By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
Recently I went to Church in a local parish and listened carefully to the words of the preacher, and he was huge on the financial needs of the parish. No reference was made to the readings of the day. Nothing was said about the salvation of souls. I should not judge the poor parish with only one attendance so that I do not become a victim of a single-story analogy.
It made me step back to recall and consider what we do on Sundays. Growing up in the heart of Onitsha it was a day we knew the parents who had cars and the ones who do not. It was the day we examined who was wearing the best dress in vogue. In those days it was Edwin Jeans, Opanka sandals, Sahinfa-sneakers, Nasa-T-shirts,
Cordroid, Skin belts, Nino, and many more such expensive but valueless materials. The people who had extra money would send their kids to the barber shop to get their hair cut. The haircut style was Shalama, Grace Jones, Punk, Tyson, and Skin-cut. Those of us who got their hair shaved by their parents, especially by their mothers, had no stylish hairdo.
It was a simple mother’s hard work and art. Sunday was a day of delicious-stewed rice with chicken for the rich people. For the middle class, it was a day of rice with beef and for the poor people, it was a day of jollof rice with icefish (AZU-FRIDGE). The messages of Sunday morning were mixed, not only in the Church but also in the society at large. I remember not going to Church one Sunday because I could not find one of my sandals. And my brother reported me to my mother later that day. The consequence was not palatable: weeping and wailing all night with many strokes of the cane on my backside.Sundays are days we know who and who is living in our neighborhood. We did not have as many parishes as we do today, so people would walk for hours to get to the Church.
During the holidays we would walk from my town to another town for 6 AM Mass. It was an hour and thirty-minute walk. One morning it was raining and most of us were thinking that it would be enough excuse not to go to Church. We were wondering why my mother went outside.
My brother said that maybe she decided to go alone since there was no umbrella in the house. In ten minutes, she returned with many leaves of cocoa yam and gave two to each person with an instruction that one is for going and one is for returning. Anyone who misplaced or destroyed his own would be drenched. Immediately my father said that the door was about to be locked so we all marched out and walked behind our mother while it was pouring heavily from heaven. Today I looked back and asked what the message was.
The values of motherhood and the parental upbringing of children are in line with the belief system of the family. Although the rain stopped after the Mass, my mother collected the extra cocoa yam leaves and said she would use them for the preservation of her kola nuts. It was a Sunday morning, but the message was more than the readings in the Church, which I do not remember right now, but valued going to Church in season and out of season.
Some people played soccer along the streets, and some would play in a football field and many people would stand by and watch them play. Most of the footballers would be telling whoever cares to listen that they went to 5 AM Mass or that they would go to 6 PM Mass later after the soccer, so that they would not be sending the wrong signal to the public that they do not go to Church. Why do they think that it was necessary to defend themselves while playing soccer on Sunday morning?
The message they were sending out did not tally with the Christian community around them. The common understanding that a Christian should go to Church on Sunday to celebrate with the community, the people of God, and the holy assembly is presumed so when the contrary is the case you need to prove otherwise. Many did not play soccer on Sundays but would flock to the newspaper shop to read free the papers aka free readers association.
Most of them would be there at the newspaper vendor’s stand all Sundays reading and broadcasting soccer information. In those days we did not have cable television and European soccer had not yet blown up the way it is now. Who knows what Sunday morning would be like now with all the European soccer craziness? Many people would start their day by watching the scorelines of their favorite teams because from my understanding now people in Nigeria have fan clubs for football clubs in Europe. So, Sundays are now a game day.
Finally, in the mix of all the messages we should know the real message. Be it from the family, the Church, the soccer field, and the newspaper stand we must find a way to send out the Gospel message of love and truth. It should not only be about the message of good dress, which is important because it is good to look like others when you are in a group of friends and age-mates.
It is also good to have good food to nourish the body but good food for the nourishment of the soul should not be neglected. Exercise is very good for a healthy body, but a weak soul is a danger to the community. The priest should make sure that the people should receive from the Church a message of hope, faith, and love. The Church needs more but the Church needs good people who will sustain the institution till the return of Christ in the Parousia.
May the Sunday messages be clearer and more geared toward the message of Christ in all areas of our life.