By MUYIWA ADETIBA
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The churches, synagogues and other places of worship will be full. Many of those in the congregation tomorrow go to church only twice a year— the other day being Christmas. Many will make it a family outing and an opportunity for the kids to show off their new Easter dresses.
Many, knowing the churches will be full, will attend to network— some of the prominent members usually hold court after service— or back slap. No matter.
All of them will hear the annual good news of a risen Christ in a fallen world, of the son of God who conquered death and removed its sting, of Jesus who died for our sins so that we will not be slaves to sin anymore; of unparalleled love— an agape, sacrificial kind.
Our politicians across the religious divide are expected to cue into the Easter message. Old speeches are retrieved and freshened up, and one by one, they will deliver the same old tepid messages of brotherly love and unity— even when they are the ones tearing the country apart.
We will be enjoined to eschew bitterness and the things that create division and instead imbibe the tenets of Christ by embracing love, unity and respect for other religions. Nothing inspirational is expected from the pulpit tomorrow and from the rostrum on Monday.
Many of the pastors who have become politicians and the politicians who have become pastors will deliver speeches tomorrow and on Monday that they don’t believe in let alone practice what they preach, to audiences that listen but don’t hear let alone practice what they hear.
But anytime I wonder why we bother, I am reminded of the words of Mighty Sparrow, the legendary calypso singer when I asked him about the carnival in his native country of Trinidad and Tobago.
He said: ‘My country needs the carnival more than the carnival needs my country’. I believe Nigeria needs Easter more than Easter needs us. If anything, it comes with its relief and offers some kind of distraction from the social, economic and political problems besetting our dear country.
Lets start with the school children. Easter represents a break from the tedium of school life. It’s a time to go home and be united with parents and loved ones, especially those in boarding schools. Workers too take a break from the monotony of work to connect with those friends and family members that daily chores have made difficult to reach.
The young ones are excited by the prospect of a special Easter meal and hopefully, a new, special dress. The adolescents are excited by the opportunity to date and socialise. Their older siblings often take things a bit further with picnics, nightclubbing and parties.
The elderly ones look forward to the visits from their children and grandchildren. Commerce also picks up as many people loosen the purse strings during this period to indulge in travels, gifts and fun. For the creative and entrepreneurial, it is the time for new things as people are more receptive to new, creative ideas during this season.
Easter, like Christmas, keeps reinventing itself. So the picnic sites will be busy; the resorts and hotels will be busy; even the roads will be busy. Its Easter after all and it comes once a year.
But it is easy to see all of these— the gaiety, the glitz and glamour, the fun and parties; the popping and consumption of alcohol— and think all is well with our world. Whereas Easter, especially to the secular and the carnal, can be just a weekend fix that masks the reality of an unfulfilled and listless existence.
It can also accentuate the pain and loneliness in life as the newly divorced, newly widowed and indeed all those who go to cold, lonely homes at periods like this will attest. The elderly whose children have flown the nest will feel it more during this season as neighbouring homes become fuller.
Those who are between life and death will not even realise its Easter let alone participate in the revelries of the season. Yet they abound, because death does not recognise tides or season.
There are those who, due to one challenge or the other, are now left with past memories of Easter. Into this category fall those who have just moved into new towns or new environments. Or soldiers who are fighting behind enemy territories. Or those who have been emotionally scarred. These are just a few of the many shades of Easter for the secular.
But the spiritual have to look beyond the message of the risen Christ to the events of the days before, to the pain and humiliation on the road to Golgotha. To be stripped, scorched and asked to carry your own cross, your own instrument of death, is not what anybody will wish for. Yet it happens more often than we realise, even today.
That these events— the humiliation and crucifixion — happened between the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the triumphant resurrection, should make us pause and reflect. They are meant to teach us a thing or two about this journey of life in which pain and gain are co-travellers.
As it goes, without the crucifixion there can be no resurrection. Yet, neither pain nor gain is permanent. The dizzy height of success can be followed almost immediately by the claustrophobic depth of failure. Life is about ebbs and flows. And when it sidelines us by pushing us to the bank of the river, it is for us to pause and reflect.
Easter has many shades. We can take whatever hue we want. We can choose to revel. We can choose to reflect. We can ask ourselves questions about life and our place in it. And about family and the values our children are upholding. Or where our country is heading. Happy Easter. Make it the best you have ever had.