Abuja Provincial Eucharistic Congress
Remarks at the Abuja Provincial Eucharistic Congress, held at Sesugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, Diocese of Makurdi, Benue State, 3rd August 2022, by Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Abuja.
It is my singular honour and privilege, on behalf of the Bishops, Priests, Religious and Lay Faithful of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province to welcome all the pilgrims gathered here for our Provincial Eucharistic Congress, in preparation for the National Pastoral and Eucharistic Congress to be held in Benin City from 7-11 November 2022.
It is our faith that has brought us here, and it is instructive and edifying that we are gathered on the sacred grounds of Sesugh Maria Pilgrimage Centre, Ayati, in the Diocese of Makurdi, where the mortal remains of the two priests and 19 laymen, women and children, killed by gunmen during morning Mass at St. Ignatius’ Independent Mission Mbalom, 24th April 2019 are buried.
I wish to thank our host Bishop, Most Rev. Wilfred Anagbe, CMF, and the Local Organizing Committee led by Very Rev. Fr. Theophilus Hwande, VC, for mobilizing the logistics required for this event, and I wish to thank you all for sacrificing to come especially in these difficult times when the cost of travelling is high and insecurity seems to be looming in every nook and cranny of the country. May God bless and reward us and keep us safe throughout this event and return us safely back to our respective destinations.
I congratulate all of you pilgrims representing the people of the dioceses of Lafia, Otukpo, Lokoja, Katsina-Ala, Makurdi, Gboko, Idah and Abuja, and I pray that Jesus will provide for all your spiritual and material needs, but above all, He will increase our faith in His presence in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist according to St. Ignatius of Antioch is the medicine of immortality; it brings healing to broken hearts, inspires reconciliation, overhauls and maintains the unity of our common brotherhood and sisterhood, and nourishes us for eternal life. Jesus states clearly in Jn 6:51 that “whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
It is our firm conviction that the serious insecurity, poverty, youth unemployment, corruption, bad governance, political injustice, and other social evils can be healed by prayer, fasting and constant Eucharistic celebration and adoration. When we keep praying with deep faith, God can do more infinitely than we imagine (cf. Eph 3:20). We should not however expect mathematical or laboratory results from our prayers, but in all circumstances and events, let God’s will prevail and let us do whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable (cf. Phil 4:8) and Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life will lighten our burdens.
In the Eucharist, we Catholics believe that the actions of the Holy Spirit through a validly ordained Catholic priest bring about transubstantiation, namely, that the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine becomes the blood of Christ. The Eucharist shared as a meal of love is expected to produce the fruits of love, healing, peace, unity, etc., ingredients which Nigeria needs so badly. As politicians jostle for our attention to elect them for 2023, those of us who are eligible voters must vote and only vote for those politicians who are well intended and want power in order to heal, unite, and prosper not just a few Nigerians but the vast majority of Nigerians who are suffering poverty and insecurity.
For too long and for selfish reasons some politicians have manipulated their way into power by exploiting Nigerians’ tribal and religious differences. Youths of this generation, must not allow this to happen again by succumbing to material inducements by such unscrupulous politicians. Say, “Never again!”
The Israelites in the desert facing a lack of water, bread and meat grew impatient and grumbled against God and Moses instead of praying. We know in Nigeria that we are suffering but we must not complain against God, rather, we must intensify our devotion and worship of God. We see how when God punished the Israelites by sending poisonous snakes and many people died after being bitten, that they implored Moses to intercede for them. Moses prayed on their behalf, and in response, the Lord ordered Moses to make a bronze snake and set it on the pole. Anyone who was bitten and looked upon the bronze snake would live. The bronze snake became a symbol of God’s healing power a foreshadow of our Eucharist.
The reception and adoration of the Eucharist should make us bearers of Christ; ambassadors representing Christ, and our light should shine so brightly that people may see our good works and give glory to the Father in heaven (Mt 5:16).
Having shared in this meal of love we should let nothing be done by contention, nor in vain glory. Instead, in humility, let each one esteem others to be better than himself/herself (cf. Phil. 2:3). We should not be unfair to one another; or pursue only narrow tribal/ clannish or religious interests especially by those in leadership positions, as this will be contrary to the spirit of Pope Francis in Fratteli Titti.
The Eucharist should lead us as St. Augustine says to become what we eat; that others can see and feel the impulse of Christ in our words and actions. We must be seen at the frontiers of promoting social cohesion, harmonious coexistence and appreciating our common humanity.
The Eucharist should help us stay away from the impurities of sin and prompt us to repentance through sacramental confession as a very worthy means of preparation before we receive Holy Communion. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-29). After receiving the Eucharist or after we come to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in humble adoration, we must become instruments of communion and share with and care for the poor, needy and disadvantaged in society, to bring about a more sane society and the desired social and political order.
Brothers and sisters, let us be what we receive.
Happy Provincial Eucharistic Congress.