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At Christmas: Remember Those In Captivity




ON Saturday, December 26, a day after Christmas, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace, Alfred Adewale Martins visited the Ikoyi Prisons to share the joy of Christmas with the inmates. The event is a yearly one, organised by the Prisons Apostolate of the Archdiocese, the Directorate responsible for the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters, who are either being remanded in custody or serving jail terms.

During the visit, priests, religious and lay faithful, will accompany the Archbishop. The occasion will afford the inmates an opportunity to interact one-on-one with His Grace, while some gift items and foodstuffs would also be donated to them. Of course, the spiritual significance of the visit would be uppermost in the mind of the prelate, as he would be sharing with the inmates the message of love, peace and joy that come with the Yuletide. He would try to make them understand the essence of Christ’s birth, which is to free mankind from the bondage of sin and to grant eternal salvation to all that believe in Him. The import of such an event must not be lost on each of us. It is part of charity works, part of the corporal works of mercy; a virtue that influences one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune. Other works of mercy includes feeding the hungry; giving drink to the thirsty; clothing the naked; harbour the harbourless; visit the sick, to ransom the captive and bury the dead.

At this season of Christmas, also, we are enjoined to go beyond the corporal works of mercy to incorporate the spiritual dimension through church services, retreats and vigils, viz-a-viz: To instruct the ignorant; counsel the doubtful; admonish sinners; bear wrongs patiently; forgive offences willingly; comfort the afflicted, as well as pray for the living and the dead. When we combine all these, we would have succeeded, to a great extent, in fulfilling the admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said thus: ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brother that you do unto me.’ (cf Mathew 25: 40)

By creating time to share the joy of the yuletide through the nourishment of our bodies and souls with fellow brothers and sisters, especially those in prisons or infirmed, we would be sending them a heart-warming message that God loves them and understands their travails; that though things may appear tough at the moment, all would be well; that there is need for them to rise, pick up the bits and pieces of their lives and depend on the One Who gave His life to redeem mankind from sin.

The message of Christmas is that of hope. By coming into the world at Christmas and eventually dying for us at Easter, Christ succeeded in uniting us back to God. The paradise man lost at the Garden of Eden through the disobedience of Adam and Eve is now gained through the heroic obedience intercession of Christ, the second Adam, who came to us through the second Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As we join our loved ones to enjoy this season, let us also spare some thought for those in captivity, both physically and spiritually. Let us also remember that we all have been bogged down by sin and need deliverance “for we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (cf Romans 3:23) Anyone saying he is not without sin is a liar. Our prayer today is that we may embrace the love, peace and lasting joy that comes with the Christmas season; a season of hope for all humanity. Amen.

• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.

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