Wednesday, December 13

The Church in Nigeria

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1. INTRODUCTION:God created everything. This is God who transcends the universe and existed before it. In other words. God is beyond creation, beyond nature, which is so rich and dominating, so much so that we are absolutely overwhelmed by its beauty. God organizes the world and gives meaning to our existence. The sun and the moon are not just there to give light but in measuring time, they give us the basis for our calendar. There is neither human life nor family life without feast and festivals, without discipline and regularity in rising and going to bed, the hours for work and hours for meals.

God saw that it was good and there is nothing bad in all that God created.

However the existence of evil forces in the world is not denied. To the Israelites the sea and the night are evil forces. The question then is how did evil come to the world? In the Middle East literature, a snake was an evil creature but also endowed with divine powers. Evil does not come from God, but from an important character from the higher world- the SATAN

who is in form of a serpent. (See Genesis 3; Wisdom 2; 24 and John 8; 44). The account here distinguishes three moments:

Temptation, Sin and Judgment. Temptation will hide itself in the conquest of wisdom. God’s injunction was “do not eat of that fruit”. The verb “eat here indicates “learning by heart,” some words from the wise; i.e. eating the fruit of wisdom. (Proverb 9; 5). The tree of knowledge is the art of living and wealth (1st King 3; 11). Freedom is seen as an open gate to good and evil, life and death (Deut 30;15). Thus God placed human beings in a conflictsituation, placing wisdom within their reach while telling them “You are not to touch it. With a single finger you warn a child not to bring problem but when the problem comes, the ten fingers are deployed to solve it. The sin committed by Adam cost God his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. There they fell to the temptation of SATAN represented in a serpent. The sin of disobedience was committed, then judgment followed. Thus man fell from grace to grass and evil started tracing humanity. Since God loves mankind so dearly and would not want man to perish. He sent his only son, Jesus to redeem mankind from sin.

2. THE WORD OF GOD:In the beginning was the word and the word was God. Genesis was speaking of creation which appears outside of God in time but John tells us in chapter 1 verse 1 that this beginning does not cease for God. This is so because God is not subject to time. God lives in that permanent fullness which we call eternity and in which there is /no before or after, no duration, no fatigue, and no boredom. In the beginning God projects himself in his son who is both the image of God and his word (Colossian 115; Hebrew 1 3). In this same beginning God creates the word outside himself in order to place in it the richness that He contemplates in his son. It is at that point that the universe and spirit, space and time, do begin. This defiles our imagination by its dimensions and duration. It then becomes an expression of God’s profound mystery. All human history that will take place there will be “sacred history where God will fulfill an eternal desire. His will to love us, to lead us to maturity and to unite us in Christ. Therefore the first page of the Bible lays the foundation for a Christian view of life.Fromthe fore-going you will agree that the church is born from the word of God which is proclaimed and believed in by Christians. It then follows that personal and community faith should be rooted in the reading and exteriorization of the word of God. In other word, Christian community becomes missionaries, the sacraments become efficient and personal devotions and charitable works become meaningful. Something essential is lacking to Christians maturity when a person or a community ceases to read the bible. The bible and God’s people were born at the same time and since then have grown together. Our vision of God, of man and of the universe stems from the bible and it is this vision that helps us to understand the sacred book.

By extension, the bible is the word of God, a sacred book which is not just to be disseminated and left to the personal whims of anyone. No one can make himself the owner of the bible and its message. The believing community who listens to the word of God is part of the catholic, that is, universal church which has been instructed by the spirit and enlightened by the great witnesses of the faith during the last twenty centuries.

3. JESUS CHRISTASTHE WORD: God spoke so many times through the prophets and finally he spoke through his Son (Heb 1; 1) and when the fullness of time had come according to (Gal 4; 4). Jesus is the only and eternal SON, the WORD who is in God and is God present to the Father (John 1; 1, Rev. 19; 13). Jesus, the son of God became true man and not an apparition nor God disguised as human, took the form of a slave and died on the cross (Phil 2 26-11). Apart from his transfiguration in Luke 9, verse 32, the glory which was his as son did not manifest himself in his humanity- Instead Jesus wished to grow by means of suffering like anyone else. From the beginning, Jesus was conscious of who he is (Lk 2 49).

In Hebrew the word “breath” or ‘”wind” signifies “Spirit” (John 3; 18). Here we have the spirit of God as breath, named just before the word. Word and spirit are like the .two hands of God the creator. This is precisely what we profess in the creed. The eternal son of the father did not come down from heaven to humankind but he was born from a people, Israel and from a woman, Mary uniquely associated to the Father’s divine plan. (Lk chapter 1 verse 6) The one who was to be welcomed by the “virgin of Israel” was born of a virgin mother. Mary’s faith and consent allowed the work of the sprit to be accomplished in her.

4. THE PLACE OF MARY IN THE GOSPEL:Mother Mary is mentioned in the gospel at the sanctification of John the Baptist in Luke chapter 1 39, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, (John chapter 2). She is mentioned in the birth and infancy of Jesus. Two texts compel us to realize that her greatness does not come from having given physical birth to Jesus but, rather from being the model of believers. Above all, Mary is mentioned in the first nucleus of the church (Acts1;14). On the Pentecostal day, Mary was in the room with the disciples. In Revelation chapter 12, the second part of John’s vision about Mary was revealed. The church has left the Jewish world and the horizon expanded. The church is going to win over the nations by struggling against the power of the devil. Remember ‘the dragon that fought to suck out the pregnancy of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.’ We have the beginning of a

Series of seven signs or visions in the sky. The first two present the protagonists of sacred history, the woman and the dragon, the people of God and the Devil. The woman (Mary) represents humanity cooperating with God’s plans. It is Mary who gives birth to Jesus. It is also the church fleeing to the desert, that is, living spiritually withdrawn from the world and nourished by the word of God” during the persecutions.

5. COLLAPSE OF ROMAN EMPIRE:With the invasion of the Barbarians the Roman Empire collapsed. The Roman Empire was the only known world then where the early Christians had their evangelization. With the collapse, the people thought the end of the world had come. Remember that the Roman emperors administered the Jewish state. This destruction of the Roman Empire which was announced by John in revelation in reality marked the beginning of a new time for the spread of the universal church. The church did not collapse, instead, it discovered a new role, that is to evangelize and educate people who after the barbarian invasions, had come back to a poorer society, quite uncivilized and totally disorganized. The church became the only moral force and stable institution. Many times the bishop became the only defender of the people against the invaders. There was no one but priests to educate the people. Books about ancient culture were kept in the monasteries along with the sacred scriptures.

In spite of all these, the Catholic Church was divided, which we today refer to as the great schism, that is, the catholic in the west and the orthodox catholic in the east. The eastern part of the Roman Empire resisted the barbarian invasions and was able to develop what is now called the orthodox or Greek Church which carried its evangelical work to Russia. The Orthodox Church distanced itself from the western part occupied by the barbarians and led by the church in Rome. There were two churches, different in culture, language and religions practice, although keeping the same faith. Both churches however erred in paying more attention to their own customs than the common faith. Consequently the Orthodox Church moved away from the Pope, Peter’s successor in Rome. With the coming of Islam, the Turks, the eastern Roman Empire fell. Today only Greece, Rumania and Russia remain as the orthodox world.

6. SPREADING THE WORD OF GOD:From the time of the Apostles, believers have been preoccupied with passing the faith on to others. Missionaries ventured among hostile people who spoke different languages. Of all these, the moors or Muslims were most hostile. Some prophets like Francis of Assisi and Raymond Lull understood it better to preach Christ among Muslims than to fight with arms. More missionaries traveled to Asia on foot up to China to preach the gospel. They did not find it easy to get strange people to understand their culture and tradition and to pass the gospel unto them. Not until whenMarco Polo, Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus ventured out of Europe did the church realize the true dimension of the world which had not yet received the word of God. Africa was outstanding. The only people who ventured out were merchants and adventurers who were mainly slave raiders and traders. Among those who left without weapon, with little preparation other than their faith are saints and martyrs.

In Africa, missionaries and colonialists traveled together. Christian faith displaced animist religions and irredeemably hampered the culture and traditions of the people while giving numerous baptisms and converting them.

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