Rejoicing in the face of Adversity

3rd Sunday of Advent (B), 17.12.2023, Holy Trinity Parish, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama

Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Rejoicing in the face of Adversity

This third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete Sunday.” The word “gaudete” is the Latin word for “rejoice” taken from today’s entrance antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (cf. Phil. 4:4-5). The Church calls believers to rejoice not because of the superficial excitement that Christmas is coming, but because salvation is dawning.

While rejoicing, one is encouraged to rejoice by giving thanks to God. This time of the year is for many a period of thanksgiving. On the 31st of December, 2022, New Year’s Eve, we all looked forward with great anxiety and expectations for 2023. The year came and we are its tail end. In your families I believe you have many reasons to be grateful to God. Likewise, in your parish you have experienced spiritual growth, pastoral success, peace, and unity. The Archdiocese has every reason to be grateful. The sixty new pastoral areas are growing, not however without challenges. The churches of the pastoral areas of Old Karimo, Apo Dutse, Gishiri and others are waiting to be demolished and they don’t know where else to find land, but I always reassure them to continue praying to God of providence who will bring support through generous people.

The Nigerian Church has been blessed in a special way this year. We had the creation of Aguleri diocese, Wukari diocese, Katsina diocese and bishops were ordained for them. Calabar had an auxiliary bishop ordained. We also had a bishop ordained for Zaria last Thursday, and Ahiara will have an auxiliary bishop ordained next week.

To God’s glory and praise, the Church in Nigeria continues to grow. As Christians, we must equally grow through positive interior transformation and union with God. We are called to be active missionaries like Andrew who found Simon his brother and told him he had found the Messiah and led Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn. 1:41-42). Those of you who have been sponsors at baptism, confirmation or marriage are missionaries who should accompany those sponsored to be faithful to Jesus to the end.

The first reading is from Isaiah about the “Anointed One” who will bring good news to the poor, bind the broken hearted and bring liberty to the captives. When the poor, broken hearted and captives are granted their hearts’ wishes, there is rejoicing and gladness. Crimes in Nigeria keep increasing because there is poverty, social deprivation, unemployment, and lack of social security. When there is no joy, people easily turn to crimes of all sorts as we are witnessing.

But even amid life’s uncertainties, sufferings, and hardship, we are called to Christian joy. Our joy must outweigh every sorrow (cf. Rom. 8:18). Christ made the declaration “the spirit of the Lord is upon me” in Luke 4:18 at the inauguration of His public ministry. We can also say, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us,” given to us at baptism. We must turn away from evil; treat everyone with dignity, speak out against social injustice and evil; obey God’s commands and lead saintly lives.

Our experiences of violence, bloodshed, the inhuman behaviour of kidnapping, corruption, unemployment, high inflation and cases of terror attacks and other problems Nigeria is facing may seem to blur this holy joy, plunging many into hopelessness and sadness. We must however remain convinced that no catastrophe can diminish or extinguish the joy of God’s greatest gift to us in Jesus Christ. That is why St. Paul exhorts us to continue to “rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

St. Paul ended his exhortation with prayers for the Thessalonians invoking the peace and Spirit of God to sanctify them and that their bodies and souls be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23). This too is my prayer for you parishioners of Holy Trinity Church, Maitama, reminding you that we have Jesus, and Jesus is all that we need, and Jesus never fails.

The gospel reading is about the special mission of John the Baptist – a voice crying in the wilderness calling all to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. When we embrace Christ, our lives undergo a remarkable transformation; divine light illumines our path, and we can navigate life’s journey with greater clarity. Even when we face persecutions like John the Baptist, we should remember that though weeping may last through the night, but great joy comes before dawn (cf. Ps. 30:5).
There is something to learn from the humility of John the Baptist. He understood that he was not the light; he was only a humble witness (cf. Jn. 1:8). We too are called to such humility and witnessing; to be able to bring others to Christ.

I urge the candidates for the sacrament of confirmation to become witnesses of the Light of Christ. As soldiers of Christ your faith must be strong and love for others genuine, beyond boundaries or barriers. Speak the truth and shame the devil; demonstrate that there can be joy of heart even in the face of adversity.

In many ways, your parish has cooperated very commendably with the pastoral vision of the Archdiocese. I can see the enthusiasm with which some of you, as individuals and groups, offer support to some of our young parishes and newly created pastoral areas in the Archdiocese.
Every time I visit the new pastoral areas, I hear of the great help some of you have given. Last week in Barangoni, Bwari area, I saw that for myself. Please continue to be missionaries by either praying for evangelization, going to evangelize, or giving for evangelization.

I also commend you all for your response thus far to build the Archdiocesan Secretariat in Kubwa. This proves that you have understood and keyed into our archdiocesan vision. By the grace of God and with our collective efforts, we shall attain greater heights as an Archdiocese.
We entrust your Parish Priest, Fr. Moses Jimbili, his assistants, Frs. Hilary Ugwanyi and Shedrach Afi and indeed, all the parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish, Maitama, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Please, keep your hearts open to the Spirit so that you may experience the true joys of Christmas. I urge you all to be agents of hope and transformation in our society bedevilled by hostility and violence. In all you do, foster unity, understanding and love. Peace be with you, now and forever.

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