Not crying out, not shouting not making his voice heard in the

streets

Godfrey Igwbuike Onah
Bishop of Nsukka

(Sixth Bishop Michael Eneja Annual Memorial Lecture, Nsukka, 31 October 2015)

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smouldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on earth, the coastlands will await his teaching (Is 42: 1-4).

After curing a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath day in a synagogue, Jesus roused the anger of the Pharisees who vowed to put him to death. As a result, he withdrew from the area, since he knew that his time had not yet come. His withdrawal from the Pharisees did not however discourage those who had need of him from seeking him out.

Neither would he turn his back to those in need simply because he did not want the trouble of the Jews. He therefore cured all the sick who came to him but warned them not to talk about it. The author of the Gospel according to Matthew saw in this a fulfillment of the passage from the prophet Isaiah quoted above (cf. Mtt 12: 9-21).

The man whose three-year preaching in Palestine some two thousand years ago has definitively changed the face of the earth was not a rabble-rouser or an activist who sought to incite the poor and the oppressed, through inflammatory preaching, against the political and religious leaders of the time. He rather chose to speak to the hearts of the oppressed and the oppressor alike, in order thereby to lead all to conversion and a change of attitude in their relationship with God, with one another and with the world.

When his voice fell silent on the cross that tragic Friday afternoon, those who had crucified him must have thought that they had won. How wrong they were! They never knew that his silence on the cross, just like his silence before Pilate, was more eloquent than their loud and empty noises.

Once in a long while there arises among a people one who, like the Master, achieves more by his or her silence than the noisy self-publicists would ever hope to achieve by their shouting and their endless ego-propelled activities. Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja was one such person: Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the streets ... until he had laid solid foundations for a stable and holy local Church in the present day Enugu State. Our gathering here today testifies that his silence continues to speak to us and in us.

Bishop Eneja meant many things to many of us. Even in his death, he may still be compared with the proverbial elephant's flesh, so massive that it offers enough meat to as many as would want and yet not be exhausted. The topic of this year's lecture, "Bishop Michael Eneja, the Silent Achiever," could not have been more appropriate. This is because I see Bishop Eneja's life-style as an antidote to what I have chosen to call "obsessive protagonism," a psycho-spiritual disorder that has afflicted many of us Bishops and Priests.

And by obsessive protagonism I mean that compulsive urge always to be the principal actor, always to be or to be seen as being at the centre of things, one of the "movers and shakers," ndi nwe obodo, "ndi na-achi Diocese/Parish," etc. This is sometimes manifested in the restless rush to accomplish things which will be attributed to us as achievements, whether or not they are expedient, relevant, useful, durable, affordable, prudent.

Obsessive protagonism does not leave any space to others, not even to God. It makes those in some position of power unwilling to delegate authority and their collaborators ever ready to usurp that authority. It makes us regard as our achievement what God in his infinite mercies and fatherly providence grants to his children and his Church.

When, for example, we are called by God to be Bishops and Priests, in spite of yawning and foul-smelling moral wounds, do we not sometimes feel that it is an achievement for which we should be congratulated? After all, ife a adirokwanu easy; i makwa ife mu gabigalu wee lute ebea? It is now common to see people who are comfortable to be regarded as miracle workers, "powerful men and women of God." Obsessive protagonism is a psycho-spiritual disorder in many of us which the memory and prayers of Bishop Michael Ugwu Eneja can help to heal.

Because of his deep spirituality, expressed in his total submission to the will of God -( "Fiat voluntas Tua," was his episcopal motto), Bishop Michel Eneja did not seek to achieve anything but simply to do the will of God. He only wanted to be and to remain a holy priest, in the hope of attracting others to a life of holiness. In my opinion, everything he did was motivated by this.

It is my singular privilege as the home Bishop of Michael Eneja to welcome all of you to this happy occasion. I welcome my brother Bishops of Enugu and Awgu, their Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful. (The three Bishops are proud to claim to be Eneja's special sons. It was he who ordained each of us priest. And we are well aware of the responsibility that this entails.) I thank the Acting Chairman and the Members of Bishop Michael Eneja Foundation (BIMEF), the Chairman, Consultant and Members of the Local Organizing Committee of this year's lecture and, in a very special way, our distinguished lecturer, Justice Ada Obayi.

I also thank the Clergy, the Religious and the Lay Faithful of Nsukka Diocese who have come from our different Parishes. As we prepare to learn from our lecturer today, may we never forget that the only thing Bishop Eneja really wanted to achieve was to make all of us holy Catholics. Without a sincere effort on our part to realize this, I am afraid that any other achievement that we may attribute to him may make him a little nervous, even in heaven - where we believe he already is.


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