As Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the midst of coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Bishop of Abeokuta Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Odetoyinbo has called on all Nigerians to be empathetic and stay united in brotherly love and fellowship.
He said they should see the pandemic as a call to repentance and re-evaluation of their common bond with God, care for one another and the earth.
Bishop Odetoyinbo who made the call in his Easter message, described this year’s celebration as unique because of the way it is being celebrate due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said, “this year’s celebration is indeed a unique one, unlike the regular events of Lent and Holy Week that usher us into a befitting celebration of the paschal mystery, our celebrations and preparations were affected by the precautionary directives of the Federal Government and the Ogun State Government and of course our Church on the need for us to stay at home in order to curtail the spread of the COVID-19”.
“We celebrate another Solemnity of the Resurrection of Jesus; we celebrate the Risen Lord as our hope, our succour, our strength and victory over sin, illness and death; Christ is indeed our health and salvation”.
“This year’s celebration is very unique and significant because of the reality in our World and Church today. This reality is rather not to be lived and accepted with lamentations and regrets but as a positive call and sign from God for us to understand, evaluate and reflect as individuals, as Families, as Priests, Religious and Lay faithful on the real meaning of the Resurrection of the Lord, the Easter. Each of us must draw from the present reality the significance of the abiding presence of the Risen Lord”.
“Therefore, at this Easter, we cannot but celebrate our hope in the Resurrection of the Lord with our hope to overcome every affliction that beset us as the people of God, for upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes, we are healed (Is. 53:5) and delivered from sin and the devil; to Him be glory and honour forever”, Bishop Odetoyinbo said.
He commended the government, Doctors, Nurses, Security agents, the Press and all people of goodwill, who have responded, in no small measure to this pandemic, and the Citizens for all of their sacrifices this period.
He opined it has been such a trying time not only for Christians and Catholics but also everyone and indeed the whole wide world”.
The Bishop emphasised that the world today faces a common enemy which is a virus that cuts nationality, ethnicity, rich, poor or faith, saying that the most vulnerable people, the marginalized and the displaced people of our society have paid the highest price and were at the highest risk of suffering the devastating effects of COVID-19″.
“We must, therefore, see in the Risen Lord our hope and succour especially to the sick, aged and the most vulnerable in our society as we fight this disease and other vices ravaging the world, our Nation Nigeria, Families; Churches and Individual lives. This renewed hope in the Risen Lord is what our human family needs now more than ever, the experience is true: One World Family”.
“I exhort you all to set your eyes on the Risen Lord because we have died and our life is hidden with the Risen Lord and in God. Beloved People of God, this is not a time to panic but a time to unite as one family and fight this pandemic together.”
” I, therefore, enjoin all to be empathetic and stay united in brotherly love and fellowship, seeing this pandemic as a call to repentance and re-evaluation of our common bond with God, care for each other and the earth as called for by the Holy Father Pope Francis which is the living of a new life of the Resurrection. Then, our Easter celebration has meaning and relevance for everyone since we can add value to each other’s lives and situations”, he said.
He charged Christians to see the pandemic as a call to personal reflection, evaluation and deepening of our belief in the Resurrection of the Lord that we celebrate with all grandeur and dignity every year.
Bishop Odetoyinbo said this time around, the Lord was leading people to appreciate another dimension of participation in his Resurrection, with emphasis on the age-long teaching of the Church that the “Family is a domestic Church”.
“We feel more the abiding presence, victory and closeness of the Risen Lord especially during this period when everyone is concerned about each other, when every nation, tribe, peoples, colour, families and races are knitted together in prayer and action. I am sure that God has listened and he has granted our request and prayers by the Passion, Death, and the Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ because by his cross and resurrection he has redeemed you, your families, our church, our nation and indeed the whole world”.
“We bring this same message to our loved ones, families, friends and other people of goodwill across the world that is battling with this pandemic. Our prayer is that the power that raised Jesus to life will heal their mortal bodies and bring them back to sound health”.
The Clergyman prayed for protection upon everyone against the plague, especially the Doctors, Nurses, Medical Personnel, and All who care for the sick. He prayed for the souls of those who have died, and the families they left behind. “May they be consoled in their grief. may the dead rise with Jesus that both the living and the dead may come to experience the power of a new life in Christ Jesus”, he stressed.