Friday Sermon: The Grave Beckons

By Babatunde Jose

When a man is 70 heaven beacons; as the dividing line between birth and death is long past. What remains can never be as much as what has been. It is self delusional for man to arrogate immortality to himself; Awaiye Iku osi. No man born of woman will live forever. We must all taste death: When, how, where and time is all determined by Allah. To this extent therefore we are enjoined to put our life in order so that after our translation, there would be no hiatus.

I have written the above as an opening for this week’s Huthba when I received an admonition from a friend in his congratulatory message to me on my 70th birthday last Wednesday December 25. It turned out to be a classical case of convergence of thoughts.

It described the day as another landmark and like any other day that has its morning, afternoon and evening. This he described as a similitude of the three phases of man’s sojourn on planet earth.

The main thrust of his admonition is that as we grow older into the ‘sundown’ of life, one should deeply reflect and do a stocktaking of all ones deeds with a view to making amends, ameliorate, correct, repent and make restitution where necessary.

We should also ensure we check the litmus test of family ties and do the needful where it demands.

There is no doubt; our life on this divide is in stages. Where the trajectory of life is straight without challenges and untoward happenings, we would walk through the gamut of the morning and afternoon of life. On reaching the evening of life, we would start preparations for the sundown. A period which is best spent in retrospection.

The bottom line of this stage of life is the putting of our house in order. Only a foolish man will live in denial and say that he has time after the age of 70. The Lord said in the good book; Psalm 90:10-12 ‘The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Men are led by reflections upon the brevity of time to give their earnest attention to eternal things; they become humble as they look into the grave which is so soon to be their bed, their passions cool in the presence of mortality, and they yield themselves up to the dictates of unerring wisdom; A short life should be wisely spent. We have not enough time at our disposal to justify us in misspending a single quarter of an hour. Neither are we sure of enough life to justify us in procrastinating for a moment. If we were wise in heart we should see this, but mere head wisdom will not guide us aright. This is more reason why we should ask God to teach us to number our days.

Many are rich beyond contemplation but lack the wherewithal to plan their exit. They fumble from one misdeed to another causing untold misery to their offspring’s in the course of their demise. I had an uncle who lived a double life till he died. Right in the same city he had two families. On hearing the news of his death, the other family sent emissaries to verify at his home. When it was realized that it was true, they decided to introduce themselves to his widow, who directed them to my late father. The children needed no introduction as the eldest one was a spitting image of my uncle. A family meeting was held where they were introduced and asked to come for the burial. What ended the matter is your guess. The house was put into a state of turmoil and disarray. By the way, my uncle was not an illiterate, but a lawyer called to the English Bar and served as a Director of Public Prosecution, Chief Magistrate and finally Chief Registrar of the State High Court.

As a result of the failure to tidy their affairs, many have made a mess of their legacy. 53 years after the death of a former federal minister his family is still in court, both here and overseas. There are also instances where palatial structures left behind have been left to waste and in the process turned into heap of scrap. Yet the children are alive. A classic case of the Yoruba adage ‘ baalele ku ile d’ahoro’.

That the grave beckons is not a morbid thought but a reality check.

It is evident, that the great thing wanted to make men provide for eternity, is the practical persuasion that they have but a short time to live. They will not apply their hearts unto wisdom until they are brought to the numbering of their days. And how are you to be brought?  What! Are there not lessons enough of that frailty without any new teaching from above? Can we need more to prove to us the uncertainty of life?

The grain does not always germinate — but every man dies. The needle does not always point due north — but every man dies. The sun does not cross the horizon in every place in every twenty-four hours — but every man dies. Yet we must pray — pray as for the revelation of a mystery hidden from our gaze — we must pray to be made to know — to be made to believe — that every man dies! “For I call it not belief, and our text calls it not belief, in the shortness of life and the certainty of death, which allows men to live without thought of eternity, without anxiety as to the soul, or without an effort to secure to themselves salvation. I call it not belief — no, no, anything rather than belief. Men are rational beings, beings of forethought, disposed to make provision for what they feel to be inevitable; and if there were not a practical infidelity as to their own mortality, they could not be practically reckless as to their own safety”. –Henry Melvill.

The grave beckons; are you ready?

Barka Juma’at, best wishes for a happy New Year and happy weekend


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