Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

3rd Sunday of Easter, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Mugadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja, 1st May, 2022. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama

Readings: Acts. 5: 27-32, 40-41; Ps. 29(30): 2, 4-6, 11-13; Rev. 5: 11-14; Jn. 21: 1-19

Obedience to God comes before obedience to men

Very warm Easter greetings to you dear parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Mugadishu Cantonment, Asokoro, Abuja, as well as the many Catholics who have joined this celebration from the General O. A. Azazi Barracks, Gwagwalada, Mambila Barracks and Lungi Barracks, Maitama. It is a great pleasure to visit you today, to pray with you, to administer the sacrament of confirmation to 374 candidates and to witness the marriage of nine couples.

When your chaplain, Fr. Martin Dogo, enthusiastically invited me, I believe he wanted me to come and bless you his people, to seek God’s protection especially for members of your families in the military service, sometimes on dangerous assignments or in very dangerous areas; to seek God’s mercy on those who had to pay the supreme sacrifice in the service of our nation.

In these challenging times it is only appropriate that we ask almighty God to take first place in our lives; we must trust and obey Him and allow Him lead the way instead of us thinking we should lead Him and dictate to Him. The confirmation taking place here makes the 374 members of this chaplaincy soldiers of Christ. You no doubt understand well what a soldier’s duty is, and the discipline, integrity, professionalism required of a soldier. Those to be confirmed are called “soldiers” because they are expected to be rooted in faith, vibrant in practice of the faith and to meticulously ensure the preservation of the doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church. They must be seen to be observing the commandments of God, promoting social order, fraternal harmony and the welfare of neighbours. Their weapons are not the guns and bombs the conventional soldiers use, but the weapon of prayer, the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10–17, where St. Paul urges the Ephesians to clothe themselves with the breastplate of justice, take up the shield of faith, take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God).

By their confirmation, they are, so to speak, moving from the status of non-commissioned officers to commissioned officers. In the faith they are no longer neophytes or new born Christians. They are now mature enough to promote the good of the Church; protect the interests and welfare of the Church; defend the values of the Church; obey God and the Church as soldiers obey military directives with unquestioning obedience. They must attend Mass on Sundays and feasts of obligation; go to confession regularly; receive Communion often; observe faithfully the Ten Commandments, and participate in the sacraments with utmost attention and frequency.

Imitating what happened on Holy Thursday, when Jesus gave His body as Eucharist; knelt down to wash the feet of His disciples, and on Good Friday, He forgave those who brutally crucified Him, you too are called to wash the feet of others and forgive wrongs.

At the death of Jesus, there was a general dismay and disappointment as strongly echoed by Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus, “We were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel….” (Lk. 24:21). Today’s first reading however shows how the previously fearful Peter, now transformed by the Holy Spirit, became a brave witness to the risen Lord, despite the arrests and beatings they suffered in the hands of the Sanhedrin, on account of their new found faith in Jesus. When the High Priest tried to intimidate them to obey his orders not to preach in the name of Jesus, Peter courageously gave an uncompromising response, “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.” (Acts 5:29). Their faith and convictions were so strong that they were rejoicing to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the Jesus (v. 41).

The appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were to embolden and empower the disciples. When He questioned Peter three times about his (Peter’s) love for Him, Jesus wanted to give him another opportunity to reaffirm his love and his resolve to be uncompromising in working for Jesus. Where the disciples toiled all night and caught nothing until Jesus intervened, and they caught a lot, God wants to teach us to keep trying again and never give up, even when we experience frustration and tiredness. To those developing apathy in view of political developments and insecurity, you must remain upbeat; the millions of unemployed youth and students languishing at home due to ASUU strike, you must keep hope alive, and Nigerians should not get tired of registering to vote again and again. Things will work better someday.

As we celebrate Workers’ Day today (also feast of St. Joseph the worker), we affirm the dignity of labour and ask the Lord to bless the work of our hands, and we urge the government to be more committed to creating job opportunities for the youths who do not have to know influential persons to get jobs.

That even those employed have to always resort to strikes to push home their demands is embarrassing. Government should always sit in meaningful dialogue with Labour Unions, because repeated strikes such as by ASUU and other labour groups do a lot of damage to our educational system and economy.

Some cynical social media commentators say they are tired of praying with no results. I insist that since we are not tired of eating, breathing, washing ourselves, etc., we should not be tired of praying for our safety, welfare and progress. Prayer is what we have to offer for those right now in the hands of terrorists in the bush, and we pray also that God will inspire the concerned authorities to provide all that is required for our security men to fight those crimes that bring so much pain and agony to families and individuals.

While acknowledging that God is our security, we must all be security conscious. We invoke the Holy Spirit to help us to continue to be resilient and to bear witness to the risen Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

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