DEATH IS BENEFICIAL TO THE RIGHTEOUS

MEMORIAL MASS OF SIR RAPHAEL A. O. NWOSU (1940 – 2023) AT CHRIST THE KING CHURCH, CANTONMENTS, ACCRA ON THURSDAY, 18TH JANUARY, 2024.

HOMILY BY BISHOP JOHN K. LOUIS

READINGS: Wisdom 3:1-9 and Matthew 25:31-46

THEME: DEATH IS BENEFICIAL TO THE RIGHTEOUS

Introduction

– Greetings

– A theme which runs through the two readings and which ties in well with a key life aspiration of Sir Raphael Nwosu is Death is beneficial to the righteous. 

-The first reading (Wisdom 3:1-9) tells us that the death of the righteous is like a burnt offering pleasing to God; and it gives us some of the benefits that the righteous receive after death. 

-Likewise, according to the gospel (Matt. 25:31-46), the righteous, because they are charitable, are blessed for all eternity (cf. Matt. 25:46). And if there is a word which defines Sir Raphael Nwosu, it is CHARITY. 

Outline

● The righteous 

● The death of the righteous is like a burnt offering acceptable to God

● Heavenly death benefits

● Seeking righteousness

  1. The Righteous 

Who are the righteous? Though the first and gospel readings do not define the term “righteous”, they provide some salient points about righteousness. Firstly, according to Wis. 3:9c, God’s “grace and mercy are upon His elect” (i.e., the righteous). So, to become righteous is first and foremost God’s gift, which is received through faith (cf. Rom. 3:21-26). 

Secondly, according to the gospel reading, the righteous are good people (cf. Matt. 25:33).

Thirdly, the righteous are people who please God by helping the poor and needy (cf. Matt. 25:35-39). Fourthly, for the Christian, Jesus’ identification with the poor and needy is the paramount motivation for loving them selflessly (cf. Matt. 25:40).

In the light of the above, the husband of Mrs. Linda Nwosu, our father, grandfather and brother, Sir Raphael Nwosu, aspired to be a righteous man. He was a man of faith who was very much conscious of God’s grace and mercy in his life. Particularly, he was always grateful for God’s grace and mercy which made him escape from the Biafra War (1967-70) and prosper in Ghana for more than half a century. In response to God’s grace and mercy, he was selflessly generous to the poor and needy in whom he saw the suffering Jesus. 

Moreover, the selfless and generous heart of Sir Nwosu was easily moved by the needs of the Church, institutions, and associations. Among the institutions which enjoyed from his benevolence were the major seminaries in Ghana, the Catholic University of Ghana, the Catholic Institute of Business and Technology, and the National Catholic Secretariat. For instance, he financed the expansion and modernization works of St. Peter’s Seminary library, and contributed towards the construction of the Spiritual Year Block of St. Paul’s Seminary. He also purchased buses for three major seminaries in Ghana. This is just a bit of what he did in Ghana, not to talk about his charitable works in Nigeria and elsewhere. 

  1. The death of the righteous is like a burnt offering acceptable to God

According to the first reading, the death of the righteous person is “like a sacrificial burnt offering” acceptable to God (Wis. 3:6). The story of the two brothers, Cain and Abel, can throw some light on this point (cf. Gen. 4:1-7).  Cain offered the fruits of the land and Abel offered the first-fruits of his flock. In each case, what they offered was destroyed or lost (through fire). However, unlike Cain, what Abel lost became a pleasing sacrifice to God, because he was a righteous man. That is, Abel’s physical loss assumed a spiritual gain or significance.

So, though in death, we lose this earthly life, Sir Nwosu believed that the righteous person rises up to God like the sweet-smelling smoke of a sacrifice pleasing unto Him. However, the unrighteous person’s death is like the offering of Cain which is lost both physically and spiritually, as it is unacceptable to God.

On account of his numerous charitable works, may the soul of Sir Nwosu rise up to God like the sweet-smelling smoke of the pleasing sacrifice of Abel. 

  1. Heavenly Death Benefits

In advanced countries which have well-designed retirement packages, a diligent and long-serving worker looks forward to his/her retirement benefits. Similarly, Sir Nwosu believed that the righteous person should look forward to the heavenly benefits which are enjoyed after death. Moreover, whereas retirees no longer enjoy their benefits when they die, the righteous begin to enjoy their heavenly benefits after death. Furthermore, while the value of retirement benefits depreciates with time, the value of heavenly benefits remains unchanged.

Today’s readings mention several heavenly benefits. Let us consider only four of them:

a. The joy of living with God: “The faithful will abide with Him [God] in love” (Wis. 3:9b). Similarly, in the gospel reading the righteous are told by the King: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the Kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world of the world” (Matt. 25:34).

b. Heavenly peace: the righteous are “at peace” (Wis. 3:3b), as “no torment will ever touch them” (Wis. 3:1b).  That is, a life with no sickness, death, disaster, shortages, disappointments, pains or any other sorrow.

c. Immortality: “their hope is full of immortality” (Wis. 3:4b). Similarly, according to the gospel reading, the righteous will enjoy eternal life (cf. Matt. 25:46). So, the righteous shall enjoy life with God and peace in heaven, not for only some days, years or decades, but for all eternity – forever and ever.

d. To understand all the mysteries of life: “Those who trust in Him [God] will understand truth” (Wis. 3:9a). That is, the mysteries of life will be fully understood by the righteous in heaven. 

May our father, uncle and brother, Sir Nwosu, enjoy these and all other heavenly benefits, known or unknown to him while he was with us!

  1. Seeking righteousness

Now, considering the awesome or mind-blowing benefits that God has in store for the righteous, let us all, like Sir Nwosu, seek righteousness. In other words, let us seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness … (cf. Matt. 6:33). Now, how do we seek righteousness? Here, again, let us consider briefly four key points:

a. Righteousness is experienced first and foremost by God’s grace and mercy (cf. Wis. 3:9c). So, let us always pray for God’s grace and mercy upon us.

b. In response to God’s grace, we receive and grow in righteousness through steadfast faith. So, let us be steadfast in faith, especially in difficult times.

c. In response to God’s mercy, we grow in righteousness by confessing and detesting our sins. So, let us confess and detest our sins.

d. Also, in response to God’s mercy, we remain in righteousness through works of mercy, i.e., charity (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). No wonder, Sir Nwosu was very charitable. Beloved, like him, may we be more selfless and more generous. 

Conclusion

May the ever-merciful God accept Sir Nwosu’s soul like a sacrifice pleasing unto Him. May the angels of God ascend with his soul like a sacrificial smoke rising up to God’s presence! Finally, may God grant Sir Nwosu all the benefits of heaven!

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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