BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa

A man called Epaphras, a prominent leader in the Colossae community, visited Paul in prison in Rome and there he expressed his deep concern about the spiritual condition of the people in Colossae.  The people had taken delight in erroneous doctrines (false teachings). They wrongly believed that some spirits that dwell in nature were more powerful than God and that these spirits control human life and destiny. The Apostle, Paul was deeply concerned about the spiritual bankruptcy of the Colossians and so he wrote a strongly worded letter to bring them into the right path of their faith. This letter to the Colossians is relevant even today.

If the Apostle Paul were to write a letter to Nigerians, he would also warn against some aspects of our traditional religions that are in opposition to the Gospel message. Some of these cultures give pride of place to elemental spirits, which are found in water, wind, fire, earth, mountain, trees, caves, and forests. For example, the Hausa Traditional Religion believes there are an uncountable number of spirits (iskoki) that inhabit the earth, land, and sea.  The word Iskoki is synonymous with the English word air and scriptures tell us to beware of the “Prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). I recall a big Kuka (Baobab) tree that stood by a road to Unguwar Dawo in Malumfashi. We were afraid of this tree because of the mysterious stories surrounding it. We were told some spirits dwell in the tree. We became more afraid of the spirits in the tree, and at night we prayed in our hearts while passing the tree. Those mysterious stories were likely fabricated to dignify the tree. The mystification of natural elements is very common in other African cultures. For example, in Yoruba culture, Osun is said to be the wife of Sango and the goddess of the river of Osun. Among the Igbos Mmuo are also spirits, some of which dwell in natural elements such as earth and water. Similarly, Odinani or Ala-ana is the goddess of land and fertility. In addition, the concept of Mammy Water (Water goddess) is widespread in some parts of West Africa and this goddess is revered by traditionalists and even among those who have adopted Christianity and Islam, especially people who live in riverine villages and cities. In some parts of the Western world, there are various forms of neo-paganism and superstitions that are distracting Christians from their faith. To see the hand of God in nature and to appreciate nature is good, but misplacing creation in the place of the creator is wrong. When we begin to see natural forces as gods, they cease to be part of creation and assume the place of the creator.


At the beginning of the letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul stresses the power of Jesus, which supersedes every throne, principality, kingdom, or dominion. The hymn praises the redemptive work of Jesus and emphasizes, “In him, all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). To hold together is to keep the different parts of an object or people together; to hold together also implies preserving something or people from falling apart or degenerating. Ordinarily, glues, paper clips, rubber bands, padlocks, zip, cement, bold, and chains are what we use to hold objects together. Jesus holds the universe, the family, the church, and the community from tearing apart and without him, everything comes crumbling. “For in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). He says, “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain part of me (John 15:4).”  This statement tells us that nothing in the universe is self-sufficient, but everything relies on God through Jesus Christ for it to continue working.

If we truly believe that Jesus is above all other powers and in him, all things hold together, why do we submit to some fetish powers and strange spirits for protection and healing in critical sicknesses? In submitting our bodies to some fetish powers for treatment, we unknowingly hand over our souls to them as well. We cannot even hold our scattered lives together. It is only in Jesus that our lives can hold together. Remember the inspirational words, which say, “I have held many things in my hand, and have lost them all, but whatever I have placed in God’s hands I still possess.” Let us, therefore, allow Christ the King to take possession of our lives, our families, our communities, our church, our country, and the world because only He can perfectly and permanently hold things and people together.

Pope Pius XI introduced the feast of Christ the King in 1925 to challenge secularism, which relegates God to the background, and to oppose the forces of darkness. According to the Holy Father, “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will, at last, receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony” (Quas Primas, 19). When Jesus is removed or moved away from the centre of family life everything crumbles. Therefore, let us let Him “Be all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

34th Sunday of the Year, Christ the Universal King; 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.


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