HEAVEN IS THE PRIZE

FUNERAL MASS OF MR. ANTHONY COBBA-BINEY

(10th February, 1932 – 8th January, 2023)

AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHEDRAL, ACCRA ON SATURDAY 31STMARCH, 2023

HOMILY BY MSGR. JOHN K. LOUIS

READINGS: 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and John 14:1-6

THEME: HEAVEN IS THE PRIZE

INTRODUCTION

Catholic Hymn no. 212: “Yes, Heaven is the Prize”. This hymn, which is cited at the beginning of the biography of Mr. Anthony Cobba-Biney, sums up the main aspiration of his life. His desire to have heaven as his ultimate prize was informed by his trust in the assurance of our Lord Jesus Christ that He has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven; and he would subsequently come for us (cf. John 14:1-6). Trusting in this assurance of Jesus, St. Paul, as his earthly life drew to a close, would affirm: “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord…. will reward me on that day; and not only to me, but to all those who have longed for His glorious coming” (2 Tim: 4:8). Heaven as the ultimate reward motivated Mr. Anthony Cobba-Biney to be hardworking and obedient to God.

OUTLINE

  • A Story about “Heaven is the Prize”
  • Hardwork
  • Obedience to God
  1. A STORY ABOUT “HEAVEN IS THE PRIZE”

A man, by name Nana Kweku, had the opportunity to travel to the USA. On the day he was leaving his wife, Auntie Abena, his son, Kofi, and his daughter, Ama, they had a family chat. His son had then completed S.H.S Form 3 and the daughter J.H.S. Form 3. He advised his children to be studious and obedient to their mum. He added that the reward for their hardwork and obedience would be to travel to the USA for their further studies and future life. Hence, he coined this slogan: USA IS THE PRIZE. Subsequently, anytime, he called from the USA, he would say, “ USA” and his children would respond: “IS THE PRIZE”.

After 3 years abroad, Nana Kweku returned home for a visit. His daughter, Ama, who was hardworking and obedient to her mum, had completed S.H.S. with excellent grades. However, his son, Kofi, who was disobedient to the mum and had taken to drugs and alcohol, had dropped out of the university. Actually, due to his mental illness he had become a danger to the mum and his sister. Though devastated, Nana Kweku had to return to the USA with only his wife and daughter. The son was confined to a mental hospital in Accra.

Yes, heaven is the prize; but, we have our part to play – we have to be hardworking and obedient (in our case) to God. These are some lessons which Mr. Anthony Cobba-Biney is leaving with us.

  1. HARDWORK

If we wish to receive heaven as the ultimate prize, we have to be hardworking. In the first reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8), St. Paul reminds us of his hardwork in the service of Christ. He describes his hardwork using the fighting and running disciplines of the ancient Greek Olympic Games.

Firstly, St. Paul says: “I have fought the good fight to the end” (2 Timothy 4:7a). This means that he did his best, and he did it to the end. This certainly entailed hardwork. Secondly, St. Paul says: “I have run the race to the finish” (2 Timothy 4:7b). Again, this entailed hardwork. This kind of hardwork was well understood by Mr. Anthony Cobba-Biney. Thus, from his childhood, he would work hard in his education, professional life and family life.

  1. Education:
  • He obtained his Middle School Leaving Certificate with distinction
  • He emerged first out of 100 candidates who sat for the Ghana Survey School entrance examination in 1957
  • He topped the 1960 graduating class of the Ghana Survey School
  • He had a scholarship to study in U.K. in 1964 and successfully completed two programmes concurrently in two different institutions.
  1. Professional Life:
  • By dint of hardwork, he rose to a high position in the Survey Department. Probably, but for unfavorable political interference and nepotism, he would have risen to the very top.
  1. Family life:
  • In our days, when many marriages don’t survive five years and some even break within the first year, it was hardwork (of course, plus God’s grace), that made Mr. Cobba-Biney remained in marriage with Mrs. Beatrice Cobba-Biney for 60 good years.
  • By dint of hardwork, they both raised their six surviving children as well as nurtured their twenty grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
  1. OBEDIENCE TO GOD

In the story of Nana Kweku, his daughter, Ama, was not only hardworking but obedient to her mother. Similarly, to receive heaven as our prize, we have to be both hardworking and obedient to God. For instance, in the first reading, St. Paul expresses his obedience to God by saying, “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7c). In the days of St. Paul, the expression, “I have kept the faith” was used in Greek business discourses. In that context, it meant “I have kept the conditions of the contract; I have been true to my engagements” (William Barclay). So, St. Paul probably meant to say that in his service to Christ, he had fulfilled the terms of his engagement.

Like Ama, who was obedient to her mum and like St. Paul who kept the faith, Mr. Cobba-Biney was obedient to God to the very end. He obeyed God in various ways:

  • By his hardwork
  • By being a responsible father and husband
  • By raising his children in the Catholic faith
  • By his honesty – money and property were not his priorities
  • By his humility
  • By his charity and cheerfulness
  • By his great service to the Catholic Church: 80 long years as a chorister and 18 years as the Lands and Estates Officer of Accra Archdiocese. Volunteering to take up the duties of Lands and Estates Officer after his retirement from the civil service, he was content with only stipends for all those years! Oh, may the Lord God bless such a wonderful soul!

Beloved, let us also keep the faith to the end by always obeying God as Mr. Cobba-Biney endeavored to do.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Anthony Cobba-Biney saw heaven as the ultimate prize, and so he worked hard and did his best to obey God. Finally, therefore, may the Lord overlook any shortcomings of his and bless him with the heavenly crown. Amen!

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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