Homily, 15th Sunday

by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama, 12th July 2020, Mass of Investiture for Knights of St. Mulumba (KSM), at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Ab

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

The parable of the sower reminds me of my attempt to make a farm while I was Bishop of Jalingo. I wanted to farm enough guinea corn, maize, beans and groundnuts to feed the catechists in training, minor seminarians and the poor. I hired a tractor and spent a lot of money, but my effort paid off very little. Apart from the lack of fertilizer and the soil being infertile, people passing by would freely pick produce from the farm saying “this is the farm of our baba”. If I paid more attention to the farm, perhaps there could have been a bumper harvest. In a similar vein, if we pay particular attention to the word of God and nourish it adequately in our lives we shall experience inner and external positive change and a continuous flow of God’s grace.

Today the Church challenges us to re-examine our relationship with the word of God which is sown in our hearts and should bear fruits in our life. The word of God should, as Ps 119:105 says, become a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

The portion of the prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading, Is 55:10-11, is an assurance that the word of God is far more than mere words. Like the rain and snow which water the earth to cause seeds to germinate and grow, Prophet Isaiah said the word of the Lord would fulfill the purpose for which it was spoken, and in this case, the exiled Israelites to Babylon would return home to Judah and live in peace. God’s word never fails.

We are reminded in Jesus’ parable in the gospel that the seeds which fell on the pathway were picked up by birds or trampled upon and did not grow. The word of God planted in the heart that is restless is taken away by the devil and the person sees divine things as irrelevant, unnecessary or unimportant.

The seeds which fell on a rocky surface are like the word of God in the hearts of nominal Christians or mere Church-goers. They are indifferent and there is no connection between what they profess and what they do, because their Christianity is only skin-deep.

The seeds which fell among thorns represent the hearts weighed down by cares, anxieties, riches and blind pursuit of the material things of this transient world. They are too distracted to internalize the word of God.

The seeds that fell on the good ground stand for those persons who heard the word of God, accepted it and by their conscious efforts and genuine responses, it took root in them leading to positive transformation and fruitfulness in their lives.

What kind of soil are you or do you want to be?

The readings today encourage Christians to allow the word of God to influence their actions in their places of business and offices and not to allow a kind of “schizophrenia”, whereby there is a sharp dichotomy between life in the place of worship and life in daily affairs, because we don’t allow morality to direct or dictate our actions. A politician at a heated reconciliation session kept telling me, “Bishop, you will not understand us politicians, just keep praying for us and leave us as we are”. Imagine our level of productivity and progress if all religious Nigerians were translating the tenets of Christianity and Islam into practice; how great our nation could be if the national and state legislators, members of the judiciary and the executive were as dutiful, selfless and honest as we seem to be pious.

Philippians 2:15 calls Christians to become blameless and pure, to shine like bright stars, to be children of God without reproach in a crooked and perverse generation. This is the call to our Knights of St. Mulumba, who today have their investiture. During the Crusades in the middle ages, Knights were military warriors protecting pilgrims and sacred places in the Holy Land. Today, even though Knights carry symbolic swords and wear para-military uniforms, they are called not to physical war, but to a spiritual warfare, beginning with conquering self, transforming their families into holy families and a domestic Church; explaining and defending our Catholic doctrines and traditions; resisting the assaults on the Church because of her stand on abortion, same-sex marriage and other moral issues. We face threats and persecutions from those who don’t want Christianity because it is too much a challenge to their ways of life. We therefore need dedicated Catholics with exemplary conduct and a missionary disposition who will patiently and reverently as 1 Pt 3:15 says, explain our hope and faith to others. Knights must avoid externalism, rather, deepen their interior life; you must avoid the clamour for power and positions in the Church, rather, be motivated by humble and selfless service. A testimony from a woman impressed me. She came to thank me for the knighthood, grateful that her husband had undergone positive transformation in prayer life, character and Christian witness since becoming a Knight.

Knights, you are called to assist those who have shallow knowledge of the word of God. You have a crucial role to play in building up and sustaining the Catholic faith through regular Bible reading and other Church documents.

Jesus challenges you and indeed all of us to feed on the word of God as our daily bread; to sow seeds of unity where there is discord, seeds of peace where there is conflict, seeds of encouragement where there is pessimism, seeds of joy where there is sadness, seeds of reconciliation where friends have become foes.

May the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Gal. 5:22-23 be yours and ours, bringing about the positive transformation of our personal lives, our nation and our Church. Amen.

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