HOMILY DELIVERED BY REV. FR. PETER NKADI AT THE FUNERAL OF RT. REV. MSGR. PETER EMEKE UZOR ON WEDNESDAY, 20TH SEPTEMBER 2023
Meryl Streep in the movie Mama Mia, captures a parent longing to hold on to those precious moments, as the daughter slips thorough her fingers like sand. She portrays the heartfelt emotions associated with this realization. It captures a mixture of joy and sadness that a mother experiences as she sees her child gradually leaving her nest venturing into the world. The feeling that she is losing her forever aches to the marrow.
We Watch life, we watch wealth, we watch clothes, fashion fade away, we watch positions slip through our fingers. We even at some point in time watch our loved ones slip through our fingers. For no matter how long a hug lasts, no matter how long a cuddle lasts separation must surely come at some point.
Dearly beloved, have you ever been on a long queue or security line in the airport travelling back after a long holiday with family or loved ones or even been to the airport to see off a close relation travelling and then turn back to wave a final goodbye or give the last hug just shortly before crossing security? One will see Some eyes are red with tears, some already shedding tears as they manage to wave a final good. Others hold hands but gradually fingers begin to slip away and there comes separation. These are moments when various things slip through our fingers. Such could be likened to our case today as I look at the many faces in this sacred place of worship because our dear Msgr. Uzo, has slipped through our fingers.
In our act of faith, we have all gathered in this church today to say farewell, for now, to entrust to God and celebrate, the life of one who has slipped through our fingers out of this world. We have come to pray, to honor, celebrate the Eucharist and entrust into the hands of God, a church man who never failed to call us to be saints, a great man, an ordained minister of the word and sacrament, a diligent priest, a truthful and caring pastor, a cheerful, disciplined Pastor, one of the best preachers, a confessor, a spiritual director, a parish priest, a motivator to so many of us. Indeed, Msgr. Uz as many of us, asst priests and seminarians who came across him called him, has slipped through our fingers and gone to meet the Lord. Like the woman in that song watched her child carry her school bag in hand and waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile, many watched him anxiously, prayerfully, lovingly with tears in our eyes begging God to give our brother, priest and friend just one last chance with us yet in the end he slipped through our fingers while we watched like those disciples of Christ while their master ascended to heaven. This reminds me of the story of (NWA NNUNU BABA) that proverbial Bird in our folk tales that was caught sick and put in the cage by the farmer. On this faithful day the farmer went to farm and the children brough out the cage to play with the bird and hip hop one step one step the bird flew away while the children sang Nwannunu baba ina fuooo and the bird replied etem bili be unu mbuu. Yes, the time had come and like that bird Msgr. Uzor left us and took a bow just as we were preparing to gather for ordination on the 26th of August by some minutes past 7am. Indeed, he slipped through our fingers. Song Obu n’aka Chukwu
Beloved in Christ when we come to celebrate the funeral of a Christian just like we have gathered today, it is meant to offer us hope. Hope built on the promises made by God and found in the paschal mystery which we celebrate. The same hope is found in the first reading taken from the book of Daniel, Where the prophet Daniel makes a promise to all those who have instructed many in virtue, lived good lives and judged to be wise at the time when the Angel Michael will arise to summon all peoples at the end of time. Those who instructed many in virtues like our brother and friend Msgr Uzor did will be rewarded and together with them, he will shine like the brightness of the firmament and their names will be written in the book. Our Hope my dear brothers and sisters never disappoints us because the love of God has been abundantly poured in our lives (Rm5;5).
As we offer this paschal sacrifice on his behalf, we also are called to look inwards into our lives. We live in the era where people look down on people because they have power, or money and treat others as though they were ‘Deputy Jesus or assistant Chinekes.’ Let us remember that these too one day will slip through our fingers. Let us therefore turn new leaves and change our lives for it is never too late to do so as we saw today in the Gospel we just read. Many today have lost the sense of the sacred, many live in grave sin, many are in bondage today. Say no to the Devil and be set free so that you may be with Jesus in paradise like the repentant thief. Song Tiwara obi anyi Chukwu.
Be not like one notorious robber in the story of the two thieves who went to a farm to steal from a barn and on their way home the one in front was stealing from the one behind. Make a resolution to make heaven today before your life slips through your fingers. Put your faith and trust in the Lord like the psalm we sung that says “from the Lord, comes the salvation of the just”. We must know that we live in borrowed times. The life we are having today, the positions we occupy today belongs to God. Do not brag about anything you have because it is borrowed. Remember “Pesin wen dey owe Landlord no dey use curry dey fry stew”. Do not allow grace slip through your fingers.
We are a people who believe in the resurrection of the dead as we profess in our creed. We believe that we shall see our father again. We are people who celebrate hope and trust in the Lord. These were the things that propelled Our father to answer the call of Christ. This call that made our father as a young man spend his energy working and spreading the good news to the far ends of our diocese, from Ogwashi uku, to Agbor, to Onicha Ugbo, Olona to Ibusa, from Ibusa to Akwukwu Igbo etc. Today he has slipped through our fingers into the hands of the Most High God where he will find solace, comfort and warm embrace from Jesus the eternal high priest whom he served so well. We are happy we have many fond memories of you to keep us going. We are indeed grateful to God for giving this diocese a gift such as you our dear Msgr. Uzor. When on the eve of our 25th anniversary of ordination haven been told by my classmates to contact you for a retreat for our 25th you really told me you were not feeling too well but if it improves you will gladly do it for us. We are indeed grateful you spoke to us and bore your heart to us as we sat before you listening. Little did we know it was your last words for us as you were rushed to hospital the very day, we celebrated in Ogwashi Uku. Your words were your parting gift to us. We had lunch with you after you handed gifts in envelopes to us. We will forever cherish and keep those memories.
Diokpa, we shall miss that your special way of laughter, we shall miss your ways of telling us the hard truth while pointing a finger saying “okwa unu bu ndi fada”. We shall always remember those chants that singled you out at mass in your young days when I used to serve at mass in Mary Immaculate Ogwashi uku where you and your twin used to live. Msgr UZ as some call you, we salute your courage, we revere your tenacity and love for truth especially in your very inspiring homilies. We give you a standing ovation for your sagacity and exemplary life for so many of us in the priesthood. Indeed, you were a model for so many of us. When we gather for retreats and other functions your vacuum will be felt. Despite the fact that you slipped through our fingers yet we shall hold on to all the good and fond memories we had with you. Indeed, you were a man. A pillar of faith, your studies in Rome was useful to us in all ramifications and that why I choose to call you una grandisimo padre della chiesa catttolica. We condole with the entire Uzor family, the people of Atta and ask God to console you all.
Dear Msgr Uzor, The Bishop your classmate and colleague for over 50 years says adieu, fare thee well, Msgr Buchi your bosom friend with whom you were always chatting and cracking jokes says P, ijeoma, the entire Presbyterium mourns and says thank you for all you did in our midst and says K’omesis nna ka nna, the entire parishioners of St. John the Baptist and in deed all the laity of Issele uku says Onye nkuzi okwukwe naa n’udo. Although you slipped through our fingers you are now in the Bossom of our creator wrapped in his arms never to slip away again. DIOKPA MSGR PETER UZOR we commend you to the Lord asking him to be merciful in judging you. (Song Jesus chetekwa mkpulu obi ya …Iga ekwee ka mkpulu obi ya . May you be united with the whole courts of heaven and your twin brother whom you loved so much.
From all of us bishop, priests, religious and lay faithful of this diocese, we say K’OMESIE