually be over.

In the second reading, Paul, writing to the people of Corinthians, takes them to another level of human existence.

“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come,” (2 Cor. 17).

Here Paul does neither promise them better job opportunities nor a problem-free existence. He reminds them that as a new creation; they are called to see their existence in the light of Christ’s resurrection. This is, unfortunately, contrary to how Christianity is portrayed today. For Paul, suffering (hardship, sicknesses, poverty, etc.) in this life is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18). According to him, Christians should be still for, in this very life, we are all great, fragile, and vulnerable.

And finally, the Gospel of Mark ought to be situated in its context too. Mark wrote probably while the war that saw the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem was still ongoing. These gentile Christians were faced with the problem of believing in a God who allows the pagan Rome not only to subdue the chosen nation but also to destroy the Holy Temple. How can the temple where God dwells be destroyed (again)? Where is God in this situation? Is he sleeping while the sea raged?

The author of the Gospel of Mark answers, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

. Quiet, be still, you are fragile and vulnerable, but even the raging sea obeys Christ.

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

A few days ago, I had a beautiful conversation with a friend. Often, we exchange on our different passions and our humanitarian engagements. But, this time, he made me question a few realities I earlier took for granted. We talked about my mission, his projects, and my last vacation. Among other things, we talked about the insecurity in Nigeria. And then he made me realize something new: Nations and people who have been long oppressed develop a form of toxic forbearance.

Let’s consider the Nigerian situation. If you look at how happy Nigerians behave, you will think that everything is going on perfectly well.

One only needs to look well to understand that the citizens are abandoned to fend for themselves. According to the World Health Organization,

“The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is 1 in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4900.”

Yet, when one Googles “unemployment rate in Nigeria,” one will find different stories. But the truth is that one can’t easily quantify unemployment in a nation that has almost zero plan for its youth. And when they do, 50% will be on paper, and the other, politically distributed.

Hospitals are worse than a piggery in certain places, and government schools so neglected that one could mistake them for abandoned war camps.

And despite all these, people bounce around happily. And in every corner of the city, there are myriads of churches, mosques and prayer houses promising heaven on earth. Market places and streets are full of ambulant preachers inoculating the citizens with fabricated lies for a better future that will never come.

Don’t get me wrong. Nigerians should be happy. That’s maybe the only thing that keeps people moving. The government has already stolen every job opportunity, and society, sold to the highest bidders. And the absence of hope is never an option if the nation does not want to face a mass suicide. So, hang on there, but know that no miracle is on the way.

Let society redefine what she is being sold as virtues. Resilience could be deadly! And preachers could intoxicate you with it. How resilient are those who receive gifts from the same politicians that sit on your future? Quit expecting miracles while they dine with the oppressors.

Why despite the hardship in the land, both the politicians and religious leaders keep on progressing? Does anyone believe in a God that replenishes their bank accounts? Of course, no! This is because God has nothing to do with people getting rich or poor. The truth is that if the politicians keep on financing these preachers, they will continue to falsely appear as the pro that God answers their prayers. And while the poor masses toil to pay their tithes to them, they keep on buying private jets.

This form of resilience is fake as it has nothing to do with either being happy or close to God. Know that it is not wrong to be sometimes annoyed, even with God, if need be. But never forget that it is not God that is sitting on your progress—the politicians are. It is also not God that spends that tithe you pay—your religious leaders do.

Imagine, how can the same God bless them with private jets when you can hardly afford three square meals?

How can your certificate fetch you no job when the politicians are spending their weekends in the luxurious hotels in Dubai and London?

If your resilience does not help you to grow, it is a poison that will eventually kill you.

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Did you know that there are animals older than dinosaurs? Coelacanths is a fish that has been in existence millions of years before the dinosaurs. It is from the family of a very rare species of fish - Coelacanthiformes.

They first appeared during Devonian Period, around 400 million years ago, which means they appeared around 170 million years before the dinosaurs.

Scientists thought they disappeared when a strong asteroid stroke the earth wiping away 3/4 of the earth surface. This asteroid was believed to have stroke the earth a period called Cretaceous period. For many years, scientists thought that only birds survived the asteroid but now it is known that coelacanths did too.

Coelacanth was later rediscovered in the year 1938 off the Coast of South Africa. Today, only two know species of coelacanths are alive, and they are found near Comoros Island and North Sulawesi, Papua and West Papua respectively. They are generally called living fossils and are nocturnal fish spending most of their time undersea in volcanic caves.

Scientists found out that coelacanths’ gestation periods could last up to 5 years. That is 3 years longer than elephants (22 months), et 4 years longer than the donkey and the dolphins. They also discovered that it develops and grows at among the slowest pace of any fish. They can live till 100 years - 70 years longer than the sharks, and does not reach sexual maturity until about 55, years.

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