Holy Hour with Youths

Holy Hour with Youths. Exhortation by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja, 14.11.2020.

This afternoon I have invited you Catholic youth leaders of Abuja Archdiocese, from the chaplaincies, pastoral areas, parishes and deaneries to come aside to pray among yourselves and with me, through the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

I invite you to confidently look up to Jesus even in the midst of the social deprivation and negligence which you suffer, for Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Yes, we must struggle to have our legitimate rights, look for what to keep body and soul together, expect the best from our civil leaders, but let us not forget the Leader who never fails – Jesus. He calls all who are burdened to come to Him. Youths without jobs, hungry and without a sure future, come to Jesus.

Coming to Jesus is not only to look for miracles or prosperity or for mere food. Jesus said to the crowd looking for him, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:27).

Nourished with the body of Jesus you are expected as St. Paul says in Philippians 2:15, to “be without blame, simple sons of God, without reproof, in the midst of a depraved and perverse nation, among whom you shine like lights in the world.”

During the EndSars protests, I kept praying that the voice of the Nigerian youths would be clearly heard, especially as they were conducting themselves in a peaceful and courteous manner. Unfortunately, some forces of evil introduced killings, looting and vandalization into an otherwise laudable initiative. The infiltration by hooligans distracted the noble cause that would have shown the world that Nigeria is on a new and higher level of political and social maturity. This destroyed the noble aspiration of the youths for the civilization of love in our country and showed that as a nation we still suffer a moral weakness, a social myopia and a deficiency of patriotic zeal, which makes it very difficult to pursue the common good as one nation, with one people.

Your noble cause was disrupted by unscrupulous elements, and this leaves us with many unanswered questions: Do we have the capacity as Nigerians to begin something positive that cannot be hijacked or crippled by those who suffer a kind of social or political paranoia? Is it possible to avoid introducing tribal sentiments, religious factors and the north/south dichotomy as we pursue the common good of this nation? Is it possible not to worry about who may feel offended and to engage in non-violent struggle for positive change beyond narrow boundaries or prejudices?

When our national team wins an international football match, we all want to identify ourselves as Nigerians. When the position of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) becomes available, we want a Nigerian to occupy it; we are proud that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is a Nigerian; but when there is the imperative to transcend tribal chauvinism, religious short sightedness and political abracadabra for national interests, our education and exposure seem to fail us. We easily retrogress into the cocoon of tribe, religion or north/south.

Dear youths, be watchful that we do not import such a mentality into the Church. When good initiatives are introduced by whoever or whatever group in the Church, we should not cripple them because of ethnic or geo-political reasons.

Our Catholic Church is a family that is universal and of apostolic origin. While we should struggle individually for daily bread and a better life, we must realize that what are of great importance are our unity, progress, the salvation of souls and how to qualify as citizens of heaven. Let us not imagine as Nigerians that when we colour our arguments with regional, tribal, clannish or religious sentiments, all will be peaceful, and we shall achieve the stability and phenomenal progress we yearn for. The secret of growing stronger, bigger and happier is when we cherish one another and consider others with equal dignity.

You must be aware that sentimental and divisive remarks such as “they are southerners with an agenda”, “they have a northern religious motive”, and “this is against our religion,” are what pitch you against one another; to stop you from making an audacious and unanimous resolve to seek better life by ending corruption at both low and high levels. Do not be deceived by ethnic and religious jingoists. Have sound moral principles and a firm faith, and work for what benefits humanity rather than parochial interests.

My beloved youths, let us admit that what is wrong is wrong. If children are abused, young girls are raped, palliatives for the poor are diverted, persons are kidnapped, and if sensitive political or security positions in the state or federal government are given not on merit but based on religious and tribal considerations, we still have a long and rough way to travel.

Whether as youths or elders, we are all in one way or another guilty of corrupt practices and we should seek purification and forgiveness from God. In the Church, some pastors perform fake miracles for money to enhance their buoyant lifestyle. Some people patronize native doctors to do abominable fetish things for money. It appears that many of us spend our time conjugating the verb “to bribe”: I bribe, you bribe, he bribes, she bribes, we bribe, you (plural) bribe, they bribe.

We seem to have developed a culture where it is normal to bribe or to know an influential person in order to be employed, promoted or even to have budgets approved. Some university professors, besides their primary assignment try to teach in three or four universities (for economic gains) and so lack the concentration to mentor students properly. One hears that to get accreditation for courses or for a lecturer or professor to supervise the project of a student, financial rewards or other forms of remuneration are either directly or indirectly solicited. Some traders put fake or defective articles underneath while deceiving the buyer by displaying nice ones on top; a mechanic may tell you he has replaced a new part in your car when he only polished the old one! Many security personnel believe that their monthly pay is not enough, so they justify their extortion of poor citizens. It is sad also that some of those who perform official duties such as clerks in offices, the officers in airports; judges in courts, etc make unethical demands.

Dear youths, don’t only point fingers of blame. Pray for leaders at all levels. As a Church, we will always do what is within our means to help you. Amend your lives so that you will be the shining stars of Nigeria. For a little while you may have to suffer through various trials (cf. 1 Pt. 1:6), but you can do all things in Jesus who strengthens you (cf. Phil. 4:13).

Jesus I love you…. (3 times).

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