12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, JUNE 21, 2020
Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at St. Charles Lwanga Parish, Apo, Abuja
Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33
Since Easter, followed by the solemnities of Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Body and Blood of Christ, Sacred Heart of Jesus and the feast of Immaculate Heart of Mary, we have been reading during our liturgical celebrations scriptural passages of joy and hope. Today, our readings introduce us to two realities we have to live and struggle with: the existence of sin and the destructive effects of sin in the world. Rom 5:12 tells us that sin entered the world through the disobedience of one man, Adam, and this has so weakened the spiritual and moral fibres of humanity that the good that we want to do; we are unable to do it, except by the grace of God. Sin wounds the heart, mind and soul and it poisons and destabilizes our relationship with God and fellow human beings; it cripples our spiritual growth and breeds the social maladies we witness today: wars, ethnic, political, religious and domestic violence and immorality in all ramifications. Sin leaves us with a broken world and hardened hearts.
The increasing cases of the heinous crime of rape are frightening. A tender three-month old baby was said to have been raped last month! The Inspector General of Police disclosed recently that the police arrested 799 rape suspects between January and May this year! The rape culture is as repulsive and reprehensible as it is dehumanizing. Rape inflicts life-long untold psychological trauma on the victims. Rape is not only a grievously sinful act, but also a very barbaric and criminal act. The case of the student of the University of Benin, Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, who on the 27th of May, 2020, was reportedly raped and murdered by unknown persons, as well as other cases of rape and gang rape, is a symptom of an ungodly and dysfunctional society.
Our President in his Democracy Day speech expressed his displeasure on the recent rape and violence against women, in the country, especially of very young girls.
Pope Francis very concerned with child abuse worldwide, on 7th of May, 2019, issued an Apostolic letter, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World) in which he acknowledged that “the crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful”.
We in the Archdiocese of Abuja, have formulated our policy for the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable persons in compliance with the directive of the Supreme Pontiff and inaugurated a committee in this regard. While we call for prayers for victims of sexual crimes, we hope that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes will face the full wrath of the law and hopefully, they will be reformed and delivered of the bad spirit that leads them to commit such horrible sexual crimes.
Due to the righteous act of one Man, Jesus Christ, His suffering and death on the cross, Christians have the capacity and are called to help restore our sick world that has lost the sense of sin. Evil blinds us today such that we call what is bad, good and what is good, bad. We try to put out the light of truth because it exposes corruption, dishonesty, oppression, lust and many evils in the society.
The remedy to evil is the fear of God not fear of men; to worship and honour God; to always tell the truth and shame the devil and to acknowledge Jesus before others. Those who stand up for Christ in spite of their troubles are the ones who will be rewarded at the end of time when Jesus acknowledges them before His Father.
Dear fellow worshippers and fellow Nigerians, do not be afraid to speak out and act against ungodly behaviours, injustice, corruption, politics without morality, bad governance, etc. Young Jeremiah gave the prophetic message of doom to his fellow-citizens at a time when Jerusalem was about to fall to the Chaldeans. Although this brought him hostility from the political and religious leaders including his close friends and he was imprisoned, beaten up and thrown into a muddy cistern, he remained confident that the Lord, his “mighty champion” (cf. Jer 20:11) would vindicate him in the end.
As Jesus says in the Gospel reading today, even if we face fierce opposition and persecution or the danger of death, we should remain firm in the cause of right. “Do not be afraid” (Matt 10:31).
John the Baptist was not afraid in telling the truth to King Herod who took his brother’s wife. When Peter and the Apostles were brought before the council for preaching in the name of Christ (cf. Acts 5:29), they said, “We must obey God rather than men.” When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faced with the option of bowing down to the golden image or risked being thrown into the furnace, they responded to King Nebuchadnezzar saying, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace…but if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17-18).
Dear brothers and sisters, apart from praying that we all remain healthy and meticulously try to keep observing the health guidelines against COVID-19, I urge us to pray today for the courage, strength, wisdom and knowledge to speak the truth of the Gospel without fear or shame. This is the surest way of defeating evil.