Something small can always grow into something great

Eleventh Sunday, Year B. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at the dedication of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Nyanya, Abuja. June 13, 2021.

Readings: Ez. 17: 22-24; Ps. 91(92): 2-3. 13-16; 2 Cor. 5: 6-10; Mk. 4: 26-34

The background to the first reading is the time the people of Israel were exiled and reduced to slavery in Babylon. Prophet Ezekiel used a horticultural language to speak of the revival of the Davidic House, whereby a small shoot shall become a mighty cedar tree. The tender branch, to be planted on a lofty mountain refers to the promised Messiah (cf. Is. 4:2; 11:1; Zech. 3:8), a descendant of David. The high tree, which represents King Zedekiah and his accompanying acts of disobedience and apostasy, shall be brought low, while the humble tree, which represents Christ, shall be exalted. Ezekiel wanted to encourage his disheartened fellow Israelites to keep their hope alive during the exile.

In the Gospel, Jesus also uses an agricultural imagery to teach in the two parables that “something small can always grow into something great”. Jesus began His ministry with 12 Apostles. Later, there were as many as 500 believers (cf. 1 Cor. 15:6). Peter would convert 3,000 people at Pentecost and throughout Acts of the Apostles we see how the number of the followers of Jesus increased steadily (cf. Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7).

Today there are 2.382 billion Christians in the world; even though the largest religious body in the world, it is only about (31.11%), meaning there is so much evangelization to do.

The proverbial mustard seed that grows to be a great shrub could be likened to the seed of faith that we all received at our baptism. Our faith can eventually grow large enough to provide shade for others, embracing them, bringing them to Christ by our conduct that is pleasing to the Lord.

A Church building stands as a symbol of the faith of its members. The real temple is our heart as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:16. On this day of the dedication of your very nice Church, we must remember how the little seed sown many years ago has grown and yielded fruits. We pay tribute to all the parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Nyanya; your Parish Priest and Vicar of Pastoral Areas, Rev Fr. Francis Kale, his pastoral assistants; not forgetting previous parish priests and former parishioners whose hard work, generosity and determination have made this noble project a reality. Congratulations on the happy fulfillment of your dream.

As we anoint the altar and walls of this Church, we invoke God’s special presence to dwell on the physical Church but also on us as a spiritual community, a “spiritual house” because as St. Peter describes Christians, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession (cf. 1 Pt. 2:9). We are the “living temples” of the Lord. May we all remain centered on Christ, the cornerstone of our faith (cf. Eph. 2:20).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus compared the growth of the kingdom of God to the germination of a seed of wheat and a tiny mustard seed. The seed of Christian faith that started in Nigeria, like a mustard seed continues to grow despite some subtle anti-Christian policies or strategies, unfavourable social, economic and political atmosphere.

It is our prayer that Nigeria will mature beyond the polarization based on religion and tribe, so as to be a shining light of social integration for Africa. As we celebrated Democracy Day yesterday, we saw agitated youths on the streets clamoring for positive change. Suppressing their voice or scaring them away is not a solution, but responding positively and creatively to those reasonable demands of theirs.

With our myriad of challenges, our nation may be failing but it has not failed. Let us intensify building patriotic hearts, structures and institutions and rise above hatred, stereotyping, sectional interests, and bigotry, divisive and manipulative tendencies.

It worries me that we so much over rely on oil as the primary source of our national revenue, and this constitutes the major source of our quarrel about injustice and marginalization. Let us however remember that there will be less demand for oil in the future and some countries are preparing to use electric vehicles or energy sources like solar and wind, a technological transformation that will render oil redundant. It is advisable that we focus more systematically on farming and animal husbandry; stop the needless hostility between farmers and herders, and rather invest heavily in modernizing these sectors which can help to reduce the number of unemployed youths on the streets.

We implore fellow Nigerians to truly rededicate ourselves to God; show respect to one another, identify with the poor, and practise genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. Unemployed youths must not allow the healthy seeds in them to die. Keep dreaming positively and back it up by doing even petty jobs that will give you the dignity to eat from the labour of your hands. God will reward your patience.

Like King Solomon who prayed during the dedication of the Temple, that God may hear the supplication of His people when they pray in the Temple (cf.1 Kgs. 8:30), may our prayers rise like incense from this new Church for all Nigerians who are hurt by the problems of life, and may the Lord shower us all with blessings beyond our expectations.

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