2020 Easter Message of Bishop Peter Olukayode Odetoyinbo
THE RESURRECTION OUR HOPE AND CONSOLATION
Alleluia, the Lord is Risen…Look for the things that are in heaven where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. (Col. 3:1)
We celebrate another Solemnity of the Resurrection of Jesus; we celebrate the Risen Lord as our hope, our succour, our strength and victory over sin, illness and death; Christ is indeed our health and salvation.
This year’s celebration is very unique and significant because of the reality in our World and Church today. This reality is rather not to be lived and accepted with lamentations and regrets but as a positive call and sign from God for us to understand, evaluate and reflect as individuals, Families, Priests, Religious and Lay faithful on the real meaning of the Resurrection of the Lord, the Easter. Each of us must draw from the present reality the significance of the abiding presence of the Risen Lord.
As we commemorate the paschal mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I wish to share with you beloved brethren this Easter message, this message of hope and consolation, when we celebrate the triumphant victory of Jesus Christ over death and the assurance of our fellowship with our heavenly Father who loves us and never gives up on us. God demonstrated this love by sending us His only begotten son; Jesus Christ, to pay the supreme price for our redemption (Jn 3:16).
As Peter preached “Jesus, as the anointed of the Father, with the Holy Spirit and with power, went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil for God was with him…they put him to death by hanging him on a tree but God raised him up on the third day and made him manifest” (Acts 10:38-40). Therefore, at this Easter, we cannot but celebrate our hope in the Resurrection of the Lord with our hope to overcome every affliction that beset us as the people of God, for upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes, we are healed (Is. 53:5) and delivered from sin and the devil; to Him be glory and honour forever.
This year’s celebration is indeed a unique one, unlike the regular events of Lent and Holy Week that usher us into a befitting celebration of the paschal mystery, our celebrations and preparations were affected by the precautionary directives of the Federal Government and the Ogun State Government and of course our Church; on the need for us to stay at home in order to curtail the spread of the COVID-19. At this point, it is important that I commend the Government, Doctors, Nurses, Security Agents, the Press and all People of Goodwill, who have responded in no small measure to this pandemic and the Citizens for all of their sacrifices this period; it has been such a trying time not only for Christians and Catholics but also everyone and indeed the whole wide world.
Our world today faces a common enemy; a virus that cares not about nationality, ethnicity, rich, poor or faith but affects all relentlessly. The most vulnerable people: the marginalized and the displaced people of our society pay the highest price and are at the highest risk of suffering the devastating effects of COVID-19. We must, therefore, see in the Risen Lord our hope and succour especially to the sick, aged and the most vulnerable in our society as we fight this disease and other vices ravaging the world, our Nation Nigeria, Families, Churches and Individual lives. This renewed hope in the Risen Lord is what our human family needs now more than ever, the experience is true: One World Family.
I exhort you all to set your eyes on the Risen Lord because we have died and our life is hidden with the Risen Lord and in God (Col 3:3). Beloved People of God, this is not a time to panic but a time to unite as one family and fight this pandemic together. I, therefore, enjoin all to be empathetic and stay united in brotherly love and fellowship, seeing this pandemic as a call to repentance and re-evaluation of our common bond with God, care for each other and the earth (Laudato Si) as called for by the Holy Father Pope Francis which is the living of a new life of the Resurrection. Then, our Easter celebration has meaning and relevance for everyone since we can add value to each other’s lives and situations.
It is regrettable enough that as Catholics faced with the constraints of the time, we cannot celebrate this year’s Easter festivities as usual, but then positively, we see it as a call to personal reflection, evaluation and deepening of our belief in the Resurrection of the Lord that we celebrate with all grandeur and dignity every year. This time around, the Lord is leading us to appreciate another dimension of our participation in his Resurrection, with emphasis on the age-long teaching of the Church that the Family is a domestic Church. I pray all families will sit together, led by the Father or Mother as the case may be to reflect, as they read the Word of God following the liturgical rite as laid down by the Church for the worthy celebration of the Paschal Mysteries.
I enjoin all Priests and Religious in the Parishes and Convents to do the same, also, while they celebrate the Eucharist and pray the Divine Office, to remember to pray for the Catholic families and all Children of God for a renewed life in the Resurrection of the Lord. It is time to be united in one faith and continue to seek the face of the Lord in our individual lives and in communal prayers. We stand united as a community of believers as we commemorate once more the sacred events of our redemption in the smallest unit of our Church’s life- the Family.
Beloved People of God, Christ cares and bears with us, especially in this challenging and trying period, our pains, worries, anxieties, sufferings, sicknesses etc. “For he has carried our sorrows and has borne our grief” (Is. 53:4-6), so that we may resurrect with him to a new life, new beginning, renewed hope and trust in his abiding presence for “dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.” We feel more the abiding presence, victory and closeness of the Risen Lord especially during this period when everyone is concerned about each other, when every nation, tribe, peoples, colour, families and races are knitted together in prayer and action. I am sure that God has listened and he has granted our request and prayers by the Passion, Death, and the Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ because by his cross and resurrection he has redeemed you, your families, our church, our nation and indeed the whole world.
We bring this same message to our loved ones, families, friends and other people of goodwill across the world that are battling with this pandemic. Our prayer is that the power that raised Jesus to life will heal their mortal bodies and bring them back to sound health. We pray for protection upon everyone against this plague, especially the Doctors, Nurses, Medical Personnel, and all who care for the sick, not forgetting those who have died, and the families they left behind, may they be consoled in their grief, may the dead rise with Jesus that both the living and the dead may come to experience the power of a new life in Christ Jesus.
People of God, arise because he lives, have courage because he lives, trusts him because he lives, and never forget that we face our situation and troubles because he lives. The Joy of the Blessed Mother Mary, the Apostles and Believers knew no bounds at the news of the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day as he has promised. So in the same way, I share with you the joy of the Risen Lord in the way and manner Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter and the Apostles felt and may this joy never depart from you all.
Alleluia, Rejoice, the Lord is Risen. He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia. Happy celebration with a renewed hope and trust in the Risen Lord.
Most Rev. Dr. Peter Odetoyinbo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta
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