By Fr. Matthew Madziva
The genius of Christianity is in its inception. There was a mixture of joy and apprehension when the Angel Gabriel brought the message from God to Mary (cf Luke 1:29-34). Joy on the part of Angel Gabriel and by imagination the Triune God, on the possibility of the WORD becoming flesh to dwell among people (cf John 1:14). I imagine a big celebration taking place on the day of the annunciation which we celebrate on the 25th of March. The acceptance of Joseph to take Mary as wife surely was a celebration in heaven and to Mary (Matthew 1:20-25). The visit of Mary to her aunt Elizabeth was indeed a celebration, the two take turns giving praise to God (cf Luke1:39-56). They were happy and it is not difficult to imagine the kind of food they could have served on that day. The joy that the three wise men had on seeing the Messiah in a manger and gifting gold, frankincense, and myrrh (cf Matthew 2:2-12). The apprehension came to Mary again at the presentation of the child in the temple as she heard the words of Anne and Simion (cf Luke 2:22-40), as at the annunciation as she declared that she knew no man. In all this joy seems not to be evasive even the brothers on the way to Emaus expressed that the whole of Israel had put their hope in this man. Their joy had gone by the death of Jesus on a Cross. The real joy Christianity boasts about comes with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, where he conquers not only death but sin and darkness. Hence, this is, where the genius of Christianity finds its roots in joy, the joy that comes with resurrection. There was no Christianity to talk about before the resurrection. The Risen Christ on a Sunday marks the beginning of a life of celebration for those who believe in Him.
For the past 30 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the country was denied occasions such as, what Pope Francis referred to as “undisciplined-ly free” of a child when a child got onto the stage and freely walked, to mingle not only because of wars but ebola which has been erratic but deadly. The whole world had been put to a standstill by the deadly virus dabbed COVID-19 and people were not free to mix during Holy week as it was not celebrated in most countries because of the airborne virus.
I am intrigued by the many people who want to celebrate the joyful and glorious mysteries in their lives. Some of these joyful mysteries are the day they were born, the day they fell in love and continued ever after, the day they visited their aunts with their would-be spouse, the day they remember their traditional and ecclesiastical marriage, and birthdays on the natural level. On the supernatural level, the day one was baptized, received first communion, confirmed, professed, and took vows, was received in the Holy orders and such like events must be marked by a celebration.
The Bible is littered with celebrations of different magnitude, in the Old Testament we see the Israelites celebrating the Passover, in the New Testament we see Jesus, his Mother Mary, and disciples gracing a wedding celebration at Cana and even contributing to boost the celebration (cf John 2:1-11). The Lord Jesus Christ gives us numerous parables ending with a celebration. These parables include that of the lost coin where the woman upon finding it invites the neighbours to celebrate with her (cf Luke 15:8-10), the lost sheep (cf Luke 15:1-7), the prodigal son (cf Lk 15:11-32). Celebrations are a boost of life and vocation, though we should guard against flashy and extravagant events in doing so as Bishop Sipuka cautioned, as cited by Agnes Aineah, in the article she entitled “Bishop in South Africa Cautions Priests against Organising Big Anniversary Celebrations” (22 January 2023). The celebration in itself is not bad. It is the motive behind the celebration that is causing a stir in the Church and communities. It is when priests demand goodies and money from the parishioners or ask parishes to organize annual anniversaries for personal gain at the expense of parish programs that is uncalled for.
Funerals and disasters cannot have precedence over light and continue to dominate a world that was redeemed by the Bood of the Lamb. Negativity and pessimism cannot be allowed, in this day and age, to summon people for gathering than positivity and optimism. The prayer should be how can we celebrate more in an age besieged by wars and hatred, xenophobia, political intolerance, despair, and discouragement. I cannot help mentioning the sacrament that gives me more joy than most, that is, the sacrament of Reconciliation. How I wish I could remain for eternity in that state of peace and have a continuous life of celebration. Let us find opportunities and occasions to celebrate life more than putting brakes to it, echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, we are an Easter people hallelujah is our song.