Called to True Discipleship
THIRTEENTH SUNDAY, YEAR C, ST. LOUIS COLLEGE, OLD KUTUNKU, GWAGWALADA, ABUJA, JUNE 26, 2022. HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP I. A. KAIGAMA
Readings: 1 Kgs. 19: 16, 19-21; Ps. 15(16): 1-2, 5, 7-11; Gal. 5: 1, 13-18; Lk. 9: 51-62
Called to True Discipleship
I bring special greetings to you, the principal, the St Louis Sisters, the staff and students of St. Louis College, Old Kutunku, Gwagwalada. I thank you Sr. Veronica Orunmoluyi for inviting me to confirm 52 students, to give first communion to 13 students, in addition to the 4 students baptized and to receive one student into the Catholic Church.
Fortunately, the readings today speak about discipleship and its radical demands. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. The Greek word mathetes for disciple simply means a follower, a student. It is expected that you will not only be good students but also followers of Christ with good focus, exemplary conduct and shine out as the light of Christ in the midst of so much darkness of insecurity, corruption, immorality, violence, etc. in our contemporary Nigeria.
By your education you are being prepared for these challenges, and hopefully, for a brighter future. I am here to bless you and pray with you and to encourage you to devote more time and energy to your study. We need more genuine disciples in the Church and good citizens in the civil society. The staff can help in this through their exemplary conduct and dedication to duty by moulding these young girls, the future leaders of this great nation. Dear students, you are lucky that in a Catholic school like yours, regular teaching is guaranteed, morals are built into the academic programmes, and there are no needless interruptions as the type occasioned by ASUU strike, which has left students for so long stranded at home, simply because government has failed to meet the legitimate demands of teachers.
I thank you parents for your moral and material support to this school which are valuable in the face of government denying faith-based schools the support (TetFund, etc) that can make education for children less expensive. Your children are here like the disciples of Jesus to learn and to improve themselves to be agents of positive change in our society.
The Gospel reading of today presents different attitudes that can be found in the disciples: opportunity seeking disciples; disciples who procrastinate, and the disciples who confuse or mix up things.
The first attitude Jesus corrected in the man who offered to follow Him was that religion is not built on the pursuit of wealth and personal comfort. Christ told him unequivocally, “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk. 9:58) This message is directed at those who are finding it hard to accept the cross as part of their Christian calling and witnessing but only focusing on material prosperity and miracles.
Procrastinators are the second group. They think there is a lot of time, so they keep postponing the good things they should do. They have excuses for their failures or mistakes. Procrastinating students are those who do not prepare long before exams but prefer to go for night vigils, believing that prayers alone will make them pass exams or by exam malpractices.
The other disciples are those who really want to follow Jesus, but are still involved in worldly practices that contradict the essence of Christianity (syncretism). They have a divided loyalty; following God, but at the same time loyal to mammon (cf. Lk. 16:13). Today provides the opportunity for us to ask for the grace to be true disciples of Jesus – disciples who are faithful and committed, able to say an unconditional “yes” to Jesus.
The first reading today speaks of God’s call of Elisha to discipleship. Elisha who was very busy with his business had to forsake every tie in order to follow Elijah. He kissed his father, slaughtered his oxen, bade farewell to his men, to show that he had made up his mind to follow Elijah the prophet of God, and Elijah’s action of throwing his cloak over Elisha symbolized the passing on of power and authority. The second reading exhorts us to be true disciples, not being self-indulgent or having an incorrect and irresponsible use of freedom, e.g. argument that “my body is mine; I am free to do what I want with it.” Please note that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16).
SOME LESSONS FOR TODAY:
Jesus insists that anyone who lays his/her hands on the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 9:62). By confirmation today, you are called and sent to witness in our society as soldiers and ambassadors of Christ, even to the point of sacrificing all.
Never let situations around you dampen your zeal or constitute an obstacle in your journey towards eternity.
Be careful about self indulgence or what St. Paul calls “slavery” by seeking only the kingdom of this world instead of the kingdom of heaven and failing to live in the brightness of truth.
Like Elisha, Christians must be resolved to part ways with the oxen of our lives. The oxen represent those old sinful habits, addictions and vices that make it difficult to be committed to Christ.
The seamless transfer of prophetic power from Elijah to Elisha shows there should come a time like Elijah when we are ready to ‘throw our cloak’ on others who will continue with the good works we have done. We must create space and opportunities for the younger people; but unfortunately, this is what Nigerian politicians are unwilling to do.
Jesus rebuked his infuriated Apostles who wanted fire to come from heaven to consume the Samaritans (cf. Lk. 9:53-56). Jesus ruled out violence. In our country today where life is taken at will and people kidnapped even from their homes, the Supreme Court ruling in the US on Friday, in favour of the protection of human life in the womb, should impel our authorities to protect life both in the womb as well as outside.
My dear students, a great future lies before you. Despite all we are going through now, keep your dreams and hopes alive. It is gratifying to note that the youths of this country are intelligently teaming up beyond the sentiments of tribe and religion, hopefully, to elect in 2023, decent and people-centered leaders who can bring the needed change and progress to Nigeria and Nigerians. Play your part by being good disciples and patriotic citizens. Please do all that is good and honorable without procrastinating, for procrastination is the thief of time.