“Modernized, the Easter message means that God recycles human garbage. He can turn prostitutes like Magdalene into disciples, broken reeds like Simon Peter into rocks, and political-minded Simon Zealots into martyrs for the faith. God is the God of the Second Chance.” – Fulton Sheen.
Today, November 1, the Catholic Church commemorates the feast of All Saints. An annual memoir in which She celebrates the lives and times of her illustrious sons and daughters who strived to live life worthy of emulation, and who as it were are enjoying the beatific vision of God our Maker. She celebrates the triumph of God’s grace in us.
However, there is another interesting side of the feast that many don’t seem to know or emphasize.
The feast of All Saints presupposes the traditional belief of the Church that aside those She canonized and enlisted in the anal of Her hagiography, are other countless people from every race, tribe, tongue and culture who attained this eternal happiness in heaven and whose names the Mother Church did not or have not yet chronicled in her book of martyrology.
St. John, the apostle of Revelation talked about these people (Rev. 7:9-14).
Now, drive it home, and you would understand that what we commemorate on all Saints day include those our fore-fathers who by no fault of theirs did not have the privilege of seeing or hearing the good new of Christ’s incarnation and redemptive works, but still lived holy lives according to the dictates of their consciences.
Reach out to history, and you will discover that among our primitive forebears were some men who lived all their lives observing the golden rule of ‘do unto others, what you would want others do unto you’. And ‘don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t like others do unto you’.
Ultimately, we always say and rightly too, that Christ came to redeem us. But there is more to that truth anyway. He didn’t just redeem us and left. He entrusted to us (by extension, His Church) the means of salvation, such as the sacraments and the gospels.
So that though He may have redeemed us and those who lived before us, He will through us redeem the world to come after His ascension. Such was His transcendental plan that the redemption he wrought will have eternal effect on those who lived good lives before His earthly life, during it, and afterwards till the end of time (Matt. 28:26).
In doing this he gave us some sort of expo of who and who is to be saved, as well as what and what one must do to be saved. One of such expo is that He unmistakably said: “those who will make heaven are those who do the will of my father.” Matt. 7:21.
Not necessarily Anglicans or Catholics or Moslem or Traditional worshippers, or atheists, but “those who do the will of His father”.
And what is the will of His father you may ask? He went further to state that the will of the Father is in the greatest commandments of “unconditional love of God and neighbour” (Matt. 22:37-40).
This leaves us with the assurance that some of our forefathers in antiquities who lived and died prior to the messianic era, but revered God in ways He might have used to reveal Himself to them and loved their neighbours as themselves are in heaven.
Some of these ancient men and women of virtue practiced what we preach today more piously than most of us do in our hypocrisy. They lived righteous life with minimal errors due to human frailties.
The hospitality of Abraham to strangers (Gen. 18:1-15), the generosity of Abel in giving to God (Gen. 4:3-4), the unique prudence of Solomon (1 Kings 3:16-28), the childlike trust of David on God (2Sam. 15:25-26), the bravery and unflinching reliance of the three Hebrew men in the furnace of fire of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 3), etc were some of the many examples we could draw biblically or extra-biblically to conclude that though they saw neither Christ nor His emissaries, they were already candidates for the kingdom of heaven by their virtuous lives.
But where were their souls after they died since Christ hasn’t come to open the floodgates of mercy, you would ask? They are in Limbo. According to the catechism of the Catholic church, (CCC part one, section two, chapter two article 5), Limbo is a divinely prepared realm of repose, where the souls of saintly men and women who died before Christ were kept pending the resurrection of Christ.
That’s another pointer to the clause in the catholic creed which reads: “…and He (Christ) descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead”. In the Hades he went down to lead the souls of these pious men/women out into paradise. He had paid in full the debt of Adam which locked the paradise against them. At that Hades for three days, they encountered the wonderful light of Christ the Conqueror, and that was their baptism.
Admittedly, and as evidenced in the apocalyptic vision of St. John, these virtuous men and women were not domiciled in one culture or time. They span across tribes, cultures, professions, belief systems and tongues. From the interior villages in Nsukka, to the exterior towns of Onitsha, from the upper deserts of Sokoto Sahara to the swamped creeks of Ogoni lands, from the Loamy lands of Ijebu ode, to the sandy-silt lands of Jukun settlers in Taraba, from the silent caves of the Awhum monastery up to the noisy commercial nerve-centers of Alaba, we could discover in antiquity these men and women of virtues.
And the Mother church in her inspired wisdom is aware of them, thus their special commemoration on November 1, every year in the solemnity of All Hallows day.
So for some new generation Christians who dread everything that links them to their forebears, be guided appropriately and acknowledge the fact that some of our ancestors were men of good tidings, virtue and valour.
I’ve seen with dismay some of the ‘born-again’ brothers who conduct ‘healing-the-family-root’ prayer sessions to cleanse themselves off the effects of the sins and atrocities (whether real or imaginary) of their forefathers.
The Prosperity preachers we call Pastors, in our time has discovered new ways of milking uninformed faithfuls dry by frightening them and deceiving them into believing that the reason for any slightest misfortune they encounter in life is repercussionary effects of their ancestors’ evil deeds.
This claim does not only make mockery of the meaning of our baptism and the new creation preached by St. Paul (2Cor. 5:17), but also waters down the precept of the All Hallows feast.
These pastorprenuers who see the church and the bible as business ventures are good in seeing the ubiquitous presence of satan and his cohorts instead of the omnipresence of God and his triumphant saints on whose constant intercession we suppose rely for unfailing help.
We should therefore tread with caution as we follow these fair-weather teachers of the word of God, because without having any faint knowledge of your genealogy, they will hoodwink you into labelling the entire past generations of your family tree ‘evil’. And you must oblige their demands for your total deliverance from the ‘curses’ of your fathers.
This also dastardly contradicts God’s word in Ezekiel 18:1-30, which teaches that the good son of a bad man will never suffer on the account of his father’s evil deeds. Neither will God allow such injustice that the bad son of a good man will go unpunished for the evil he committed.
In that prophecy of Ezekiel, God taught what a typical Nsukka nugget epitomizes: “enwuru sore onye ji oku” (Smoke trails the path of the man who had glowing splint) and the central Igbo adage that “Onye ji igu ka ewu na-eso”. (Goats follow the lead of the man with forage). In that chapter, we learnt from the justice of God the impropriety that after parents had eaten sour grapes the children’s teeth will be set on edge.
I have witnessed at least three occasions in which some of the gullible followers of prosperity preachers renounced their surnames and take on something new and strange to their lineages, just because of fear of ‘ancestral curses’. The twist of the story is that neither the Pastors nor the followers are leading exemplary lives that will give their own children and their successors-in-lineage confidence to emulate them.
Anyway, I think the notoriety of these fake men of God should be a topic for another day.
What we are here to establish is that most of our roots are not entirely bad as some choose to describe it.
The Bible took up to eleven chapters of the second part of the book of Sirach to remember and talk about these men and women of honour (Sirach chapters 44, to 55). St. Paul preached in favour of the same topic (Theselonica 4:13-18). But because you won’t read your bible, the pastors reads for you and dish out the lies they coin from it.
This article becomes more urgent now that we have entered the month of November which the church dedicates to the souls of the faithful departed. A proper time for reorientation for us to honour our illustrious ancestors and tap into their efficacious intercession at the Throne of the Merciful Father (Heb. 4:16).
Thanks and God bless you as you live to leave a legacy worthy of emulation to your own children down the lineage.
So help us God.
Happy Halloween 2020!!!
✍Eze Jude O.