Come Follow Me

14th Sunday, Sacred Heart Parish, Abuja Airport, 9th July, 2023, Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama

Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9.11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

Come Follow Me

“Come follow me” was the theme of our annual priests’ retreat of the Archdiocese of Abuja, and it is rather providential that the readings from today also invite us to a committed and transformative following of Christ. The Church invites us to reflect on the humility of Jesus and His genuine option for the poor, which are clear examples of how to be a Christian, namely, one who follows Christ, stays with Him, learns from Him, and is prepared to always serve Him in all things, and always.

In today’s gospel, Jesus made an offer of rest to all those who seek refuge in Him (cf. Mt. 11:28). He promises inner peace to all those burdened by the weight of sin. However, like the prodigal son (cf. Lk. 15:17) and the publican praying in the temple (cf. Lk. 18:13), we must be ready to renounce our sinful ways and accept Jesus as our great Physician.

The first reading from Prophet Zechariah says who the Messiah is: poor, “humble and riding on a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9) At that time, the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah and Israel had, because of refusing to walk in the path that the Lord had shown them, were crushed by their conquerors. The message of Prophet Zechariah was of hope, that even though they passed through hardships that took away their joy, the Messiah would come and there would be again a great season of rejoicing.
This prophecy was later fulfilled by the coming of the Lord Jesus who rode into the city of Jerusalem on a humble donkey, being welcomed, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:9).

Zechariah today raises our hope that as a nation faced with countless challenges, we shall overcome them when we take the path of humility, responsible use of our resources, sincere attention to the poor, with leaders who are truly agents of social harmony and peace. Political progress or success is not about the millions or billions of Naira in the pockets of a few or about how influential officials can swing to their side the pendulum of important decisions to the utter neglect of the poor and miserable.

The second reading reminds us that we must not live according to the flesh but according to the spirit. Those who live in the flesh are subject to worldly principles and give themselves to human reasoning alone; they are full of arrogance, greed, self-centeredness, etc. Living in the Spirit manifests itself in the exercise of charity and obedience to the commandments of God. It is a life lived not only for oneself but for others, the fruits of which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). We are urged to do everything whole-heartedly for our common humanity.

In the Gospel reading Jesus shows us how we must serve God well (cf. Prov. 29: 23); how we must approach God with childlike simplicity and humility, and God will reveal His kingdom’s secrets to us.

When Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are over burdened,” (Mt. 11:28) He does not offer us immunity from suffering; it rather requires sacrifice and perseverance. In saying to us that His yoke is easy and His burden light, Jesus teaches us that though we may be faced with obstacles and challenges, God always journeys with us. The Lord in Isaiah 43:2 says, “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” The rest Christ promises is a release from the shackles of sin, not from dutiful service to God and our obligations as Christians and members of society. Christ does not take away the cross from our lives but helps us to bear the weight of it; His yoke does not weary its bearer but is filled with grace.

My dear parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Airport, visiting your parish always reminds me that life is a journey. Our conventional means of transport here are “keke napep,” motorcycle, car, canoe, boat, ship, aeroplane, etc. But our journey to heaven is through following Jesus who promises that whoever comes to Him will be refreshed. Our politicians make promises and fail, not Jesus. We take oaths of office and treat them with ignominy. We melodiously sing the national anthem, oblivious of the meaningfully chosen words, just as we sometimes sing beautiful church hymns but fail to live them out.

I bring you the blessings of our 2023 annual priests’ retreat comprising the first batch from Garki, Karmo, Karu and Wuse Deaneries, that concluded on Friday. The second group from Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kubwa and Lugbe Deaneries will begin this evening to conclude next Friday. Our prayers are for deepening our priestly lives, for the people of God, as well as for the needs of our Church and for the larger society. We ask you to kindly continue to pray for your priests as much as you support them.

As Jesus extends to us a heart-warming invitation. “Come to me all who labour and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest,” let us rush to Him with our burdens of spiritual dryness, sickness, economic hardship, insecurity, etc. God alone offers us true hope of redemption and liberation from all our troubles and trials. The current hardships faced by Nigerians can be addressed only if there is sincere leadership across board, prudent management of resources, equitable distribution of resources/positions of authority and fervent prayers.

May the Lord continue to bless and guide you the parishioners of Sacred Heart Airport and may all who are burdened with all sorts of worries and problems find rest in God, for St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

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