“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into his grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and, hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:2-5).
Dear brothers and sisters in the Risen Lord,
If anything, the Easter season which we begin today with the Resurrection of the Lord from the dead assures us of his abiding presence with us now and forever. And what better assurance have we than the fact that the Lord is with us always in whatever situation we find ourselves, good or bad.  As the scripture says, if God is with us who will be against us (cf. Rom 8:31). 
Mindful of the fact that the resurrection is the bedrock of the Christian religion, this is why the church offers us the Easter season to deeply reflect on the great favour and honour done to us by the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Consequently, during this season we shall in the liturgy especially through the scripture readings be reflecting on the evidence of Jesus rising on the first day of the week (cf. Matt. 28:1, Mk 16:2, Lk 24:1,  Jn 20:1); the empty tomb (Lk 24:2-5) his appearances to different groups and individuals (cf. Lk 24: 13-19, Jn 20:26-29). All the post-resurrection appearances helped to deepen and strengthen the faith of those called to bear witness to it. 
Like I said in 2019, “A major characteristic of the early appearances of Jesus was that he appeared to those most visibly affected by his agony and death; hence his appearances to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb and the two grieve-stricken disciples on the road to Emmaus. In Mary Magdalene’s case she saw the person who gave her back her life and made it worth living died a tragic and shameful death on the cross. She could not imagine life without him. Similarly, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus saw no point in their continued stay in Jerusalem after their Master’s tragic and shameful death. Checking out of town was the only option they had.  Their pathetic and hopeless situations drew Jesus to them. 
In both situations Jesus appeared in disguise and in strange ways. However, regardless of the way he appeared he showed up in their moments of need. Jesus is always there in our moments of need and when he shows up in our lives he changes us and our situation and charges us to go and share our encounters of him with others. And this is our charge: “Go and tell my brothers” (Matt. 28:10). The question however is, how does one know that he/she has encountered the risen Lord?
“When your heart begins to burn with love, when you feel compelled to tell others about the Lord or share your personal experience of him with others you know you have met the risen Lord. When you make a fundamental option to make a u-turn in your live, you know that you have met the risen Lord. When you feel drown towards the ecclesial (believing) community especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, you know you have met the risen Lord. So, open your eyes and heart and let the risen Lord show and reveal himself to you.”
The Easter season therefore is meant to deepen our faith in the Risen Lord and, like the first disciples, to bear witness whenever and wherever the need arises.
As believers in the Risen Lord, during this hopeful, joyful and graceful season we are expected to manifest two fundamental Christian attitudes, namely, joy and hope. Joy which is rooted in the resurrection is a key element of the Christian life and one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This is why St. Paul admonishes Christians to rejoice always in the Lord no matter the situation (cf. Phil 4:4, 1 Thess 5:16). As a fruit of the Holy Spirit joy reveals our faith and trust in God. If we live our lives deeply rooted in the Holy Spirit in spite of the problems, hardships, difficulties, sufferings we face we can be at peace and experience serenity because of the presence of the Risen Lord among us. The awareness of his presence in our difficult situation makes a huge difference. This is so, because faith in the risen Lord helps us to develop a positive attitude to life and an awareness of the many positive signs of God’s presence with us.
We see this positive attitude in the distressed and hopeless disciples on the road to Emmaus after their encounter with the risen Lord and strengthened by this encounter they returned to Jerusalem (cf. Lk, 24:33), the scene of the crime, so to speak, which they were running away from to become witnesses of the Risen Lord. Their encounter with the Risen Lord dispelled their doubts, fears and incredulity and, empowered and propelled by the Holy Spirit they became true and authentic witnesses of the Risen Lord thus by their life and ministry were able to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Matt. 28: 18ff). 
This encounter of the dejected and hopeless disciples on the road to Emmaus marked not only victory over sin and death but also, and even more so, the victory of forgiveness over revenge and hatred: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). We too are empowered to be witnesses of his forgiveness, to continue his mission of healing and peace wherever we are. 
For us Christians, Easter Sunday ushers in the beginning of new life of communion with the Risen Lord and with one another. Sunday therefore becomes a special day for us because it is the first day of the week, the beginning of new life. So, like Thomas, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Simon Peter, Mary of Magdala, we too can meet the Risen Lord and start life afresh. Each Sunday celebration invites us to be full of joy and hope whatever our situation in life. This is why St. Paul enjoins us to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4).
Because of the resurrection of the Lord which is also victory over suffering even the worst situation of suffering, despair and the prevalence of evil as is the case right now in our country is redeemed and enlightened by the Easter victory of Jesus Christ, the giver of life who lives in our midst because he is Emmanuel and invites us to recognise him as such. Our Easter encounter with Christ should lead us to see and recognise him in those who suffer, especially the poor, the marginalized, the displaced and all the needy.
As we begin the joyful season of Easter, it is hoped that the change of heart we experienced during the Lenten season in preparation for Easter will enable us to start building a Nigeria of our dream, a new Nigeria. In other words, the conversion we have undergone during Lent should bear enduring fruits for the common good of all Nigerians and beyond. For this to happen we must begin life afresh. This is to say that to move our country forward we must start doing things differently. There are things we are used to doing that we need to stop doing now and start doing the things that we ought to be doing for the common good. 
Dear brothers and sisters in the Risen Lord, we cannot afford to give up the struggle to help ourselves and make our country better and even greater. In other words, we should not lose hope in our country. We believe that like the proverbial Egyptian phoenix, our country will arise from the ashes of its present ruins; like the phoenix, it will rise from the pyre to a new and undying life. This is to say that like the Crucified Lord and the legendary Egyptian phoenix our country will resurrect with a new and vibrant life because our God who conquered death will do new things in our land (cf. Is. 43:19). 
For this to happen, however, all hands must be on deck. We are all therefore called and challenged to arise for nation building. What our country needs today is radical change of structures especially of governance. To make our country regain its lost glory is a task that is incumbent on all Nigerians. We all know that because of the present difficult and challenging situation some have already taken action by “japaring”, some are precariously hanging on while others are looking around, may be, for the last time. Of crucial importance for us now is that those committed to staying and rescuing the country must now make up their minds to doing things differently and not continue with life as usual, mindful of the fact that we have no other country than this one called Nigeria. We must give it our all just as Jesus gave his all for the salvation of the world. Nigeria has been there for us, is here for us and will continue to be there for us “har abada abadin”. We must endeavour together to start writing a new and hope-giving chapter of the history of our country. In this task, every Nigerian has a contribution to make. The hardship we are facing now, rather than make us lose hope in our country should serve as a wakeup call for nation-building. 
True, over the years the political class has failed and betrayed the trust of the citizens. However, while we call for a change of attitude and mentality towards governance by the ruling class, their failures need not kill our dreams for a better Nigeria. We must keep dreaming and working hard to realise the Nigeria of our dream and it goes without saying there is a sacrificial price to be paid as the Lord Jesus did.
The Risen Lord is not oblivious of our self-imposed hardship. He is in it with us the way he was with Mary Magdalene and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He is in a special way present with the many distressed and distraught communities of our Archdiocese such as Adama Dutse, U/ Barde, Karamai, Gonin Gora, Dogon Noma, Banono, Kajuru Station, Kudenda and many others who are not only aggrieved but despondent and feel fore-lone and abandoned and, like Mary Magdalene and the two disciples on the road before their encounter with the risen Lord rightly see no light at the end of the tunnel. 
In spite of all these, the message of the resurrection to these communities is: Christ is alive! He is our hope. He is in you, he is with you and will never abandon you (cf. Pope Francis in “Christus Vivit”, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to Young People and the Entire People of God, nos. 1 & 2).
This said, it is worthy of note that God uses human beings and events to help those in need, especially, those in difficult and challenging situations like the communities mentioned above. Consequently, we call on governments at all levels to do all within their power to help save all the communities besieged by armed bandits, kidnappers, insurgents, cattle rustlers, armed robbers etc. and make the environment safe for economic activities especially farming ahead of the 2024 farming season which is already upon us.
Again, like I said in 2019: “In a world that urges us to ‘move on’, regardless, Jesus asks us to give voice to our worries, our wounds and, most importantly, our hunger for him. We should therefore not be afraid to ask Jesus challenging questions like the disciples on the road to Emmaus because he wants to heal our wounds of anxiety and satisfy our hunger and yearnings for him. He wants to find us in that place where we are most vulnerable and open us to his presence.” 
Hope as we may well be aware is the miracle of renewal that never lets us down because it has the capacity of making everything new in our life; for, it builds and rebuilds. All the disciples who worked with Jesus and saw him crucified, died and buried had their faith and hope shattered and dashed. They needed their faith to be rebuilt. The resurrection did that for them. You and I may not have been blessed with physical encounters with the risen Lord. This does not however mean that what happened to the disciples, namely, transformation cannot happen to you and me. For as Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn. 20:29).
During Easter season we have ample opportunities, especially, in the poor and needy, those on the periphery and the oppressed to encounter the risen Lord and share in his new life convinced that the power of sin over us has been broken by his victory over death. Thus we have become a new creation with him.
Hanging on the cross on Good Friday and in great agony Jesus cried out to the Father asking why he had forsaken him in his moment of need (Mark 15:34). With the benefit of hindsight, we believers know that the Father did not forsake him. We know that the Father was right there with him on the Cross. And we know that the Father was personally involved in his suffering and participated actively in it; hence, his victory through the resurrection. The anguished cry of Jesus on the cross is the anguished cry of all who suffer today and, indeed, it is largely the history of suffering humanity everywhere in the world and therefore that of God Himself. In the cross of Jesus God did not only identify with the poor, the excluded, the abandoned and the down trodden. He actually, once and for all, sided with the wretched of the earth and the hopeless. He opted for the poor. So, the Father was not a bystander when Christ hung on the cross. He was deeply involved. In like manner the Father continues to suffer with suffering humanity everywhere in the world. 

With the resurrection of Jesus from the dead dawned the sure hope of the final victory of good over evil. However, for us and for our world, the victory is incomplete and the cross of Jesus reminds us of this fact until he comes again. Without the cross, life is meaningless and our suffering meaningless. Only the cross of Jesus makes sense of our suffering. Consequently, like Jesus, it is ok to cry out to God in times of distress and even complain to him as a loving and caring Father, knowing that even his Beloved Son did the same in spite of being God himself.

Finally, our hearts go out to all the victims of banditry, insurgency, herders/farmers clashes, kidnapping for ransom and indeed to all who are suffering as a result of hardship imposed on the country by harsh government policies. We pray for the safe release or rescue of those still in the kidnappers’ den, a happy repose of the souls of the dead and consolation for the bereaved. It is worthy of note that situations of normal or abnormal suffering can offer a profound way to appreciate and experience the Resurrection. 

In our suffering and hardship let us bear in mind the fact that it is in our daily lived experiences that we experience the impact of the Resurrection of Jesus. Consequently, whoever you are and whatever your present predicament in life is, the Resurrection of Jesus ought and should say something to you whether you are suffering material or spiritual deprivation. Hope and trust in God for the Lord is Risen indeed, ALLELUIA! 



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