Seek the Lord, Seek Integrity and Seek Humility


Readings: Zeph. 2:3; 3:12-13; Ps. 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12

Seek the Lord, Seek Integrity and Seek Humility

Standing here at the pulpit and looking at the congregation, I am so highly impressed with the number attending Mass, the enthusiasm demonstrated and the excellent disposition exhibited for prayer and worship. No wonder, America Magazine, the Jesuit Review reported that “The nation with the best Catholic Mass attendance in the world could be Nigeria according to a new study published by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).When asked the question ‘Apart from weddings, funerals and christenings, about how often do you attend religious services these days?’ 94% of self-identified Nigerian Catholics surveyed said they attend weekly or daily Mass.”This is at least some good news. We are always in the news for the wrong reasons of insecurity, violence, hunger, poverty, corruption, banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, youths fleeing the land, etc.

The readings of this fourth Sunday in ordinary time speak about how to achieve true and lasting happiness. In our first reading Prophet Zephaniah urges the people to seek the Lord in humility so as to be preserved on the day of His anger. He spoke of this in the context of how the people had refused to obey the Lord by acting proudly and seeking worldly gains. This was why they faced defeat from the hands of their enemies and their cities and towns were destroyed. In the face of these catastrophes, Zephaniah reminded the people that each of them should return to God; to take the path of justice rather than that of rebellion, pride, greed and injustice, so that they would be restored to their former glory.

The message of Zephaniah also speaks to our national life. Even in the face of our many hardships, we are called to seek righteousness; to be courageous enough to speak the truth and to be constant in doing good, as the theme of this year’s prayer for Christian unity, urges, “Do good, seek justice” (Is. 1:17). Let us therefore resist every temptation to become easy tools of violence and agents of chaos. We should be firm in our moral convictions and our absolute dependence on God.
We are from different social and ethnic backgrounds, but that God has brought us to coexist is by no means a mistake. We shouldn’t regard one another as strangers even after over 100 years of amalgamation and 62 years of national independence. Our national life should be a journey marked by cooperation rather than competition, a movement from conflict to communion, from hostility to hospitality and from consumption to production.

Warm greetings to you Fr. Ambrose Anene, SDB, your assistants, Fr. Daniel Agbor, SDB, and Fr. Matthew Udoka, SDB, all your collaborators, the 185 candidates for confirmation and indeed, all your parishioners of Church of the Archangels, Gaduwa. I am happy to visit your parish once again since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic (when we were all covered with face masks and it was difficult to interact at a close range). I must commend the efforts of the Salesian Fathers in providing pastoral care to your parish and the great cooperation and support from you the parishioners on the ongoing church building. We look forward to its final completion and dedication. May your parish continue to witness a great increase in numbers and in the quality of faith. That a new pastoral area, St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Bentel Estate, has been created from your parish is a sign of progress.

It is however not enough to attend Mass, build a big church or increase pastoral areas. St. Paul reminds us that we are called to reflect upon the personal qualities expected of every disciple of Christ. The way that leads to holiness is the imitation of the attitudes which Jesus enumerated in the beatitudes today. The beatitudes are a road-map for discipleship and the essential aspects of Christian behaviour which will ultimately lead to the rewards of eternal life. The beatitudes turn upside down the values and attitudes that are dominant in our world. They are the “perfect standard of the Christian life,” wrote St. Augustine, and the late Pope Benedict XVI noted that the “Beatitudes are a new programme of life, to free oneself from the false values of the world and to open oneself to the true goods, present and future ….”

Each of the beatitudes starts with the word, ‘blessed’ to express the conviction that those who live according to the values of the kingdom of God are fortunate. Jesus reverses the human assumption that happiness lies in the pursuit of power, pleasure, fame, riches or comfort. He blesses the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus esteems mercy shown to others. He blesses peacemakers not those skilled in the art of killing with guns, knives, bombs etc. For those suffering discrimination, marginalization or persecution on account of the gospel, Jesus promises a great reward in heaven. We know that some have been refused work promotion, school admission, job recruitment, appointment or certain key positions because they are Christians and some had to change their religious affiliation to get promoted.

Today, we conclude our Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the National Christian Centre, Abuja. It has been an edifying spiritual exercise and a prayerful pilgrimage to the different churches of the various denominations. We prayed together as Christians for peace in our country, for unity among Christians and for the success of our country’s forth coming elections. We pray that this spiritual exercise will bear abundant fruits.

I ask God to continue to fill you with strength, courage and grace to live a life of blessedness, in a country where to lie and cheat and chase monetary gain is sport for many and to seek holiness is seen as weakness. May the beatitudes be our perfect standard of life.

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