ATUKWASARAM GI OBI M: A HOMILY ON THURSDAY, 1ST WEEK OF ADVENT
There is an old song which says :
I leaned my back against an oak,
thinking it was the stronges tree.
But first it bent, and then it broke;
and that’s the way love treated me.
A contrast to this will be the Igbo song
‘Lem’anya, lem’anya na mkpuru obi.
Atukwasara m gi obim, Chineke‘.
The singer is asking God to look deep into his/her heart and discover that he/she depends completely on God always. I particularly find the word ‘Atukwasaram’ very beautiful in the sense that it is literarlly saying that ‘I place my heart on’. Imagine that God is like a table and you place your heart on him. There are two things to bear in mind before you can place one thing on another.
Before you place a cup upon a table, you are very sure that the table is strong enough to carry the cup. That is why a very big person should not sit on a weak plastic chair. Normally you place a weaker object on top of a stronger object. Therefore, dependence has to do with a weaker person depending on a stronger person. That is why Isaiah speaks of a strong city in our first reading of today. This srong city is God. He guards us and sets wall and rampart about us. He speaks of the strong one who is strong one because his/her mind is placed on God. He describes God as an everlasting rock. Jesus in the gospel describes someone who obeys God as someone who has built their house on a rock. Rain will come down, floods will rise, gales will blow but nothing will go wrong. This is what happens when you place your heart on God. You (a weak person) is most secure when you place your heart (depend completely) on God.
Trust is very important when we talk of depending on someone. Before you place one thing on another, you should have the trust that what you have placed will not be consumed or destroyed. God is not only described as a strong city, He is also described as the one who gives peace to those who trust in Him. It is easy for us to say we trust God, but our actions may show the opposite. Anybody who committs a sin does so because somewhere in his/her thinking, he/she does not trust God. We can see God as a lover who wants the best for us, or we can see Him as a slave-master, who just want to use us. If we see Him as a lover, then we will trust His word to be true and we will at least constantly make efforts to obey Him. That is why the Responsorial psalm tells us that it is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in people and it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in Princes.
We often trust in ourselves or we trust in other people. We give them our whole heart and we place our hearts in their care. As good as they may be, they are not as strong as God. As caring as they may be, you cannot always trust them. In this way, we build our houses on sandy soil, and when disaster come, nothing will be left of us. No matter how high we think we are, if we are not rooted in God, we are destined for eternal destruction. But those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion. If you want to place your heart somewhere, place it on a strong foundation and place it on someone you can really trust. If you place it somewhere else, even on yourself (in the name of independence), then you will be singing the first song above. But If you place it on God, you will be singing ‘Atukwasaram gi obim.