The Holy Matrimony of Grace Ameh and Samson Attu, 27th May, 2017, at St. Gabriel’s Chaplaincy, Airforce Base, Jos
Homily by Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria
We thank God for the gift of today and for His precious gift of Samson Attu and Grace Ameh to our society and the Church. We also thank and appreciate you their parents for doing a good job in their upbringing. We heartily felicitate with your two families as we witness their marriage today. I have known Grace for a long period. She was introduced to me one day at the entrance of Fatima Cathedral hall by Sr. Lucy Gidado, OLF, and I know her for her spiritual depth, intellectual ability and her good inter-personal/social relationship skills. I met Samson not too long ago and he comes across as a focused gentleman determined to succeed in life. We are optimistic that with their good home upbringing, their experience of life and the grace of this sacrament of marriage they will be a happy and successful couple.
The Godfrey Okoye University family Enugu has also become the extended family of Grace and Samson because that is where they live and work, by the courtesy of the Vice Chancellor Fr. Prof. Christian Anieke, who employed them both. They went to work there but fell in love and this love is what we are gathered to celebrate today.
One of the things God instituted as we read in the creation narrative in Genesis is marriage. God did not want man to live in isolation. He wanted man to be a social being. So, after creating Adam God gave him his wife Eve, to be his help and support. Jesus stressed this when he stated: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10: 6-9).
Grace and Samson, your desire to live together as husband and wife like Tobias and Sarah has become a reality today. Praise God! When you were distributing invitation cards I hope the first person you invited was Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can guarantee you happiness, to stay faithful and to serve God together all the days of your life. You are coming into each other’s life as a blessing. Grace Ameh will bring grace and dignity into their marriage, while Samson will bring his masculine physical strength like that of Samson in the Bible to complement Grace’s feminine grace and dignity. Of great importance is that you create the space and condition in your life to allow God to keep blessing you. Stand by each other. A real husband and a real wife stand by each other on a good day and even closer to each other on a bad day, no matter what. Tobias knew the tragic story of Sarah but was prayerful, trusting God and determined to stand by her in genuine marital love. He invited his wife to put their trust in God: “Sister, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.” Sarah got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs” ( Tobit 8:4). It is in this light that we urge you Grace and Samson to face your problems if they come and pray them off. Don’t be shy to pray together. Confront your problems with prayers. There is efficacy in prayer.
Be careful that material distractions of work do not make you forget to thank, praise and glorify God everyday in prayer, neither must you allow the distraction of noise or today’s social media. Your relationship must be firm and rooted in whom we live and move and have our being. Cultivate the culture of silence and meditation. The TV or computer must not always be on. Listen to yourselves more often and try to share heart to heart.
When I was a parish priest I once heard a man talking of having bought a tractor. I congratulated him only to realize that he was referring to his new wife. In many cultures the woman is seen as a property of the man because the man pays the dowry for the woman. Some see a woman as a baby making machine! After nine months of marriage the mother-in-law wants a child! In one tradition the first borne belongs to the parents of the girl. So they would insist ad nauseam that the first born should be brought quickly!
In the culture of the Hamar people who live in southwestern Ethiopia, a way to show that a man loves the woman he wants to marry is for the man to whip her in a public ceremony. Samson should not try that on Grace! Whip her with love instead. In some cultures in Nigeria relations of the man feel that the man’s house belongs to them and so see the woman as “our wife” and feel they have the right to talk anyhow to the woman, walk in and take anything or ask for anything. In the Christian culture only Samson is marrying Grace and Grace marrying Samson not the whole family, so they should be given their space to grow together.
Not long ago in many of our cultures it was so difficult to marry from outside your tribe. That myth is being demythologized by Grace and Samson. Well done! Grace is Igala from Kogi State and Samson is Idoma from Benue State. Inter tribal marriage is not only encouraged but commendable because it a great way to reduce our many problems in Nigeria caused by ethnocentrism. Also, one time marriage was by coercion, a girl on her way from the farm or from fetching water from the stream could be “arrested” for marriage, of course, with prior parental arrangement; parents could equally give out their daughter for favours received or expected. In some cases negotiations were done secretly without the girl’s awareness or consent.
Jesus has changed all this. Marriage is a union of an adult man and an adult woman, freely entered into with the intention as Canon Law says, for mutual love, procreation and upbringing of children. In Christian marriage Jesus must be allowed to be present like he was at the marriage in Cana. That was when he elevated traditional or cultural marriage to a higher level of a holy sacrament. Marriage is a covenant of equals, a man and a woman become helpmates and companions. Nobody is inferior or superior. No one is a commodity. It is not a business deal where families or the individuals concerned are looking for ways to exploit the other for profit. Marriage is about mutual love, a union for life between a man and a woman. At God’s own time and pleasure he can bless a marriage with children. Couples must therefore pray and wait patiently for their own gift of children. It is not automatic that because you are married children will just start coming.
In 1 Cor. 13 St. Paul teaches us the attributes of love. Love is patient, kind, forgiving… not selfish, etc.
According to Rishika Jain, if you love some one because you think that he/she is really gorgeous- Then it’s not love it’s ”Infatuation”…
“If you love some one because you think that you shouldn’t leave him because others think that you shouldn’t…Then it’s not love,, it’s “compromise”…
If you love some one because you think that you cannot live with out his touch…Then it’s not love, it’s “lust”….
“If you love some one because you can’t leave him thinking that it would hurt his feeling…..Then it’s not love, it’s”charity”
“If you love some one because you share every thing with him… Then it’s not love, it’s”friendship”…
If you feel the pain of the other person more than him even when he/she is stable and you cry for him…..That’s”LOVE”
If you get attracted to other people but stay with him/her without any regrets……That’s”LOVE”
If you let him/her go knowing that he/she has to go but he/she doesn’t want to……That’s “LOVE”..
The moment a man and a woman invite Jesus into their union, that is marriage that will last even if troubles, trials and turbulence come. Marriage without Jesus is like tea without sugar. I am sometimes baffled by people who deprive themselves of the grace of the sacrament of marriage by delaying their Church marriage and say they are married but not wedded. They are waiting for society wedding where cows are killed, fantastic send off arranged, expensive venues, photographs, reception contracted, colourful invitation cards made, etc. This was why the Bishops of Jos Ecclesiastical Province had to issue guidelines on marriage to make it a happy but sober and prayerful celebration rather than a show of wealth that leaves the couple in financial difficulties after the wedding. Some fifteen years ago I asked my two night watch men (maigadis) why they had not wedded even after having adult children and they said they could not afford the ten goats required to be given to the parents of their wives. We managed to get the goats and their church wedding was done. Marriage should not be about big dowries, goats, salt, etc but about receiving God’s blessing.
Samson and Grace, I am happy that you are beginning your matrimonial union with Jesus. As you are starting with Jesus, proceed in Jesus and conclude everything with Jesus.
My concluding advice is that you try and live simply. Don’t compare or be over ambitious. Be modest. Be grateful. Pope Francis reminds couples of three useful words: excuse, thanks, sorry.
In the spirit of Ps 127 we pray that by the labour of your hands you shall eat. “You will be blessed and prosper…. May you see your children’s children” and like God did to Tobias and Sarah, we ask the Lord to send down His mercy on you Samson and Grace, and allow you to live together to a happy old age (Cf. Tobit 8:8).