Relying on Divine Providence
New Year Message, 2021, by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama
We give thanks and praise to God for the beginning of a New Year, a brand new gift from the Lord. “All things work together for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This consoling thought should be with us during 2021.
The beginning of a New Year is usually a time for hope, a chance to make a fresh start. However, given all that the world has been through in the past year, the usual optimism that comes with a new year seems a bit diminished.
The year 2020 had its bitter moments and more than enough heartaches and headaches. But I am sure; it had some joys, blessings and providence.
In the face of an uncertain future, our hope as Christians is rooted in what in Christian spirituality we refer to as “Divine Providence.” Divine Providence is the term used to explain that God is so sovereign that everything takes place according to His purpose. The entire universe is governed by Divine Providence. If you affirm the providence of God, you are confessing, even in the face of all appearances to the contrary, that God cares for you and is in control of your life. It is worth reaffirming that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose (cf. Romans 8:28).
By providence, we mean that God looks after human affairs. One of the examples of providence occurs in Genesis 22, when God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. As they were going up the mountain, Isaac saw the fire and the wood, but he wondered where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham said, “God will provide himself a sacrifice.” Indeed, God did provide a sacrifice in the place of Isaac, and Abraham called the name of the place, “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14), which is where we get the name, “the God who provides”.
After God provided a sacrifice for Abraham, more than two thousand years ago, He again acted to provide a sacrifice through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. If God has given us His Son, He will surely see us through the coming year. We can trust in the Providence of God.
In his Encyclical on the virtue of Hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that, for Christians, the virtue of hope enables us to face the burdens of daily life, no matter how heavy. He writes that “the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”
On October 4, 2020, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, released a new Encyclical entitled, “Fratelli Tutti” – On Fraternity and Social Friendship. Fratelli Tutti lays out reasons why there is so much injustice, inequality, and community breakdown in our world and how in faith and love these might be addressed. The Encyclical challenges us to see the poor and to see what our present political, economic, and social systems are doing to them. The rich are getting richer, the powerful are getting more powerful, and the poor are growing poorer and losing what little power they had.
Taking a cue from the Holy Father, in the New Year, Christians should exhibit a greater sense of solidarity in pursuing the common good, and foster a sense of greater empathy for those who are especially vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, people with disabilities, and the poor who frequently have a lower quality of health, to say nothing of the people who are on the margins and dying from the COVID-19 Pandemic and other preventable medical conditions.
In speaking of inequality, Fratelli Tutti twice highlights that this inequality is true of women worldwide: It is unacceptable that some have fewer rights by virtue of being women. The way of the future, therefore, is to begin to give women every respect and their rightful place in society.
As Christians, we see the New Year as a symbolic anticipation of that eternal day when all things will be made new. Only if we keep Christ at the very centre of our existence can we ever hope to know the joy and happiness that nothing and no one can take from us. Undoubtedly, the New Year will bring its share of surprises.
Maybe one of the surprises of 2021 will be that this New Year exceeds expectations. As we begin the New Year, I am optimistic that it will be a better year and the storms of 2020 will be over.
Dear brothers and sisters, my exhortation to you is not the fruit of philosophical ponderings, political or social analysis, but of a simple prayerful reflection. It is an encouragement to leaders to do more, and not to be afraid of correction or criticism; citizens should adhere to and be guided by the words of our national anthem. Christians and members of other religions should be faithful and charitable, so that we can witness a transformation in all spheres of our private and national life, in this way, peace will flow like a river and justice and progress will follow.
In this New Year, please, see a brother or sister in every Nigerian you meet. Promise not to hurt or look down on another human being.
No matter the unemployment and poverty rate, compatriots should stop kidnapping fellow human beings for money, not to talk of taking their lives, because every human life is sacred.
Those who rob others of their valuable property should stop. Those who exploit helpless victims in our police stations, courts, institutions, highways and offices must stop.
Those who misuse government funds through corruption should repent like Zacchaeus, the tax collector (cf. Luke 19), so that poverty can be conquered.
Let there be an attitudinal change. Let both the “ordinary” poor Nigerians and the privileged and influential Nigerians behave and do things positively different, with the fear of God.
To all, I wish you a most wonderful, safe, healthy, and happy New Year!