Catholic Action in Abuja Archdiocese
Homily by Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama at the Inauguration of Catholic Action in Abuja Archdiocese and the Installation of its Executive, at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja, 3rd October, 2020.
Readings: Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17; Gospel: Luke 10:17-24
It is providential that the inauguration of Catholic Action in Abuja Archdiocese is taking place a day to the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, an ardent advocate for peace. May peace flow in our Archdiocese and in Nigeria like a river. You are men and women who are eager about sharing in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Jesus, and like the 72 disciples in today’s Gospel that Jesus sent to preach the message of the Kingdom of peace and to heal the sick, you members of Catholic Action desire to impact positively on families, communities, the Church, the nation and the world with correct values and attitudes. You wish to uphold and defend Christian values inspired by our Mother and Teacher, the Church. You are expected to be a strong voice and to work ardently with the youths, women, men, workers, politicians, professionals, etc. for social transformation.
The social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, of Pope Leo XIII in 1891 was what gave impetus to Catholics to engage in social issues. Other than prayer, you are to translate the word of God into action by correct living. Your actions must result in personal spiritual transformation, social and political improvement, ethical revolution and the spreading of love. St James tells us that faith without good deeds is dead.
I urge you therefore to live honestly, work selflessly and to pray fervently. Take seriously your private prayers, family prayers, praying the rosary and participation in Masses and Eucharistic adoration; to praise God and to beg God for your personal needs and for those of our Church and nation.
Having celebrated Nigeria’s Diamond Silver Jubilee of independence, we Nigerians must count our blessings and not only lament our woes. Among the countries of Africa, Nigeria has the biggest population; she has a rich ethnic diversity, fertile land, abundant human and natural resources and many brilliant minds. We have hard-working and resilient people, who, even when things appear so gloomy and life seems frustrating, still smile and say, “We are managing,” with incredible optimism. Even with poor social infrastructure and unavoidable poverty, Nigerians still queue for elections under the sun and rain to vote, sometimes not knowing if our votes count or if the promises made by politicians are really genuine. Through the prayers and concerted efforts of Catholic Action and similar movements, I believe that God will provide political leaders who will work sincerely for the good of the citizens.
We know that Nigerians have a lot to worry about. We worry about the irrational ethnic/religious distrust in our country leading to sacrilegious taking of human lives and people being displaced from their ancestral lands. Politically, all seems to be about survival of the fittest. Money has become a determining factor for many things! Merit hardly counts! One gets a job or admission to an institution or is recruited into a security agency or an arm of government largely based on whom one knows or because of one’s ethnic or religious identity! During elections voters are enticed with money by candidates or their godfathers or godmothers. Many young people complain that if interviews for employment or recruitment are advertised, it is a mere formality because the jobs or positions would have already been assigned in advance to influential public officials or the highest bidders.
Despite the numerous places of worship and frantic religious activities, corruption is yet to significantly diminish; rather, it has assumed a new level of digital proficiency and cuts across all levels, involving the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the villagers and urban dwellers, men and women and even those in primary schools. Our youths are still groaning under the yoke of unemployment thus taking refuge in cultism, drugs and violence. That we continue to see brothers killing brothers and celebrating it as an “achievement” makes my heart to bleed!
All hope is not lost however, as there are many Nigerians like you who have a clear vision about what Nigeria should be. You are optimistic that someday the Lord will raise leaders to selflessly serve Nigerians irrespective of creed, tribe or political affiliation. God willing, we shall become a blessing to ourselves and to many nations and hopefully, be among politically powerful and economically viable nations of the world. This can happen only when we think more about others instead of our parochial interests (cf. Phil. 2).
You chose your first reading from Job, perhaps because it is a parable about Nigeria. As God did not forsake Job in his dark moments, so will He not forsake Nigeria in her travails. Since Ebola, Polio, Malaria, Lassa fever, HIV, etc have not defeated us, so will the coronavirus pandemic not frustrate our progress. Like Job, God will bless and double all we have lost if only we trust in Him and work honestly on the Nigerian project together.
Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est says, “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice….The promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply” (28a).
I pray that God will bless and use Catholic Action, and make it a genuine platform for social change by millions of Catholics in Nigeria. You members must be proactive and double your efforts in promoting our faith values and the Church’s social teachings for the good of our beloved country.
Through the intercession of our Lady, Queen and Patroness of Nigeria and St. Francis of Assisi, may the members of the Catholic Action be shining stars and true light of Christ in our country.