God’s presence is not only in very dramatic events

19th Sunday, Year A, Church of St. Anthony, Angwan Gede, Abuja, 13th August, 2023. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9.11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

God’s presence is not only in very dramatic events

I am here today to bless your newly completed Church of St. Anthony, Angwan Gede, an outstation of St. Kevin’s Parish, Jikwoyi. Our immense gratitude goes to Sir. Rufus Ebegba, KSJI, and his family who single handedly built this beautiful edifice for God and today presented the keys to the Archdiocese of Abuja.

When we created Pastoral Areas nearly 3 years ago, we called on Catholics, men and women of means to support them. Sir. Ebegba gladly responded to this call and embarked on this project of faith. Today, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Angwan Gede, joins the ranks of recently donated churches like St. Luke, Kuchikau (built by KSJI), and Immaculate Conception, Dobi (built by Dr. Mrs. Adaora Umeoji). May God bless you Sir. Ebegba and reward you in abundant measures. I also appreciate the many generous Catholics who continue to support our 55 Pastoral Areas in many ways, by donating funds for ongoing church projects, sinking bore holes, providing support to the priests, etc. We ask more Catholics to support our mission of evangelization especially in the peripheries of the FCT.

On this 19th Sunday, our liturgy calls us to listen to God who comes to us in the silence of our hearts. We are equally urged to put our trust in Jesus whenever we face storms of life.

Our first reading from 1st Kings gives us an account of the experience of Prophet Elijah after a long journey of forty days and forty nights, fleeing from Queen Jezebel who sought to kill him after his engagement against the prophets of Baal. God revealed Himself to Elijah in a gentle breeze and not in a great wind or earthquake or fire.

Our world is full of noise and distractions emanating from the modern media, heavy machines/equipment, etc. We must learn as the psalmist says to be still to experience God (cf. Ps. 46:10).

In Elijah’s experience, we are reminded that God’s presence is not always manifested in
extraordinary ways. Often, He manifests Himself in moments of quiet, as well as during our moments of failures or successes.

In the second reading, we hear the lamentations of St. Paul about the privileges which the Jews had taken for granted. They failed to recognize and accept the Messiah thereby spurning God’s love and His offer of salvation.

As a nation, we take many things for granted. We are richly blessed, but the mismanagement of our resources continues to take its toll on us.

The lives of our people could be greatly improved if we resolve to correctly utilize our God-given opportunities. For too long we have depended on oil, failing to seek ways of diversifying our economy. The scramble for leadership positions in this new dispensation does not seem to be about the common good or better governance. As we advocate for good governance and the dividends of democracy, we condemn the recent military coup in Niger.

We ask ECOWAS and other stakeholders to explore paths of dialogue and other non-combative solutions. We cannot afford to wage war to ensure peace when dialogue offers us a better option. Being among the poorest sub-regions, the humongous amounts to be contributed by Nigeria if the option of a military solution is taken, should be channeled in confronting the hardships Nigerians are facing, as a result of the high fuel price, the consequences being that businesses have been badly affected, even as insecurity, corruption, and poverty still stare us in the face, in addition to huge unpaid debts and the temptation to take more loans.

As St. John’s Gospel 6:1-14 tells us that Jesus fed 5,000, the most important task now is to feed the hungry millions and not to waste resources fighting a needless war. As we can see, the war in Ukraine has done no one any good; if anything, it has turned many lives upside down and reduced to rubbles many valued properties and means of livelihood.

Jesus’ walking on water shows us that God is always in control over us and our lives, and we must always have faith in Him. Peter began to miraculously walk on the water when Jesus beckoned on him to come but when his faith in the Lord wavered, he began to sink. We must ask for the quality of faith that concentrates solely on Jesus so that we do not sink.

At our baptism, we began a spiritual journey with Jesus when we made a promise to renounce our old ways of life. But along the way, when we are faced with difficulties, our faith begins to waver, and we begin to sink deep into sin. Like Peter, we must learn to call on God and depend on Him (cf. Jn. 15:5).

There is also something to learn from the sinking Peter. He prayed, “save me Lord, or I perish” (Mt. 14:30). Jesus did save him. The hand of Christ is still stretched out to hold us and to keep us from sinking into the ocean of sin.

As we navigate through the storms of life, it is easy to think that God is not present or attentive to our plight. At the Mass to mark the closing of the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, admonished the over 1.5 million youths not to be afraid: “To all of you, dear young people, who are the present and the future, yes to all of you, Jesus now says: ‘Have no fear,’ ‘Do not be afraid!’”

To the parish priest, Fr. Celestine Ejim, his associate, Fr. Jeremiah Tamuno, and the entire parishioners, I pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen your faith and give you courage in the face of the storms that you encounter, and may God continue to be with you now and forever.

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