Self-emptying and Self-giving Leadership

Solemnity of Christ the Universal King, Infant Jesus Parish, Iddo, Abuja, 20.11.2022. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.

Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.

Self-emptying and Self-giving Leadership

I find myself providentially in your parish of Infant Jesus, Iddo, Abuja, having just arrived by flight from Enugu where I attended the 10th Convocation of Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, as its Chancellor. I am happy to see you all smartly ready and in an excellent mood of prayer even when you did not know that I was coming. Blessings upon you all and your parish priest, Fr. Celestine Eze.

As we mark the Solemnity of Christ the Universal King today we celebrate without fear or shame and prayerfully acclaim with singing, dancing and procession, acknowledging and professing Jesus as the King of all the earth; King of men and women from every race and nation.

When the people of Israel demanded for a human king, God gave them Saul. After he disobeyed God he was deposed and David was anointed king of Israel. After David, God made a promise to Israel, “The time is coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. At that time I will choose as king, a righteous descendant of David. That king will do what is right and just throughout the land” (Jer. 33:14-15).

In Christ we see the fulfilment of that kingship. Jesus, a descent in the line of David, reigns as king for eternity. There are however major differences between the kingship of Jesus and the kingship of this world. Kings of this world seek their comfort and prefer to avoid suffering, but Jesus the Universal King teaches that leaders must choose the way of the cross. Love was Jesus’ motivation, selfless love and not self-centred love. He was ready to die for His people – sacrificial love. He came to serve and not to be served.

Regrettably, most of the troubles and sufferings that we go through in our nation today result from leaders who are not ready to suffer for the common good of the estimated 216 million Nigerians. They instead prefer to be at ease and live comfortably while their fellow citizens suffer severe lack and endure untold hardship. They divert the fortunes of the poor masses to their personal treasury, leaving the common purse empty. They ignore the biblical teaching in Philippians 2:3-4: “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.”

It will surprise you to know the kind of salaries and side benefits given to sustain senior political officials or government officials in the name of governance, in contrast to the miserable salaries paid to workers, salaries which come infrequently and in some cases are even tampered with.
Leaders are called to live simply and to sacrifice for people entrusted to their care through humble and self giving service. I am yet to hear those contesting the forthcoming elections saying that they are ready to serve to the point of giving back what they owe the poor like Zacchaeus or even to die for the good of their people. Instead, they are struggling feverishly to win elections and having won, they immediately start to expend energy and resources on how to win again after four years. Our Nigerian leaders savour the sweetness of power and the unfettered access to the wealth of the nation. As the campaigns are becoming more and more vigorous, the question is if political candidates understand that leadership is about selfless service modelled after that of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mk. 10:45).
Jesus shows in the gospel when questioned by Pilate that He was a king who came to testify to the truth. “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers will fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No my kingdom does not belong here!” (Jn. 18:36). Here we draw attention to partisan political adherents to refrain from attacking political opponents or causing mayhem, claiming to be acting in the interest of their masters.

It is disturbing that politicians go about fervently canvassing for votes but soon after they are elected, they become unapproachable and inaccessible. Many of them deliberately remain adamant and deaf to the plight of those they govern. Jesus is the model leader political leaders must imitate. He was a friend to all, the lepers with whom people never associated with, the sick, the poor, the wretched, the tax collectors and sinners. He sought out what was lost (Lk. 19:10). He came for the weak, the poor and oppressed, and He put their interest first.

Today we are called to acknowledge the kingship of Jesus over our lives by surrendering our all to Jesus; to accept and obey every word that comes from Him; to love like Him; to suffer trials and difficulties patiently, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be merciful, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers, and to persevere even when persecuted for the sake of righteousness (cf. Mt. 5:3-10); praying that at the end Jesus will grant us entry into His eternal kingdom after our sojourn here on earth.

Our 3rd National Pastoral Congress and the 5th National Eucharistic Congress were held in Benin City, Edo State, from 8-13 November, 2022. Thousands of pilgrims including Bishops, priests, the Religious and laity gathered from the 56 dioceses in Nigeria to pray for the needs of our church and nation and to ask for God’s divine intervention in our state of affairs.

At this critical period preceding elections, we fervently pray that God will grant us the disposition to foster peace, harmony that will result in genuine growth and development. We need compassionate leaders who can drastically reduce poverty in the land. The number of Nigerians living in poverty stands at over 133 million, a figure that represents 63 per cent of the nation’s population as announced recently by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Let us remember that the celebration of Jesus Christ the Universal King became a feast in the Catholic Church through the encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, in the face of the world turbulence of the early 20th century; the spread of secularism, leadership tussles, the two world wars and the tragic Spanish Flu Pandemic that claimed millions of lives. The Church saw it necessary to reaffirm and refocus our faith in the authority and kingship of Jesus Christ.

We need to call on Christ the King to come to our assistance in the midst of growing insecurity, poverty, inattention to God; the wave of greed and materialism, the notoriety of dirty political schemes, the addictive dictatorship of the social media, abuse of technology, etc. We need a Christ-like leader who is ready to lay down His life for us (cf. Jn. 10:11-18); knows our pains and sufferings (cf. Jn. 11:35) and is compassionate and wants us to live socially well and to the full (cf. Jn. 10:10).The confession of the crucified criminal beside Jesus who recognized Him as a Saviour and King earned him a place in His kingdom. We join our voices to that of the good thief, sinful and broken as we are to acknowledge and acclaim Jesus as King, hoping that He will also accord the same promise to us, ‘today you will be with me in paradise’ (Lk. 23:43).

Let us enthrone Jesus as Lord and let Him truly reign in our hearts, our homes, our communities and in all nations of the world. We pray for all traditional, civil, political leaders, that they may guide the people they lead with all the love, wisdom, care and compassion exemplified in Christ.

Even as we serve in the Church as leaders of Knights, Laity Council, CWO, CYO, Choir, etc., let us not forget Luke 17:10, “when you have done all that is required of you should say: ‘We are useless servants. We have done what we should have done,” not to clamour to remain in office for ulterior motives.May Christ the King grant us the much needed security and freedom from poverty, bad governance and corruption. Amen.


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