Recently I happened to attend a requiem mass in respect of an old lady who was so lucky to have lived up to ninety years. The mass was held at Kirumba Catholic Church and was celebrated over by five priests. The long life spell that God afforded the deceased was the point of departure of the mass’s sermon, which was delivered by Father Kubeja.
Father Kubeja underscored that living exposes one to many challenges, difficulties and temptations, all of which put one to test. Thus the longer one lives the bigger the test.
All religions, including traditional ones, teach their followers that our life on earth is just temporary and that at one unknown point in time one will embark on the unreturnable journey to the Creator.
As pointed above, religious teaching reveals that a human will be tempted to act in a way which does not please his or her Creator, but the Creator has in place adequate mitigation measure, provided that one continue believing and having faith.
For example, it is documented in the Holy Bible that: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Fr. Kubeja used the opportunity do describe the attitude of human beings and the modern society towards death as something which left much to be desired. According to Fr. Kubeja, death is there for the purpose of reminding human beings to live in a way which pleases God.
Unfortunately, and despite the fact that human beings are afforded several opportunities to attend the funeral of several human beings they seem not to learn any constructive lesson out of it. Instead human beings pay attention to material things such as how the service should be organized; type, value and model of the coffin, dresses mourners in attendance will put on, and so forth.
The organisers will come out boasting about how smoothly everything went, including how much each person contributed in money and time to make the whole thing a resounding success. Funerals have turned into an occasion where people show off and spend even more than what would have been spent to save the deceased’s life.
Malaria can be prevented or treated for less than five thousand shillings and hence make one escape death, but we have seen people refusing to assist one seeking medical care, yet contribute handsomely to facilitate the funeral.
But can we really escape death? Fr. Kubeja says no. In addressing this issue, he mentioned five aspects which, in one way or another, feature in the relationship between God and man, namely: creation, death, knowing God, loving God and serving God. The last three aspects are sandwiched between the first two aspects and determine the fate of a particular individual after death
Fr. Kubeja pointed out that man has no control over his or her creation. Religious literature is of the view that God created everything, including man, who has the image reflecting God. But did God create death in the first place?
The following quotation from the Holy Bible could lead us to the answer. Genesis 1:31 reads: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”. This signifies that death, hitherto unpleasant, was not part of God’s original creation. How then did it come into existence and how is it described?
The Bible calls death an ‘enemy’ which came into existence after man had disobeyed God - his creator. God presented man with the choice: man could choice to obey God, which would have made man live forever, or disobey God and die. Genesis 2:16-17 supports this argument where it states: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Man may have forced God to create death, an argument that ties up with Fr. Kubeja’s - that death, though resulting from man’s sin, was created by God. In that light God has absolute right to decide when, where and how one will die.
Fr. Kubeja then turned to the third aspect of human life, which is knowing God. It is noble to know your Creator. The act of knowing God depends partially on God and socialisation. Religious documentation supports the argument that men came to know God’s vision and then turned to their fellow men to seek God’s plan for them.
It does not matter how one came to know God, it will affect one’s relations with God and their fate after death. Knowing God can not be equal to attaining an academic certificate, which ends up being hanged behind ones desk in the office, living room or safely put away where one keeps their valuable things.
Nevertheless we have witnessed so-called educated people behaving as if they had never sat in a classroom. Knowing God means living in a way that pleases God.
Another aspect of a human being’s life is loving God. This is entirely under the human being’s control. Loving God is manifested by loving one’s neighbour and is embedded and thrives in faith in God. Loving God is voluntary and arises from free will that man was created with. Loving God must be precedent by knowing God, meaning that the former can not take place in the absence of the latter.
Loving God is signified and manifested by treating fellow human beings in a way which does not hurt them. Had we been loving God we would be seeing happiness in families, communities and organizations.
But there is nothing to write home about if, when we critically look at our families, communities and organizations, none pleases God. If a man says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn't love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (John 4.20).
Fr. Kubeja also dwelt on the filth aspect of human being which requires man to serve God. Serving some one let alone God needs affection and obedience which according to human nature can not be split. Men are cautioned that they can not serve two masters: for either they will hate the one, and love the other; or else they will hold to one, and despise the other. Serving two masters brings conflict of interest.
The righteous way is to choose to serve one master. The presences of the phenomenon choose means serving God is under human being control which eventually impact on man and God relationship and the human being salvation. We serve God through our services to human kind in our various capacities in the entire course of our life.
Outcries of poor service delivery are not only recorded but they are on the rise. Poor customers care is a milestone of many service providers. Every service consumer is complaining; for example the bar maid at the drinking joint is complained of by her customer an electrical technician with Tanesco for delaying serving the ordered drinks.
The electrical technician with Tanesco has run away from his workplace to avoid his customer who applied and paid for electricity connection two years ago, yet nothing has came forth. The Tanesco customer happens to be a law-enforcing officer who is sitting on one case involving an ordinary man who has been rotting in custody for ten years without trial due to incomplete investigation.
It is a vicious circle of complains which for sure means we ere not serving God. This literally means we will not attain salvation because we have decided not to be saved.
Towards the end of the mass’s sermon, Fr. Kubeja touched on what death reminds living human beings. According to Fr. Kubeja, we exist in three phases of the living human being, the living dead and the saints. The living human being has the duty to pray for the living dead, including these who where unknown to them.
Unfortunately, Fr. Kubeja could not touch on what are the responsibilities of the living dead and how saints came into existence. However, he pointed out that the saints have the duty to pray for the living human beings. It is difficult to explain whether living human beings fulfill their duty of praying for the living dead.
It can be easily said that living human beings hardly pray for the living dead. We do not have to go further than look at the promises the relative makes by the graveside of their deceased but ends up not fulfilling a single one of them.
We normally promise to assist the families of the deceased and pay school fees for the orphans but end up not living up to our words. We normally make pleas to honour the dead by preserving what they had toiled to establish in their lifetime, but end up destroying them.
Look, for example, the attitude of Tanzanians towards the union which established Tanzania and national unity, the two things which the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the late Sheik Aman Abeid Karume worked tirelessly to establish and maintain.
With these in mind we can surely conclude that we seldom take time to pray for the living dead. All the materials we spend in funerals and all the tears we shed in mourning are useless and do not benefit the dead in any way whatsoever. Instead we ought to pray for them.
God created us and we made him create death which we can not avoid. Death is not the end of everything as God has put in place eternal life where only these who know, love and serve God will be destined.
For those who choose not to know, love and serve God hell is awaiting them. Yet God loves us so much that He wishes all of us to enjoy eternal life with Him.
That, in essence, is what He reminds us whenever we attend a funeral or a requiem mass.