“Prepare a way for the Lord…”
Second Sunday of Advent, Year C, December 5, 2021, St. Charles Lwanga Parish Church Dedication, Apo, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama
Readings: Baruch 5: 1-9; Ps. 125 (126); Phil. 1: 4-6, 8-11; Lk. 3: 1-6
“Prepare a way for the Lord…”
Dear parishioners of St. Charles Lwanga parish, Apo, it is wonderful to be here with you and those you invited to this Eucharistic celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, during which we are dedicating your magnificent Church edifice. In this sacred place, may God answer your prayers and mine and do for us far more than we ask or imagine (cf. Eph. 3: 20). This church building is a fruit of many years of labours and generous sacrifices of present and past priests and very dedicated parishioners. The current Parish Priest, Monsignor Festus Nwadike and his assistant, Rev Fr. Felix Ilemona, have brought to completion what their predecessors worked tirelessly to build.
Today’s ceremony marks my third time of dedicating a Church within the Archdiocese of Abuja since I became the Archbishop here. The first Church I dedicated was Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Nyanya. The second was St. Luke’s Pastoral Area, Kuchiko, Bwari, which was built by the Knights and Ladies of St. John International, in response to my invitation to individuals or groups to contribute to the new wave of evangelization, by supporting the building of churches or parish houses, especially in the newly created disadvantaged pastoral areas. One person has assured me that by God’s grace I will dedicate a Church which he is helping to build next year. May God continually grant success to the works of our hands.
By this rite of liturgical consecration of the Church and the altar, we make it a formal place “where the Christian community is gathered to hear the word of God, to offer intercession and praise to Him, and above all to celebrate the holy mysteries, and it is the place where the holy sacrament of the Eucharist is kept” (Preface by James Cardinal Knox, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and Divine Worship, prepared for a document titled Ordo Dedicationis Ecclesiae et Altaris, in 1977).
In today’s readings, John the Baptist tasks each of us to “prepare a way for the Lord.” Naturally, we prepare for a lot of things: weddings, birthdays, trips, holidays, exams, etc. Indeed, preparation is key to any success. That is why it is said that “he who fails to plan plans to fails.”
Baruch in the first reading, personified Jerusalem as the ‘mother of the nations’, assuring her of the imminent end of her sorrow and the eventual return of her children living in shame and captivity in Babylon. This intervention of the Lord in their lives and the sudden turnaround in the scheme of things is also our Christian hope as we journey through life. This reading should awaken the hope in each one of us that better days will come by God’s grace, no matter the present difficulties. We must firmly believe that God will soon intervene in our situations and restore us to glory. He promises to come to take off our dress of sorrow and distress, if we make a way for Him in our hearts.
The real preparation in Advent has to do with our spiritual disposition – the condition of our souls. It is the kind of preparation that is comprehensive and uncompromising, moving us to examine our conscience and seek inner cleansing through the sacrament of reconciliation. Thus, we level the hills of pride and other sinful habits that pose a threat to our spiritual journey towards God.
Our world today is riddled with terrible vices such as drug abuse, fraud, alcoholism, cultism, gender based violence, etc. It is in the light of these that the ongoing campaign with the theme: “End Violence Against Women Now” is being carried out. Beginning from November 25, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign started and it will end on December 10.
According to the UN, from 2005 to 2016, 19 per cent of women in 87 countries between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Most violence today which take different forms such as domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, rape, child marriage and many others are real, but sadly, are overlooked or inadequately reported and addressed.
At today’s Mass, the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja joins the rest of the world in the campaign against injustice and gender based violence targeted at women and young girls. One recalls the sad incident of the Chibok girls kidnap and the kidnapping of women presently going on in the society and many other acts that work against the dignity of women and the girl-child.
Among the congregation today is the Federal Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen OFR, KSG, and other women, to offer prayers as part of the activities to observe this year’s campaign. Women are our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends; they are to be loved not used or abused.
We must encourage and support them to acquire good education and harness their capacities and abilities to contribute their quota towards societal growth and development. Our Justice, Peace and Development (JDPC) and Education Commissions are very ready to complement government effort in this, only if faith-based organizations such as ours are often considered by government when important plans and policies about these matters are being made.
Women must be given a chance to be part of the vision and dreams of our nation. In other words, there should be more involvement and participation of women in our political, economic and social life. But more importantly, in Nigeria, the men must allow a good percentage of political offices to the women, since the competition is so stiff and because of the dominance of masculine culture, women are always at a disadvantage. The women must be given political muscle and quality education for both their personal and national development. From empirical evidence, we know in the Church that women are very strong pillars.
The Catholic Women Organization (CWO), the Zumunta Mata and teenage girls have demonstrated through the years that they are passionate, committed, competent, ever available and willing agents of positive change.
I am confident that Nigerian women given more space in the national scheme of things will bring new perspectives to governance, and perhaps change the narrative of our country often dancing dangerously on the precipice.
Dear brothers and sisters, as we shift to gear two in preparation for Christmas, St. Paul in our second reading urges us to increase in love, knowledge and perception; to discern what is of value, to remain pure and blameless for the day of Christ, abandoning our old ways of life to seek to live a new life in Christ. John the Baptist in our Gospel lived a life of simplicity and genuine witness and preached repentance and conversion. Repentance entails a complete turnaround from evil ways to a new and better life, in order to receive the mercy of God. John the Baptist summons us today to make conscious efforts to “level the mountain of pride and other terrible vices”, to “make straight the rough roads of selfishness and depravity” and to “fill in the valley of spiritual laxity and indifference.”
To prepare the way of the Lord means a metanoia, a turn away from sin to hasten back to God. Our dear confirmandi, you must hold tenaciously to what you are about to receive and practice faithfully the gospel imperatives so that when the Lord comes, He will find you and all of us active soldiers, ambassadors and witnesses of His Kingdom.
May the Virgin Mary, an icon of virtue, a model for women of all generations, help us to overcome the obstacles to peace, stability and development in Nigeria. AMEN.