Foundation on which to build and plan our spiritual practices for Lent

Eight Sunday, Year C, Dedication of Holy Cross Parish Church, Gwarinpa, Abuja, Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama on February 27, 2022

Readings: Sirach 27: 5-8; Ps. 91(92): 2-3 13-16; 1 Cor. 15: 54-58; Lk. 6: 39-45

The last time I was here in November 2021, I said I was looking forward to have your Church dedicated. The day has come. We are filled with great joy as we are gathered to witness the solemn dedication of this magnificent place of worship, God’s own house, a dwelling of the Most High. I commend and thank you all, parishioners, friends and well wishers, the priests who have served your parish community, and all those who have contributed in different measures to the erection and completion of this project of faith, the fruit of several years of prayer, patience, hard work, cooperation, enormous sacrifices and generosity.

The dedication of this physical building is an invitation to also build beautiful spiritual and social relationships with God and with one another. We must make every effort to also obtain the graces to make our hearts a more befitting home for God. As the season of Lent begins on Wednesday this week, we need to look inside our hearts, reorder our steps, bear good fruits and inspire others to seek Christ.

This dedication is an invitation to hope, especially for the many new Pastoral Areas in different parts of our Archdiocese. Some of them gather to pray in temporary places for worship, with no permanent church land, no church edifice or rectories etc, but struggling to keep their catholic communities alive in spite of their prevailing challenges. One day, they too will be able to celebrate in a beautiful Church such as this. Yesterday, at our pastoral council meeting, Fr. Francis Kale, the Vicar for Pastoral Areas, invited us to support the Churches in the periphery to grow to become like Holy Cross Parish, Gwarinpa. St. Paul encourages us all to ‘be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain’ (1 Cor. 15:58).

On this Sunday before Lent, the readings offer us a foundation on which to build and plan our spiritual practices for Lent. We are told about the need for introspection, and self-examination in order to know our strengths and weaknesses. St. James warns that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). St. Paul in the second reading urges us to die to ourselves to live in Christ, meaning giving up our sinful ways and embracing new life and freedom in Christ. We are taught by Jesus in the Gospel not to judge others, not to knock down and destroy. Only the Lord who is able to look at the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7) can judge.

Jesus speaks in the Gospel about leaders who should see clearly and have the wisdom to lead others, since a blind man cannot lead a blind man. Leaders with the responsibility of governance must remove the log in their eyes so that they can better help others to remove theirs. This means that leaders must look first at themselves and correct their faults before they can see clearly to identify and correct the errors in other people. Jesus was speaking against the error of the Pharisees who saw themselves as excellent guides and did not realize their blindness and, as such, they only led the people into the ditch; since a blind man cannot guide another (cf. Lk. 6:39).

What we find in our society today is sadly the reality of ‘blind guides’. There are some religious men and women who pose as ministers of God, but are ignorant about what true religion is. There are some leaders who occupy big positions of responsibility today but lack the disposition to make such offices function properly. Some fight and even kill to occupy such offices, but are only guided by their quest for material possessions and could be regarded as “blind guides”. Leaders are challenged to expunge hypocrisy and deception, to bear good fruits.

Our nation would achieve greater progress when we truly listen to one another in mutual respect. Government leaders must listen to its citizens, politicians must listen to the people they represent, employees must listen to their employers, the north to the south, one religious adherent to the other. This is the path to enduring peace, greater solidarity and harmony in our society and the best way to resolve problems such as the lingering fuel scarcity in the nation and the ASUU one-month warning strike to press home her demands from the Government.

The worsening Russia-Ukraine war situation is a failure in human compassion and the consequence of failure to listen to the voice of reason. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for prayers and fasting on March 2, Ash Wednesday. May all troubled parts of the world find peace.

I invoke on your Parish Priest and Vicar for Pastoral Affairs, Fr. Rowland Nwakpuda, and all of you the good people of Holy Cross Parish, Gwarinpa, God’s abundant blessings. I am happy that my Episcopal motto, “through the cross to the glory of God” corresponds to the name of your Church, Holy Cross. May Christ who gave Himself for us continue to accompany us to glory.

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