Fourth (Good Shepherd) Sunday, 21st April 2024, St. Monica, Sauka Ka Huta Pastoral Area. Homily by Archbishop I.A. Kaigama.

Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18


Warm Easter greetings to you, the 181 candidates for confirmation today, and the entire parishioners of St. Monica Sauka Ka Huta Pastoral Area. The name of your Pastoral Area, translated from Hausa into English means “come down and rest.” This is a therapeutic name, inviting everyone who comes here to experience rest and peace. It is like that invitation of Jesus when He calls us (cf. Mt 11:28; 4:19) to come to learn from Him, to come and eat His body, to come and follow Him. Jesus never says, “Go away,” except to the devil who tried to truncate His mission.

Today, we reflect on the profound love and care that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd has for each one of us. In today’s Gospel, Jesus as the Good Shepherd declares that He knows His sheep and lays down His life for them. A shepherd is responsible for the well-being of his flock, guiding them to green pastures and protecting them from harm. As a doctor prescribes medications for sick patients, the doctor also requires medication when he falls ill. We must remember that our priests who are shepherds need prayers, and we also need prayers for an increase in vocations. It was with this in mind that Pope Paul VI in 1964 designated the Fourth Sunday after Easter as the annual World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

According to our statistics as of 31st December 2023, the Archdiocese of Abuja had a total Catholic population of 925,587, the baptisms done in 2023 were 8,585; 3,964 confirmations; 4,112 first Communions and 1,556. marriages. We have a total of 341 priests working in our Archdiocese, and 311 Rev. Sisters. We look forward to the ordination of more priests this year.

We pray Jesus the Good Shepherd to give us more genuine shepherds, who as Pope Francis says will be “messengers of joy, sources of new life and artisans of fraternity and peace.” We pray for shepherds who will work with dedication for the salvation of souls and not material gains. We also beg God to turn our political leaders into agents of good governance and to rid churches of charlatans who deceive people with fake miracles and dubious promises for prosperity that people don’t have to work for.

The ancient shepherd’s dedication to his flock inspired the biblical writers to speak of God as a shepherd. Since the religious leaders of Israel took God’s place on earth, they too were referred to as shepherds. Unfortunately, over time, Israel’s religious leadership deteriorated. Shepherds became corrupt and selfish. Prophet Ezekiel spoke out in God’s name saying: “Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves … you have dressed yourselves in wool …. You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost….” (Ez 34: 2ff).

It is against this background that we must read today’s gospel where Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd because He cares for the weak, and the sick; searches for the lost sheep, and even lays down His life for them.

Pope Francis asks us priests to smell like the sheep. Our political leaders too must smell like their sheep (citizens). Why we refuse to develop to greatness as a nation with all our huge economic and political potentials, is because leaders refuse to smell like their citizens, and there is the constant failure to apply resources honestly for the welfare of the people. They prefer to divert to themselves, their families, and their cronies, what is meant for the people. They even steal money they cannot finish in their lifetime! Imagine the amounts being mentioned to have been misappropriated by individual leaders! We have leaders, but most of them lack character. They prefer to bear the smell of the very expensive perfumes bought in Dubai, Paris, New York, or London, than smell like their flock. Do you blame young men and women fleeing the country to seek the Golden Fleece elsewhere? The leaders travel abroad often, where they enjoy advanced facilities such as hospitals, educational institutions, etc. They see how there is regular electricity, potable water, trains, and buses running well, health insurance, pension schemes in place, the elderly well provided for and so, leaders do not need to steal while in service. Unfortunately, our leaders would not just replicate these at home.

Jesus demonstrated sacrificial leadership by dying on the cross. Will our leaders be ready to die for their flock? Rather, they prefer their flock to die for them. Whereas Jesus cares for the weak, heals the sick, bandages the wounded, brings back the stray, and seeks out the lost, our leaders, including spiritual leaders are busy diverting resources meant for the people. Our Chibok girls and the many still languishing in the den of kidnappers are left to their fate. Most of our political “shepherds” only remember their sheep when they need their votes.

Each one of us is occupying one leadership position or the other. We are shepherds. We can find a good shepherd in every humble and God-fearing youth, in a devoted brother or sister, a good priest, a good friend, and every just and respectful police officer. Wherever there is a caring doctor, a dedicated teacher, a good cook, cleaner, or gardener, there is a good shepherd.

Pray that out of over 400 candidates who have applied for admission into our Spiritual Year Seminary for 2024/25, we shall make a good discernment to select the 25 we can afford to train and that they will become good shepherds prepared to serve God and His people with all their heart and mind.

May the Good Shepherd bless and keep each one of us and bless us with holy vocations. Amen.

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