YEAR A: HOMILY FOR PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY THEME: CHRIST AND ‘EGBA OMABE’ : THE TRAGEDY OF OUR DOUBLE CONFESSION OF FAITH!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Matt 21 : 1 – 11.
A. DUAL CONFESSIONS
Christ came into Jerusalem with such a charming aura of dignity and splendour. He had hitherto through his teachings and miracles won the people’s admiration and reverence. They did not waste time to sing him ‘Hosanna’ just like people do when they witness great miracles happening in many churches and adoration centres today. But the paradox of contradiction was soon to come and the same people who cried ‘Hosanna’ will cry ‘Crucify him’. This is the tragedy of Confession without conversion , Christianism without Christianity , Baptism without Repentance, Eucharistic Communion without regeneration.
The parallel between the Palm Sunday, Corpus Christi and ‘Egba Omabe’ traditional masquerade celebration stands out clearly for sober reflections. Before Christ came into Jerusalem something happened ; people were expected to surrender their properties, money and time and profess their loyalty to Christ. He went to one of the rich men who had a dignified but modest means of transportation – the donkey and borrowed it gloriously. He didn’t actually ask for permission but only dropped an information to the owner if he asks : ‘The master needs them and will return them back shortly’. Yes, because Christ is actually the owner of everything we think we own. Even if a community is donating their land for Church building, Parish house or School, Christ will return them back directly with his blessings of civilization, deliverance, freedom and prosperity. What of the loyalty they professed? Did they really mean it? Did they actually mean to enthrone Christ as the Messiah? When a people claim to have enthroned Christ but few months after perform another ceremony to enthrone ‘Omabe’, ‘Odo’ or ‘Akatakpa’ Do they really mean what they are saying?
It is the tragedy of this duality of confession that makes the Church arrange a bifurcation in today’s Liturgy – a Liturgy that presents 2 gospels with 2 contradictory confessions ; The ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ and the ‘Crucify him’ from the same crowd of people in few minutes interval. For me there is no better contextualization here than what we still do in the above mentioned ceremonies where many Christians pay allegiance to Jesus Christ and to their traditional idols and deities at the same time. The real war that Christianity has to fight is the ideological war, cf 2 Cor 10 : 4 – the war to enthrone a new culture of worship in our community .
The traditional community had a culture that you cannot easily separate from their religious beliefs (‘Omenala’ – traditional culture and ‘igo ma’ – Idol worship have therefore become synonymous. While the Government is busy struggling to build the roads to bring us civilization , the Christian Churches are also struggling to build a new faith in the people it is unfortunate that we have allowed the devil to continue to remain in people’s minds and psyche through old barbaric practices like the ‘Oriokpa’ or ‘Edi Omabe’ masquerade cults. Our young men are insisting on clinging to these cults of violence with their armed robbery / extortion mentality of brutality.
- Few years ago, a Senior Seminarian of Nsukka diocese was stopped on the way and flogged mercilessly by these hoodlums. All his efforts to explain that he was a Seminarian on apostolic work fell on deaf ears. When the Seminarian fought back in self defense thinking that he had Christians around him who could stand in his support, he met his waterloo as one of the onlookers just came out and carried a huge piece of stone and broke his head.
But the good news is that Christ has entered Jerusalem. As my Bishop, Most Rev Godfrey Onah often says ‘the gospel has reached our people’s door in Nsukka, but like Malaria drugs penetrating the blood streams of its victims, what we are seeing now are initial reactions and resistance’. Our boys have accepted the Christianity, the sacraments, the gospel values, etc but they still want to exhibit their old nature. When they come into our Corpus Christi procession they still want to jirate and block the ways as they do for Omabe and Odo masquerades but this time around with no weapons and no extortion of money.
In Europe Christianity had to take over the people’s primitive and unhealthy cultures and retain the good ones. Even the present day celebration of Christmas on 25th December was a take over of the traditional celebration of the pagan feast day of the Roman Sun god. Ours is only starting. Let our professors, elites, politicians, knights, etc know it that Christ has entered Jerusalem. Christ has come to take over our unhealthy primitive cultures (in Nsukka, the Odo, the Omabe, the Adoro, the Lolo Uhere, the Ugwuagu, etc must go). There is no need joining us in shouting ‘Hosanna filio David’ If only you will say : ‘Crucify him’ a minute after!