JESUS, YOUR MOTHER LAST LIVED IN THIS HOUSE
Tomorrow is Easter. And Christians all over the world would be celebrating the crucifixion, death and resurrection of the founder of our great religion. On my part, my body and soul have died and resurrected in the biblical city of Ephesus in Asia Minor, where I have come on a spiritual pilgrimage to see the place where the Virgin Mary last lived on earth before she ascended to heaven.
Oh, blessed Mary. Full of grace. Mother like no other. Mother so pure that God chose her womb to plant the seed of His dearly beloved Son. Mother of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I have come with a heart load of prayers and supplications. Pray for me. Intercede for me in the name of your Son. I have come here not only to pray for myself but also to pray for all the readers of this column. The Lord will meet you and bless you at the point of your needs. You will not die untimely death. You will not fall sick. You will not die of poverty. You will conquer poverty, the great enemy of the human race.
Ah, I have come here to pray for my enemies too. My old-time religion tells me: Love your enemies. Pray for your enemies. It is only by praying for our enemies that we can experience God and the beauty of His Holiness.
I don't share in the mentality of some Christians who go to church only to pray that God should crush their enemies into powder. No, this is not me. I don't believe in coming to church and boxing and trampling upon an imaginary enemy. I will not pray to God to kill my enemy.
Rather, I pray that it will be well with my enemy. That God will bless my enemy abundantly. Christianity, in a true sense, is a difficult and at the same time simple religion because it tells you to love your enemy. In a world of tit for tat first introduced by Moses, Jesus Christ, the man of peace, tells you to turn the other cheek when someone slaps you or hurts you so badly.
Now, who is my enemy? My enemy is anyone who would betray the common man. My enemy is anyone who would rig elections in Nigeria and who would not let the voice and the votes of the people hold sway in a democracy. My enemy is anyone who would instigate the killing of poor Nigerians in the name of religion and politics. I pray that God will touch the heart of my enemies wherever they are. I pray that God will arrest the killers of Jos, that city of peace now turned into a killing field, into a cauldron of blood and fire.
As a writer, there are many monumental things I want to see in my lifetime. I have seen Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris. I have seen the Eiffel Tower. I have seen the Pyramids of Giza. I have seen the Lighthouse in Alexandria, Egypt. In India, I have seen the Taj Mahal, the monumental symbol of love. In Ephesus, I have seen the House of the Virgin Mary. Most important of all, I have seen the glory of the Lord. With that, nothing else matters.
At the House of Mary, I joined the crowd of tourists, mainly white people, who had come to see where the Virgin Mary last lived. The house is hidden on a long, winding hilltop. A notice board at the house reads: 'This place is considered to be the last home of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus Christ. St. John, in his Gospel, tells us that Jesus, before dying on the cross, entrusted to him the care of his mother when He said: 'Here is your mother,' and from that hour St. John took her to his own.'
It was at a terrible period when Christians were suffering persecution in the hands of the Romans soon after the death of Jesus. To escape persecution, John had to take Mary to the relatively safer city of Ephesus. The same Ephesus, where Paul wrote his Epistle to the Ephesians. Ah Paul, my favourite Apostle. The Apostle who wrote a poem about love, saying: 'Though I speak with the angels, but have no love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.' I have come all this way in search of faith, hope and love. Of the three, love is the greatest virtue says Paul.
In the Roman Catholic faith, the House of Mary is believed to be authentic. The beauty of the House of Mary is that both Christians and Muslims come to this shrine on holy pilgrimage. On November 9, 2006, Pope Benedict was here to worship. On August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, when Mary is believed to have flown to Heaven, Catholics, Orthodox and Muslim clerics come here to conduct a joint service in praise of God. This is one rare occasion when all religions come together as one. Now, imagine there is only one religion in the world. What a beautiful world it would be!
Here at the House of Mary, people come with bottles to fetch holy water from a spring. Here, lovers write their heart requests on a handkerchief and nailed them on the notice board filled with handkerchiefs. I did not nail any request because that sounds fetish for my liking. I won't be party to any fetish.
At the shrine, I joined some Chinese Catholic priests in a mass service. I asked the priest to pray for me, because more than anything, I need prayers. And right inside the shrine, I knelt down and prayed for the Virgin Mary to intercede on my behalf for God to open a new pathway for me. I lifted up my eyes to pray to God who is bigger than any man on earth. I prayed for new anointing. I prayed for fresh ideas. I prayed for God to renew my mind. I prayed for God to show His presence at every twist and turn of my life. I prayed for God to forgive me, because I am the editor-in-chief of all sinners. If I say I am not a sinner, God knows I am a very big liar.
Ave Maria, pray for me now.
You, whose Son was nailed to the cross of Calvary, pray for me. Let me rise again. Let my star shine again. Do a new thing in my life. The old things have passed away. I want a new life. I want to dedicate my new life to serving you. I want to use this column or any other column for that matter to preach your word. I want to start a new series called 'Journalism of Evangelism.'
I want to be the new Paul who turned from Saul. I am tired of persecuting your people, Lord. Now I want to be a winner of souls through this platform of a newspaper column. I know the devil would not want me to spread your word. But nothing can stop the march of the Gospel of God. From here to the ends of the world, your word shall be heard and your name shall be glorified.
I want to use my talents for your sake, my God and my Father. I want the world to know you more and more, deeper and deeper. That you are a God of love. That you are a God of justice. That you are a God of faithfulness. That you are God that never fails. That you are a God of integrity. That you are a God who would never share His glory with anybody. That your word is truth and truth is your word. That you are a God of righteousness. That the righteousness of man is like a smelling rag in your sight.
Ah, my God and my friend, I fear you. Yet I love you. Blessed be your Holy name. Happy Easter to all my readers. And may God make a way for you, where there appears to be no way! This column is for all mothers who have gone through the agony of watching their sons betrayed and die on the cross right before their eyes. This is for all the mothers of Jos, the mothers in black, carrying palm fronds and crosses for their dead sons and daughters. After crucifixion comes resurrection.