By Father Emmanuel Ukaegbu-Onuoha
One truth that has emerged in these months of the COVID-19 crisis and uncertainty within the global social and political landscape is that man despite all his pride and arrogance is indeed in need of God.
For some time now God has been on every lip and at numerous virtual gatherings: religious and secular; among the young and the aged; the rich and the poor. Prayers have been unceasingly rising to the heavens, in supplication to God, for mercy and help, and for an end of the pandemic. Even some apparently non-religious people have been looking upwards. Indeed, our society is now God-soaked.
The current rediscovery of God brings to light the curious being and enigma called man. When the going is good, man in his self-conceit and delusion feels on top of the world. He is the be all and end all. In his power and prestige, he feels he has got a permanent and unassailable security and insurance. And these idols he offers incense daily. So, in man’s prosperity God is the first casualty. Religion is perceived as a kill joy, an obscurantism, a terrible irrelevance to life, an opium for the ignorant and the weak.
However, let any problem or adversity arise, man is exposed in his utter wretchedness, fragility, weakness and helplessness. His bravado and self-imagined security collapses before his feet. Like a drowning man that clutches to any straw, he cries for help. Then he remembers God as if God is a mere spare-tire, a stop-gap mechanism.
This is why many do not regard these sudden religious effusions and devotions as sincere but as another clear case of “death-bed conversion.” How many times have we in our private and social lives in the past cried out to God for help and mercy only to dump him after we have been delivered and liberated?
During previous pandemics and national crises, did we not storm heaven daily for protection? Did we not multiply devotions? Did we not make vows and promises to stand steadfast in God, if he makes us survive the plague? But what happened after? All the devotions and promises evaporated; evils multiplied and grew in intensity and extension.
God became systematically expelled in most lives, pitilessly excluded from our schools, mercilessly shut out from our offices, business concerns and transactions; and callously declared an unwanted guest in most homes and parties.
Poor man, we forget that he who shoots at God, shoots himself in the heart. We forget that unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the workers labor, and unless the Lord guards the city in vain do the watchman keep vigil.
It is time that we tell ourselves the truth. Most of our social problems today derive from our neglect of God, our rebellion against His will and commandments.
God is not a spare-tire, an occasional incidence in our lives which we use at our own convenience when our idols and ego have failed us. Rather he is the Author of life, our destiny, our hope, our joy and peace. In Him we live and move and have our being, which in our blindness we do not often recognize or acknowledge. He is the way, the truth and life. Could we neglect the Author of life and still live? Could we run away from the heaven of peace and still expect to enjoy peace? Could we withdraw from the source of happiness and still long for happiness?
Our mistakes as individuals and as human beings is of course to think that we can have our cake and eat it, too. This is, of course, to wallow in self-deceit.
However, the aberration notwithstanding, we must note that every situation, every problem is also an opportunity for growth, for progress and indeed for conversion. Now that the present global and national crises have reminded us once more that we cannot do without God; that only God not our bravado or so-called might could give us security and enduring happiness, we should then seize this awareness as a new opportunity for change and renewal.
So, let us get God back on his throne from which we have been foolishly trying to pull him down for long, and completely submit to His rule and will. This is the road to true wisdom for any individual and nation, for the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Only a fool says in his heart, that there is no God. Surely, the world and indeed Americans are no fools, or are we?
Father Emmanuel Ukaegbu-Onuoha is the Director of Spiritual Formation at St. Junipero House of Formation in Grand Terrace