Suffering as an inevitable part of life

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at St. Kizito’s Parish, Kuje, Abuja. June 20, 2021.

Readings: Job 38: 1, 8-11; Ps. 106 (107): 23-26, 28-32; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Mk. 4:35-41

Do you ever wonder why the first reaction of a child at birth is a sharp cry? I think it is the child’s feeling of being introduced to a world of pain and suffering.

This Sunday we reflect on suffering as an inevitable part of life, and how like Job in the Bible, we should make sense of our sufferings. In life, storms sometimes come so strong and violent, but God intervenes.

Jesus and His disciples in the Gospel reading were caught in a storm in the Sea of Galilee. The Apostles consumed by fear, frantically woke Jesus up to seek His help. Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still” (Mk. 4:39) and the wind ceased and there was great calm.

Jesus does not guarantee us that our lives will be free of storms, but He assures us of His ever abiding and continuous presence even in the midst of storms such as marriage problems, failure in business, unemployment, poverty, childlessness, or a prolonged sickness that defies medical interventions, and the storms of insecurity, Covid-19 pandemic, etc.

We must continue to cry out with all conviction and with sincerity: “Lord, save us, lest we perish” (cf. Mt. 8:25).

The Gospel teaches us that as long as Christ is with us in the boat of life, we can count on Him, for God says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in times of trouble and I will help you”.

We should call upon Jesus not only when everything seems hopeless, but even when things are going well. I know how frantically people in a plane pray when the plane starts shaking very badly in the sky, but don’t remember again to pray so fervently after landing safely, until another horrifying incident.

Are there moments when your fears and hopelessness and doubts have caused you even to ask God, “why me”? Our second reading urges us to learn to attach our sufferings to that of Christ; to fix our gaze on Jesus, as Psalm 57:1 says “till the storms of destruction pass by.”

Job’s faith was greatly tested. He lost everything: children, animals, good health, etc., and even when his friends suggested it was because of his guilt, and his wife prompted him to curse God, Job never wavered in his trust in God and was able to pull through from misfortune to fortune.

For us in Nigeria and Africa at large, the spiritual, social, political and economic storms that we face today are many. Our boats may be sinking, but we must hold onto Jesus even when He appears to be sleeping or quiet about our petition or situation. We must cry out like the disciples of Jesus, “We are perishing”.

Sometimes we ask why those we think we are more intelligent or more efficient than at work seem to do better or get promoted and we are not. Just continue like Job to remain righteous, strong in faith and good in conduct (cf. Job 1:1). Leave the rest to God. Do not feel that God is absent from your situation or is deaf to your prayers. In Isaiah 49:15 we read that even if a woman forgets the child of her womb, “I will not forget you,” says the Lord.

When you feel enslaved by fear especially of evil spirits, witches and wizards know that you are “Christopher”, a bearer of Christ. Behave like the man arrested by a desperate bribe-seeking police man and told he had committed an offence by driving alone in his car! The man said he was not alone. That he is carrying God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The policeman responded, “Aha, you have overloaded your car”.

We fear many things ranging from snakes, kidnappers, bandits to people of our village “sending powers” after us in the city. Some ladies and young men fear not getting married. Many fear remaining jobless after university (I think of the five graduates in one family with no employment).

In a society where there is little room for merit and competence, where one’s chance of getting a meaningful job is determined in many cases by where you come from or which faith you belong to, these fears are justified. Thousands may go through the rigors of interviews, while others on account of their tribe, religion or political association, get selected even without an interview!

A young Nigerian girl was very happy because she sat and passed various exams to start work in Britain. She did not have to rely on anyone of influence, but her intelligence. I hope we shall get to a day when jobs, promotions, admissions or recruitments will be available purely on merit and not because a Senator or

Minister or Governor is one’s godfather or godmother.

We pray for our 288 confirmed today, to be solid and shinning witnesses with unshakable trust in God, because they are receiving the Spirit of liberation, not the spirit of fear (cf. Rom. 8:15-16).

We pray and identify with those forced to leave their homelands (such as the many IDPs in Abuja) as well as those suffering daily attacks from the so-called “unknown gunmen.” As today is observed by the UN as World Refugee Day, we pray that even the “unknown gunmen” in Nigeria should realize as Pope Francis says that there is only a single “we”, encompassing all of humanity. “Together we heal, learn and shine”.

We are confident that the Lord will calm the many storms in our lives. Why this conviction? We have a friend in Jesus.

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and grieves to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

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