By Dan Ugwu.
Christianity is currently undergoing siege. The exploitation is not waged by anti-religious rebels, but this time by harbingers of the gospel themselves. The objects of exploitation are simple the unsuspecting Christian faithful who have been turned to unprepared clients in the hands of gospel merchants who conspicuously feed fat on them and exploit them for other selfish gains without batting an eyelid. What keeps the clients afloat? They are promised fortune, a type akin to the experience of Alice in wonderland.
No doubt, illness and disease have stalked mankind for many years. Plagues and sickness have been inseparable to the human nature. Sadly, news media reports are now filled with rising statistics and how the battle for life is being lost. Casualties, deaths and debilitating illnesses are exploding around the world with some of them allegedly challenging our medical attempts. Unfortunately, it appears the Nigerian situation is compounded with poor economic condition.
All these could account for why in Christian religious circles; there has been an unprecedented interest in the phenomenon of healing and deliverance. Many healers are springing up arrogating to themselves power to heal sickness and dispel misfortune.
More frequently, announcements of invitation for miracles occupy a good portion of television programmes and news media. Posters on walls and handbills, billboards on strategic positions are designed to invite people for miracles at revival meetings, crusades, conventions and retreats.
It is a common sight to read today as one plies along the road signposts signalling different healing and solution quarters: Faith Healing Mission, Apostolic Healing Centre, Faith Tabernacle, Deliverance Mission and all of that which has characterized the Nigerian brand of Pentecostalism. The mad rush for these prayer houses and healing centres today is a development that could make one to weep.
In most of these healing centres and private homes, dreams and nightmares are often negatively interpreted to the fascination of the clients; neighbours and relatives are vaguely accused of others’ misfortune; causes of perceived downfalls are spiritually diagnosed; there are firm and convincing claims to cure for sicknesses which defile medical analysis: the lame walk, the blind sees, the deaf hears, infertile wombs conceive, health is restored.
It is on this stand that most of these spiritual doctors cash in to manipulate their clients. It is obvious that there is this psychological force over patients seeking healing. This ranges from hypnotism, spiritism, psychokenemis, precognition, auto-suggestion and imposition of guilt.
The consequences of all these clamouring for healing and the emerging number of healing centres are clearly lack of faith. The mammoth numerical count of worshipers at daylight adorations, midnight vigils and weeklong crusades are never vivid expression of faith growth, they rather bespeak the contrary: a battery of empty Christians seeking for immediate healing.
Regretfully, these Pentecostal trend of healing and deliverance has gained entrance into the Catholic Church. The Holy Mother Church has been watching with dismay how most of her ministers have abandoned the catechetical injunctions of Christ and embraced the Pentecostal Penchants. At a time when Fr. Edeh’s Elele has lost much miraculous popularity, every diocese now can ironically boast of at least three or more centres where miracles are obtained.
In Anambra state, the running of private ministry by Catholic priests has even entered its competitive stage as we write. As it is in Anambra, so it is in the entire Nigerian Catholic landscape. The most unfortunate development is the introduction of Eucharistic adoration to this economic craft. These ministers defy the modalities for the solemn Eucharistic adoration in the Catholic Church as led down to introduce all manner of acrobatic and attractive displays to the fancy of their clients.
A close observation will convince one of the shift of these ministries from religion to economics. These merchants in the Church customize their commodities and sell to their unsuspecting and ambitious clients at exorbitant rates. These selling items will include oil, water, sand and other fashionable articles. How best can we describe these happenstance if not the infiltration of Pentecostalism into the Catholic worship that has distorted the Catholic liturgy and challenged intensive catechesis.
However, we cannot feign ignorance of the biblical teaching on endowment of spiritual gifts. The bible is emphatic when it states that every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit (I Cor 12:1-11) while also calling on Christians to serve according to their gifts (Rom. 12:6-8).The gifts of the Holy Spirit sustain our Christian life and dispose us according to the promptings of the same spirit.
The Church teaches about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the bible also talks about other gifts and charisms which the Spirit gives. These are also distinguished from the one which the Second Vatican Council teaches as “sharing in the prophetic office of Christ”. The prophet Isaiah tells us that these gifts all belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David (11:1-2).
It is good to note that these gifts exist only within the unity of the Church (Rom 12:5) and it is given to Christians within the Church for the spiritual growth of the Church and never for disunity, personal or economic gains and or selfish ends. Hence, Paul uses these terms to describe the acquisition of these gifts, Charismata (gift), Diakoniai (service) and Energemata (works of Divine power).
This is to show for what reason the gifts were given to the Church. Those who have discovered (or acquired) one gift or the other in themselves are not encouraged to use them in isolation of the Church’s dictates. Specially endowed ministers must watch against this so as not to fall into the club of preachers which Ezekiel (13:6) describes as “foolish prophets who follow their own designs”.
Christians should be made to understand that suffering and pain are part and parcel of their vocation; that the greatest healing is that of salvation wrought by Jesus Christ and that simple faith solves every problem. Suffering will remain the greatest problem of human life. Suffering often appears hard to bear because we do not understand the priceless value of suffering.
We all have to suffer; sometimes small sorrows, sometimes greater ones fall to our share. Suffering is not simply an evil, for no one suffered more than the Son of God (who learnt to obey through suffering), His Blessed Mother, and God’s saints. The idea that there is an evil cause for all misfortunes should not be propagated. Granted, the belief in the power of evil spirits predates even the Judeo-Christian religion as can be seen in the Greeco-Roman gods placed in charge of diverse areas of human affairs.
We recall the myths of Homer and Hesoid about the oracles of Delphi and the shrines of Ascelepius at Epidarus that took charge of rupture in the physical and spiritual worlds. Even in the Acts of the Apostles (19:23ff), we recall that Demetrius, the Silversmith of Ephesus succeeded in his intrigues against Paul because he successfully convinced the people that their economic woes were the result of the annoyance of the goddess Diana. This idea is not altogether strange to us Africans.
However, Christianity does not accept this false sense of causality. The sufferings of the Israelites on account of their sins; the story of Ahaziah’s sickness and death; the classical expression of Job about sorrow (Job 2:10); Jesus’ choice in the Garden of Gethsemane of drinking the Cup that his father has given him (Jn 18:1) are all typical of the Church’s understanding of suffering as a cleansing fire that chases away much of the meanness, triviality and restlessness of health.
This could account for why Milton in his famous Paradise Lost (written after he was stuck blind) declared that “who best can suffer, best can do”. May the cross of Christ ever continue to unveil its shining light on us as we strive for salvation and healing through the cross and never by its evasion.
- Script-CREDIT@Dan Ugwu
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Dan Ugwu and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”