BEHOLD THIS RAMADAN, GOD OF MERCY AND COMPASSION!

Rev. Fr. Dr. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua

Director: Mission and Dialogue

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja

 

It is Ramadan again! A holy season! Muslims believe that the gate of heaven is wide open, while the gate of hell is firmly locked. Let us cry out to Allah in this season of mercy and compassion to change the heart of everybody from evil to good so that our world will once again enjoy love and peaceful coexistence. Any bomb blast at this sacred season of penance and fasting will contradict the spirit of Ramadan and the faith of Islam:  “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful; praise be to Allah, the cherisher and sustainer of the worlds; most gracious, most merciful; master of the day of judgement. Thee do we worship, and thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom thou hast bestowed thy grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath and who go not astray” (Al Fǎtihah). At every season of lent, the Christians call on the God of mercy and compassion to look with pity upon us. Every Christian sings the song of the prodigal son: “Yes I shall arise and return to my father “. We believe that no matter what our past must have been, we can begin anew. God listened to the contrite heart of David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Hurriah, the Hittite. David cried to the God of mercy and compassion: Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion, blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 50:1)!

 

These prayers are so touching that I tremble and fret at those who say these prayers daily and still have the courage to do evil like killing themselves in order to kill a multitude. Does mercy and compassion mean the same thing for Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers? What are we doing to ourselves in the name of religion or in the name of politics or in the name of ethnicity? Do we actually realize that those who attack places of worship are attacking God directly? What has God done to deserve this insult? Oh God of mercy and compassion, come down and save your people who are languishing in the hell of their hearts, ignorance and wickedness. Deliver your holy name that has been profaned for whatever reason. Do not depart from our land. Do not turn your back at us because what is happening in our land is beyond our comprehension, yet you Oh God of mercy and compassion know everything but your patience to react in justice has been taken for granted. Come and intervene with your mighty hand at this season of fasting and penance. Help all who observe this holy season to be sincere in the true spirit of fasting and not just presume that anything is allowed because the gate of hell is closed and the golden door of heaven is wide open. Teach your people oh Almighty Allah that the human person must cooperate in the economy of salvation. Teach your people what it actually takes to be saved.

 

Oh Almighty God you have always willed that every human being should be saved. But no one can be saved without true repentance and reconciliation. Teach every person and race the correct principle of reconciliation that gives rise to the creation of social spaces. Reconciliation creates space for offering and receiving graciousness. It creates space for discovery and building a new relationship. Help us to be aware that reconciliation includes healing of memory, being at peace with self, God and neighbour. Grant that we may never reduce ourselves to the level of causing violence. Forgive all who have wasted life either out of ignorance or wickedness. Renew your spirit in the heart of all men and women for a stone thrown into the market does not differentiate between a Muslim and a Christian. The stone may even hit a most beloved of the person who cast the stone. The ashes often return with the person who throws the ashes.

 

The psalmist says: Let the enemy whet his sword, draw his bow and make ready; but he is making ready instruments of death for himself and tipping his arrows with fire.  Look at him, pregnant with malice, conceiving spite, he gives birth to treachery. He digs a trap, scoops it out, but he falls into the snare he made himself. His spite recoils on his own head; his brutality falls back on his own skull. I thank Yahweh for his saving justice. I sing to the name of the Most High (Psalm 7, 12-13). Islam teaches that when God plans, the devil also plans but God always plans better. Therefore, deliver us from planning evil and wickedness so that we may be saved from the temptation of joining the devil’s party. Help us to know that the devil has no free and lasting gift for he always demand life in payment for his empty gifts of vanity. Give us courage in the words of Jesus Christ: Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid (John 14:27). Help us to appreciate the value of self offering that is only acceptable in a context of peace and reconciliation as taught by Jesus Christ: “So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. (Matthew 5: 23-25). Fill us with the ingredients of reconciliation which are: truth, mercy, justice and peace. It is mercy that can get truth, justice and peace. Mercy demands nothing. It is unconditional. It diffuses tension and prevents an eye for an eye syndrome. Mercy invites forgiveness, humility and graciousness. Help us to open a space for others, to open their heart to receive your peace. Oh God of Mercy and Compassion. Bless all our Muslim brothers who at this time seek your mercy and compassion as we wish them a happy Ramadan. Grant eternal rest to all who have been killed in the various places of worship. Remember Oh God that these people were killed without fault of theirs. They were killed in the process of worshipping you the ONE true and holy God.

 

Fasting is a form of revolution and jihad on the self with the aim to reproduce a renewed personality that is pure, holy and acceptable to God. It is a revolution not to inflict pains on the society but to inflict pains on the self in order to see with the eye of faith the beauty of creation and the dignity of the human person. In ascetic theology and spirituality, it is on record that great Saints and Martyrs have sufficiently used fasting and the attended suffering and lack of basic amenities to achieve salvation of the soul. Others have taken to violence on their own bodies to address the materialism and injustice of the world. When pain, hunger and all forms of suffering are endured, the result can be very wonderful. Thus, many world religions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc recommends fasting and penance for their followers. This penance is to give rise to more love, more generosity and more desire to live in peace and harmony.  We pray therefore to you, God of mercy and compassion, to use this Ramadan to usher more peace, love and coexistence of all forms into the world in general andNigeriain particular. Oh Almighty Allah, Yahweh, Ubangiji, “NAGODE” for listening to our humble supplications. Amen!