In Dialogue with Fr. Maurice
August 20 was my 10th priestly ordination anniversary. I remember that very day in 2005, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orlu in Nigeria, when Bishop Gregory Ochiagha ordained me and 15 others priests of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu.
It was a tense and profound spiritual moment. I recall lying on the sanctuary during the invocation of the saints, and kneeling for the laying on of hands by the Bishop and the concelebrating priests. The ten thousand-capacity-Cathedral was packed and overflowing, yet the
peace and solemnity of that moment seemed like being at the Scetes desert. God’s voice was loud and clear in the Liturgical Rites.
For twelve years, I was preparing for the priesthood to begin at ordination. But in that instance, I felt both unworthy and unprepared for it. My unworthiness was so glaring to me that I had to have recourse to the Unfailing Grace of God and the tender love of Our Mother Mary. Hence, I dedicated my priesthood to Our Lady of Grace.
God’s word in Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us in love” spoke to me personally and I took it as my motto. God’s love was all I wanted. I was caught up in deep contemplation of its relevance to me. It meant and still means for me divine grace, mercy, providence, and unfailing presence both for me and for many, who through my ministry God would inspire for His glory.
I look back after 10 years and I wonder if I have kept the mission, the inspiration alive. The promises I have made to love Him above all else and my neighbor as He loves us – have I been faithful to it? I fall way below the expectation, but I know He treasures me still, pampering me like a mom her baby; keeping the fire of His love burning in my heart amidst the storms, the bumpy steps en route to His Presence. His grace has been sufficient!
Priesthood, I have come to learn more and more, is victimhood; a victimhood of love, of joy, of grace, of peace, of service, and of utter generosity. Nothing I have, nothing I have ever accomplished and nothing I ever would achieve belong to me but to Him and His plan. In Him, I find joy and fulfillment.
As, I look ahead for the coming year(s), I pray thee Lord, keep me tucked in your heart. Nothing is more important to me than to love you above all else; to love your people whom you have designed for me to share the life of grace with through my participation in the Sacred Priesthood; and to be ever in love with your Church, especially your members, the poor, the wounded and the vulnerable.
Bless my biological family and numerous others who have become a family to me too through their prayers, fellowship and sacrifices. To my beloved Mom, late Grace Emelu, who offered me to you even before I could say “yes,” grant eternal rest in your presence. Amen
Let us return to the story of the First Fall, where we see the tempter enticing Eve to look; followed by the presentation of a politely-subtle consideration, regarding his spin on apparent pleasure to be experienced from an unholy act of disobedience. From the times of ancient philosophy, world history is replete with examples of the need for answers to what is pleasurable. This becomes bait!
Consider, for example, food intended for nourishment and enjoyment. No matter how healthy some foods are, when taken in excess, they turn into bad cholesterol. I used to love ice cream until I discovered it wasn’t good for me.
The sexual act, open to life, is holy because it is God’s special gift for procreation and conjugal love and, as Scripture teaches us, it is God’s wedding present for the couple:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Eph 5:22-24, 31-32).
But the tempter uses it in forms contrary to its original Divine purpose. What the tempter proffers is a “sugar coating” in suggesting illegitimate experiences of impulsive and routine sin. How many lives are ruined, day after day, through this kind of solicitation!
Satan does everything in his alluring power to destroy potential and already-dedicated temples of the Holy Spirit; especially those of the family, called the domestic church, and the youth. It is obvious there is a global ongoing attack on the family, an institution designed by God. The well-known adage “the family that prays together stays together,” holds true at all times.
Families and all of us would do well to turn off our televisions, on a regular basis, close down our media gadgets, look each other in the eye, assure one another of love in the family or community, and pray daily.
I truly believe we all have a great need to return to a committed prayer-life.
While the devil’s “sugar coated” assault includes a feeling of sincerity, we know the devil is the last being to be sincere about anything—he is a liar and his brand of sincerity is Machiavellian.
There is a folk story about the etymology of the word sincerity (sincere) and I’ll use it to drive home the point about the devil’s deceit. It is based on the Latin sine, which means without; and cera, which means wax.
It was claimed, in ancient Greece and Rome, that dishonest sculptors would use wax to cover flaws in their work and thereby deceive viewers. Likewise those trading in precious metals, such as gold, would mix it with less valuable metals (nicknamed “wax”) to deceive prospective buyers. Those feigning innocence of this deceit would convince the buyer of their alleged innocence by attaching the inscription “sine cera” to their work. By so doing, what they conveyed in effect was that, “This work is pure, without deceit,” so the word came to mean honesty in perfection.
The devil can never be honest, never sincere—we need to be absolutely convinced of this. Behind every one of his glamorous sinful allurements, there are countless bogus sincerities and dangerous consequences, which can only lead to misery, pain, disappointment, separations, disillusionment and spiritual starvation.
What else would come from the fallen angel of death? As the great stoic philosopher Epictetus warned, “Let not thy passions avenge themselves upon thee.”
Culled from my book, Word For A Wounded World, Vol. I, pp. 17-19 http://www.amazon.com/Word-For-A-Wounded-World/dp/098488582X