The trade of despair | Daily Trust

By Stephen Ojapah MSP

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. Do not worry; he said, “You’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.” He got up ! He is not there. See where they put it. But go, tell his disciples…. (Mark 16:5-7)”. Christianity is built on certain mysteries, and one of those mysteries of our faith is the mystery of the resurrection of Christ. Saint Paul said: If Christ had not risen from the dead, our preaching would have been in vain, our faith would also have been in vain (I Corinthians 15:14).

Easter existed because there was Good Friday. On Good Friday, the world witnessed a monumental tragedy. The death of an innocent soul. The triumph of evil over good, the choice of Barabbas over the son of God, the choice of death over life. For some Jews, Jesus was the hope they had been waiting for, for their liberation from the clutches of the Roman Empire. The tragedy of Good Friday was breathtaking.

Years ago I watched The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson. The film has been a bestseller for a long time, the Good Friday drama is always made to come to life with the film. This year I decided to watch something local and warm, praying on Good Friday with the parishioners of St Patrick Gidan Mai Kambu Catholic Church as they put on a phenomenally passionate play. Many people watched with tears in their eyes; many were seen in veritable ecstasy as the scene of the betrayal unfolded, the accusation leveled against Jesus by the Jewish authorities. The scene of the drama at Pilate’s palace was more than real to many. The condemnation was swift and irrational. Two thousand years later. The whole episode is made to relive for all Christians.

As Jesus was taken to the grave, his story is supposed to be over. The disciples, had to start a new life because Jesus their hope is no more. The whole concept of Easter is totally alien to humanity. No one has ever risen from the dead. And Jesus was not supposed to rise again. Isaiah 55:8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. For Jews, Greeks and Romans; the resurrection is a topic of discussion that should only be listened to by the unwary. It is even worse in the case of Jesus. Who claimed he was a son of God and a friend of Abraham, All hope was gone in the case of Jesus.

When Jesus was eating the last supper, he told his disciples that one of them was going to betray him. Peter said to Jesus, even if everything leaves you, I will never leave you. And Jesus told him that before the rooster crows, you must have betrayed me three times. Indeed, he betrayed his master when he realized that all hope was gone upon his arrest. Hopelessness, by definition, is the belief that things won’t get better or that you can’t succeed. Desperation was what Peter saw after Jesus was arrested; and that’s why it was very easy for him to say “I don’t know him” to the spectator who asked him “you too one of his disciples”

Ralph Davis said, “Our desperation and helplessness are no hindrance to the work of God. Indeed, our total incapacity is often the support he likes to use for his next act… We are faced with one of the principles of Yahweh’s modus operandi. When His people are without strength, without resources, without hope, without human gadgets – then He loves to reach out from heaven. Once we see where God often begins, we will understand how we can be encouraged.

Yes. As Christians, we are ministers of Hope, even in the face of the most desperate situation surrounding our world from every corner. The desperation can be so overwhelming watching the various death scenes across our continents. The war in Ukraine and the border crises in America, the civil war in parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria. We see the desperation in the security crises in Nigeria. On April 13, the families of the victims of the March 28 bombings between Abuja and Kaduna came on air to implore the federal government to rescue their loved ones still in the hands of the kidnappers after nearly two weeks. The number of kidnap victims in Nigeria is endless, with no hope of rescue in sight.

As Jesus’ followers who fled after Jesus’ death were left to figure out what Jesus’ death could mean, there are many left in Nigeria to imagine what our future will look like with the current insecurity. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has introduced the Prayer for Nigeria in distress since 1992, during the military era, the conference saw a nation in grave “anarchy” and “chaos”. They have continued the prayer to this day. But for many who were alive and part of the decision to make prayer a national program for all Catholics, they said it had never been so bad. The Emir of Daura said that the insecurity we are currently witnessing is worse than the civil war of 1966. How else can we describe despair?

It is the greatest tragedy. Thinking and imagining that the world can never be free of nuclear weapons, that the world can never be free of war, that the world can never be free of banditry and kidnapping for ransom. The tragedy of thinking we can never overcome our vices, the tragedy of giving up on ourselves, of not making the effort to try again and again. In such desperation, the light of Easter will always elude us. Therefore, as we hope for the best in our personal lives, we turn to God in work and prayers, for the grace to never give up hope even when all hope is gone, Happy Easter to you all.

Father Stephen Ojapah is a priest of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul. He is also Director of Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, a member of the IDFP. He is also a KAICIID scholarship holder

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