New Beginning New Hopes
Homily by Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama on New Year and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja, 1st January, 2021.
Readings: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21
NEW BEGINNING, NEW HOPES
We are among the fortunate ones to witness a brand New Year, having lived through 2020 with its joys and pains, trials and hopes, challenges, successes and failures. Life is a series of beginnings, and so, God has given us an opportunity to start again. Our great expectation during this New Year is that the One who sits on the throne and makes all things new (cf. Rev. 21:5) will do something new in our life and in the life of all Nigerians.
Today, the first day of the New Year, is a day to show gratitude to God for being a rock, a refuge and a stronghold for us in the past 365 days.
Today in the Catholic world, we celebrate the “World Day of Peace”, to which Pope Francis gave the theme: “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace”. May peace flow like a river into all the nooks and crannies of the world.
Today also in the Catholic world is a day to honour Mary for her role in salvation history. If we accept Jesus we should never deny His mother whom the Angel called “full of grace” (cf. Lk. 1:28). Mary is our mother, given to us by Jesus at the foot of the cross when He presented her to the disciple He loved (John): “This is your mother” and to His mother, “This is your son”. And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19:27). Serious Christians must take Mary home and acknowledge her as mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary was the one St. Paul acknowledged in Galatians, our second reading, that God sent His Son to be born through her (cf. Gal. 4:4-5).
DO AWAY WITH PREJUDICES AND LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER
I realize that even among Christians we have many denominational prejudices injected by missionaries who brought the Christian faith to us. Only honest and loving interaction and an objective study of the history of the Church will bring greater understanding and thus create grounds for closer collaboration; otherwise, denominations will carry on with inherited prejudices which affect Christian unity and we will continue to see one another in negative light and even becoming very uncharitable to ourselves. The same is our relationship with adherents of Islam and the Traditional religions. We must not quarrel, compete, argue and fight dirty verbally and physically over religion. Let us rather try to outdo one another in living out the edifying values of our respective religions.
OUR PROUD AND SINFUL WORLD
From the first pages of the Bible we read how man was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit because he wanted to become like God. In Genesis 6:5-8 we read that Yahweh regretted having created man because He saw how great was the wickedness of man on earth and how evil was always the only thought of his heart, but one exception was Noah who was pleasing to God. It was human vanity that let the people in Genesis 11 to say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven; so that we may become a great people”. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were so steeped in sin (cf. Gen. 18) that the Lord could say, “how grievous is their sin” (Gen 18:20). Not even ten righteous people could be found in Sodom. How many righteous men and women can be found in our homes, communities and Nigeria?
MAN AT THE CENTRE INSTEAD OF GOD
In our world today we witness a growing distance between modern man and God. Modern man wants to make himself the centre of all things. He wants to advise God, compete with God, denounce God or argue with God as if he is equal to God. We rationalize God’s words and commandments. The Gospel is seen by some as nonsense and foolishness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18). People want to do what they like, such as terminating life through abortion or other reckless killings.
In this New Year, God is inviting us to set our mind on things that are above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2), to live good and holy lives (cf. Tit. 2:12) and each of us should consider the other more important than ourselves (cf. Phil. 2:3). This is a lesson we need to imbibe if we must become a great nation. God’s plan for us is peace, not war (cf. Jer. 29:11).
The multiple economic, political and religious crises we experience today are because we think we are better than others or that our tribe or religion or political party is the best. With this frame of mind, we promote individual or sectional interests instead of what benefits all. We need a new beginning. We need to expand our horizon. He or she who loves not the neighbour is living in darkness (cf. 1 Jn. 2:9). Prejudices of tribe, religion and politics are blinding, crippling and poisoning cordial relationships and destroying trust among Nigerians.
We pray for our nation that the blessings of Num 6:22-27 be ours: that the face of the Lord will shine on us, that He be gracious to all Nigerians and give us His peace so that we can have the desired social transformation; a transformation that helps us to value every Nigerian and not to treat one another with religious, ethnic and political bias. We hope that the budget (N13.6 trillion Naira) for this year will bring about better security and drastically reduce poverty. But corruption which has stoutly and consistently stood in the way of our progress in this country must first give way.
Let us like Mary in this New Year treasure and ponder in our hearts the will of God, not evil; not how to destroy another person or pull down anyone. We should ask for a new and better way of being Nigerians, translating our faith convictions into good actions, beyond external rituals, for faith without good works is dead (cf. Jas. 2:17). We should ask the questions: Am I the person who contributes to society positively? Am I the person God wants me to be? Do I care about others or am I self-centred or narcissistic?
In these difficult times of insecurity, I think of the old woman who makes the sign of the cross in front and behind, claiming it is to avert dangers coming in front and behind. Today, dangers come from all sides. We must pray and watch. Our security agents must be properly equipped with effective gadgets for intelligence gathering and crime prevention, while every citizen must take security consciousness seriously.
Brothers and sisters let us hold each others’ hands and together we as Nigerians, can climb the highest hill, and prove those wishing our disintegration as a nation wrong. Love is the cost. Like Joshua, with firm faith, let us march into the New Year, confident that the Lord of history will not abandon us. Let us follow the guiding star like the wise men of Matthew chapter 2. That star will lead us to Jesus, the prince of peace.
May 2021, and indeed the years to come be happy, peaceful and fruitful for all of us, through Christ our Lord