On 6 January 2019, our confreres working in Burka Parish in the Archdiocese of Arusha, led their congregation to mark the Parish Feast Day. The Holy Eucharist was presided by Rt. Rev. Bishop Prosper Balthazar Lyimo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Arusha Archdiocese. During the Mass, very nine couples blessed their marriage.
After the Mass, there were two main events to mark the occasion. The first one was a Bible quiz that also included some questions form the history of evangelization by the Catholic Church in Tanzania. The second one was the Zonal Choir Competition that was marking its second edition since its inauguration in 2017.
Epiphany is the Feast of our Lord that celebrates the Manifestation of God to all human king, through His son Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Western Church, it is celebrated on sixth of January after the Nativity or Christmas day, which is celebrated on 25 December. However, the Eastern Churches celebrates Christmas on the day of the Epiphany.
This feast may seem a very regular and comprehensible for many Christians but it calls for very deep understanding, because it is the very foundation of the Christian Faith, which makes it so different from other faiths. In fact, this celebration can be traced in the very beginning of the Christian community: “”But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23).
The reason why the Jews were scandalized by the preaching of the crucified Christ was their very understanding of who God was which that God was is Almighty, all-powerful, non-human, far away from the creation and who can never become a creature like human.
However, for the followers of Jesus (later known as Christians), the very God of their fore fathers who was the Almighty, powerful, non-human, far away from the creation and who could never become a creature like human; had indeed broken the barrier and intervened in the lives of human beings. This was by becoming like them in order to save them from damnation that they wrought upon themselves by sinning against him. In the letter of St. Paul to Philippians, we read, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7.Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8.he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).
This fundamental difference in faith is what divides the religious world today into two opposites. Sometimes, this has brought a lot of conflict, when people from these opposed sides engage into religious competition about who is right and who is wrong. However, should there be a cause of conflict in this? In my opinion, the answer would be NO. I explain: As John Mbiti, a Kenyan religious scholar, put it in the 60s, human beings are religious from the core and Africans are notoriously religious for that matter. Nevertheless, being religious and professing a certain creed are two different things.
Now, no one chooses to be religious or no because man and woman are religious by nature. Again, not very many people get the chance to choose the creed they profess either. Many of us became followers of the creeds we profess today by birth, we did not choose. For instance, majority Spaniards are Catholics by birth just the way many Indonesians are Muslims by birth. Therefore, that is how we find ourselves in either of the opposing sides. However, fundamental this difference might be, in my opinion it should not, be used as the cause of conflict and religious competition. Creed, though it is the foundation of faith, it is not the central value. The main faith groups champion the values of Love and Charity, Justice and human rights, etc. This I propose should be the unifying factor between all human beings.
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD