Requiem Mass - Paul Ezenwelu

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Requiem Mass
Paul Ezenwelu
24 January 2013

When I was thinking about this particular occasion, the question arose in my mind about why are we doing this, coming together to pray for a person we do not know, who died in far off Nigeria some weeks ago.

There are two answers to the question. We are doing it to show support for Fr. Augustine following the unexpected death of his brother, and to show that we are aware that he is about to embark on a sad  journey home. At some time in the next year or so, it would have been on the cards that he would be returning to Nigeria to spend time with his family, particularly his mother, but that has all happened much sooner than anticipated and in circumstances which were not expected.

The other reason why we are here together this evening, is because we believe certain things and that faith is shared by the family of Fr. Augustine. We believe that we are destined to live forever, and that Jesus came to assure us of the love that God has for each of us, and through his life, his teaching, his death and resurrection, everything has been done to ensure that we can take up the heritage which has been given to us.

This message is also believed by Fr Augustine and by the members of his family and friends, and in the days following his arrival in Onitsha, the plans for the Mass of Christian Burial and the burial itself will come to fruition, giving expression to this belief through the prayers, readings and actions which the Liturgy of the Church suggests on this occasion.

The ultimate basis of that faith is to be found in the words of Jesus. There are many references to that same theme in his teachings, and the Gospel reading of the Mass this evening is one of them.

All four gospel writers use the metaphor of Jesus as Shepherd. God is also described as a shepherd in the Hebrew scripture. The Jewish prophets, prior to the birth of Jesus, were already in possession of the basics of the message. “The Lord will destroy death forever.”
So the use by John of the metaphor was nothing new. What is new however is John’s description of the relationship between the shepherd and the individual sheep?

The life and work of Jesus all had the same purpose, to demonstrate the love that God has for every individual. Jesus, the shepherd knows the name of each of his sheep and each of us is invited to enter an individual and personal relationship with him. Such a relationship will be forever. There is no “sunset clause” as we might have it in other elements of our lives. In life and in death, Jesus is the Good Shepherd at all times.

This evening is a precious opportunity for all of us to offer our love and our sympathy to Fr. Augustine, and through him to his Mother and to all the members of the Ezenwelu family. In particular we extend our sympathy to Paul’s wife and children, who now face a future without their husband and father. You have been good enough to agree to the request of your Archbishop to leave your home and your family for a period,  and to come to this very distance place to exercise your priestly ministry. We continue to be very grateful for that generosity, as indeed we are grateful to Fr. Felix and Fr Kene as well.

This generosity has come at a cost to Fr. Augustine, in terms of not being on hand to offer support and care to the family of your brother, and to your dear Mother, and we wish to you know that we appreciate what has been asked of you.

On 1 February Fr Augustine will begin the long journey back home. As one who travelled to Nigeria in 2007, I have personal experience of the long journey that it is, and returning home not have the normal excitement that would be present if one were returning simply for a holiday.

We wish to assure you of our thoughts and prayers over the coming days, including the time when it will be your priestly task to be the Principal Celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial for your late brother Paul, and to lay him to rest, much earlier that you would normally have expected for that to happen.

May Paul Ezenwelu, brother, father, son, relative of many and friend of many more, now rest in peace.