By Paschal Chisom Obi
What is that which your soul is longing for? Psalm 130:6 says, “My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman waits for day break.” St. Augustine posits that true happiness is found in the Lord and our souls are restless until they rest in God. Beloved, what does it profits a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul (Matt.16:26)? Go to the cemetery, those buried there are people's brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts and cousins. They were once like us. We shall someday be like them. “When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride.” This Hymn calls to our mind that vanity upon vanity, all is vanity. It thus calls one to holiness, humility and detachment from worldly possessions.
Who shall separate our souls from Christ? Shall trouble, hardship, hunger, love, or persecution (cf.Rom.8:35)? The soul that cleaves to Christ is more than a conqueror. The love of Christ is effective in protecting him from separation. Nevertheless, this love does not spare us from calamities and sufferings of life, but uses them to refine our souls. While in search of happiness, some have traded their souls for that which is corruptible, temporal and artificial.
“Living in Bondage,” is the first Nigerian Igbo Movie. Andy the movie protagonist was too anxious for the things of the world. This made him to indulge in all kinds of immoral and ungodly acts. He tied his soul to the devil. He taught that true happiness lies in the acquisition of wealth. Though he later became rich, but he was not fulfilled and he eventually lost his soul.
Jim-reeves sang, “The world is not my home.” Beloved, this world is not our permanent home, we are looking forward to our everlasting home which is in Heaven (Heb.13:14-16). We should not make for ourselves tents on earth at the expense of our soul (cf.Luke.12:13-21). When Christ says store up treasure for yourselves in Heaven, what does He mean? He is telling us that all our sensual faculties must be kept from those things which lead to hell. If it is your eye that will cause you to fall, pluck it out, if it is your hand or foot, cut it off. For it is better to enter the kingdom of God without the whole body than to be thrown into hell with the whole body (Mark.9:24-43). This cutting off of parts simply explains that we ought to desist from that which keeps our souls in enmity with God.
Lent is a period of fasting and abstinence. Abstinence accompanies self-control. It is commendable that one controls himself against every wrong desire. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He who rules his spirit is greater than he who governs a city.” We fast not only from food, but from that which gives us pleasure. The devil knows the benefit accrued from fasting, and he will bring different excuses into our life so as to distract us. Jesus was not exempted from this trick. After he had fasted for 40 days, the devil tempted him with power, food and possession (cf.Matt.4:8-10). These are the three major things which can lure the soul of man into darkness.
Yes, I shall arise and return to my Father! This Lenten Hymn reminds us that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. Each day brings us nearer to our graves. As Christians, we should live everyday of our lives as if it is our last; bearing in mind that after life comes judgment. We return not with our wealth, position in the society, or academic qualifications, but with our good deeds. Thus, this season calls us to a reflection on the passion of Christ and deepening our relationship with God. Jesus treasured His relationship with His Father. This intimacy with His Father led to our redemption. Beloved, in your quest for happiness, treasure your relationship with God and you will never lose sight of the Eternal happiness which is in Heaven.
Paschal Chisom Obi, Schoenstatt Fathers, Ibadan