Recognizing God as the source of all authority

21st Sunday A, 27th August, 2023, St. Rose of Lima Pastoral Area, Katampe, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.

Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20.

Recognizing God as the source of all authority

“Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?” (Rm. 11:34). This quotation captures the deep reality about God, who makes the impossible, possible. Over two years ago it was unthinkable that we would be here visiting a pastoral area like this. One of my decisions made since becoming the Archbishop of Abuja, trusting in God’s providence when there was little or no sign that it would succeed, is this one.

Even though I knew that this place had no congregation, no church land and therefore no parish church or fathers’ house, I still sent two priests, Frs. Martin Onwukuba (of Veritas University) and Francis Nwaorah to explore the possibility of getting something started. I told them to wear their cassocks and each morning just wander around, and if anyone asked who they are, they were to tell them that they are Catholic priests. This, they did, and one by one, people began to gather and today you have St. Rose of Lima faith community numbering over 200 members! To God be glory and praise! Even though they still have no church or land, or parish house, and they are still using a building generously provided by Barr. Laura Ajoiyi, it is gratifying that they are having their first Episcopal pastoral visit, during which 20 people will be confirmed. Already, 23 have been baptized, and 30 have received first communion. You have grown from nothing to something, and you are a demonstration that with God all things are possible. Despite all the teething challenges, you have been participating effectively in the life of the Archdiocese, and even making financial contributions to various causes. I am deeply impressed. We thank Sir Moses Gali and family for donating this land on which we are worshipping today to the Church.

God bless you, Fr. Martin Onwukuba, your team of collaborators and the members of the community of faith of St. Rose of Lima Pastoral Area, Katampe. May God continue to grant you increase in members who will confess Jesus with a vibrant faith like Peter, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God” (cf. Mt 16:16).

We named this place after St. Rose of Lima, whose feast day is August 23. She was known for her life of prayer, fasting and penance. We pray that through her intercessions, this congregation will blossom into a dynamic faith community, where many more people will come to seek the face of Jesus, in a spirit of one family built on Christ, the solid rock.

I urge you, the Katampe Pastoral Area Pioneers (KPAP), to maintain the bond of unity and great things will happen before your eyes. What we now admire as Holy Trinity Parish, Maitama, Holy Rosary Parish, Wuse, the Pro-Cathedral, Garki, etc., also started in very humble ways. Your story will not be different; through you, God will grant increase to His church.

The main theme running through the readings this Sunday is that God is the source of all authority which He gives to civil and religious leaders.

In our first reading, God removed from office the proud and wicked Prime Minister, Shebna and exalted the humble and faithful Eliakim. Shebna was sacked because of his pride and corruption, misuse of power and acting without God’s direction during the reign of King Hezekiah. Eliakim succeeded Shebna and rendered dedicated service to the people, to the King and to the Lord. Rather than serving his own interests and ambitions, he walked in the path of the Lord. Being given the “key of the house of David” was interpreted in terms of Christ who would come as a new Master to hand over the keys to Peter as the head of His Church. We learn from Eliakim that the purpose of authority at any level is not to control the lives of other people, but to help them to seek values that will bring them peace, happiness, and better lives.

Our leaders both in government and in other spheres of society must learn from the rejection of Shebna. Leaders entrusted with positions of authority must place the people first. The new State Commissioners, Federal Ministers, political Advisers, etc. should stick to the principles of fairness, equity, justice, in line with the electoral mandates and manifestos of their political parties. Shebna, lost God’s favour because of unholy political alliances, and for attempting to immortalize himself by beginning to construct his own tomb in a special place on the mountain. Like Shebna, leaders can easily become possessed by power and see themselves as political idols or champions to be hailed instead of seen as servants.

Jesus’ statement in the gospel “You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18) was because of Peter’s sincere faith in Christ. Like Peter, both leaders and the led, are called to an authentic and intimate relationship with God.

We appeal to our newly appointed Federal Ministers and other leaders in the country to imbibe the virtue of humility as they carry out their work in the spirit of servant-leadership, using their talents to benefit all and not their ethnic, religious, or political constituencies (cf. Mt. 25:14-30).

My dear members of St. Rose of Lima, St. Peter teaches us today to cultivate a personal relationship with Christ. We must also, develop a filial relationship with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Successor of St. Peter. Remember well that the early Christians, were united in prayer, heart and mind, broke bread, and shared material things with one another (cf. Acts 2:42-47). This is the spirit that will propel St. Rose of Lima, Katampe, to greater spiritual and ecclesial greatness.

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