The Word of God inspires Love, Unity and Peace
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A; Sunday of the Word of God; 22.01.2023, St. Michael’s Parish, Kagini, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama
Readings: Is. 8:23-9:3, 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 17, Matt. 4:12-23.
The Word of God inspires Love, Unity and Peace
The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time has since 2019 been designated as the “Sunday of the Word of God,” following the declaration of the Holy Father, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter, “Aperuit illis.” Special emphasis is to be made on this day on the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God. St. Jerome’s popular saying: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” is very apt. When we ignore the Scripture, we ignore one of those pillars on which the Church stands and we can neither grow in the knowledge of God nor in holiness.
In the first reading today, Isaiah offers hope to the people. This hope comes from the fact that God has manifested his light on all nations. The territories of Zebulun and Naphtali (old names for Galilee), had suffered under the Assyrian king, Tiglath- Pileser III. Prophet Isaiah foresaw a reversal in their fortunes: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in the land of deep shadow a light has shown… they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest ….” (Is. 9:2-3). As Isaiah foresaw a future restoration of the Israelites by the Messiah, St Matthew, saw that the prophecy came to pass when Jesus came to Galilee.
In the second reading, St Paul responds to the crisis in the Church in Corinth by directing their attention to Christ crucified. He expressed his disappointment over the conduct of the Corinthian Christians, and rebuked them for their divisive behaviour. Each Christian faction in Corinth picked for itself a hero among its first Christian teachers and idolized them instead of focusing on Christ. Paul appealed for harmony, because where Christ is present, there should be a spirit of unity, solidarity and collaboration instead of divisions and rivalries. The division Paul referred to was perhaps less destructive than what we have in our country. Our crisis is incubated in religious fanaticism and ethnic bigotry, hatching grievous social disorder, whereby priests are killed in the most barbaric manner and citizens attacked, kidnapped or killed on a regular basis, and yet, perpetrators of such devilish acts are never identified and dealt with as a deterrent to others!
Paul draws our attention to the very essence of the good news and counsels that we should not betray the good news of Christ: “I urge you my brothers and sisters that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind, and in the same purpose” (1 Cor. 1:10).
This Sunday in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) we begin the week-long “Prayer for Christian Unity,” with the theme: “Do Good; Seek Justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Our prayer intention is the unity among Christians in line with the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21, “that they may all be one”.
Following the tradition which I had initiated while I was the Plateau State Chairman of CAN, and which I encouraged upon my arrival in the FCT, we started to move from church to church of the different denominations to celebrate the week of prayer for Christian unity. It has been successful so far, but we need more participation by all Christians in the FCT.
The schedule for 2023 begins today:
Sunday, 22nd January, at the National Christian Centre (organized by the Planning Committee).
Monday, 23rd January, at Holy Rosary, Catholic Church, Wuse Zone 2 (Catholic Bloc).
Tuesday, 24th January, at ECWA Wuse 2, Blantyre Crescent (ECWA/TEKAN).
Wednesday, 25th January, UNITY VISITATION.
Thursday, 26th January, at Christ Holy Int’l Area 1 (OAIC).
Friday, 27th January, at All Christian Fellowship Mission, Maitama (CPCN/PFN Bloc).
Saturday, 28th January, at Basilica of Grace, Gudu, Anglican Girls Grammar School Compound (CCN).
Sunday, 29th January, at the National Christian Centre (organized by Committee).
Today’s Gospel narrates the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He called ordinary fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James and John by the Sea of Galilee) for the extraordinary mission of preaching the “Good News”, The message is summed up in this sentence: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” (Mt. 4:17)
Preaching the message of repentance is an urgent and important message for us because we live in a society that is so polarized along political, religious and ethnic lines. We must learn to rise beyond the little things that divide us, so as to embrace and appreciate those basic things that unite us. With our individual behaviour, unique talents and distinctive attributes, each one of us is needed to enrich the kingdom of God; to bear witness to the gospel message. The Lord’s call is twofold: to follow him (a disciple must first learn from Christ before being sent) and to become fishers of men.
As we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of not only knowing and appreciating the Word of God, but also in proclaiming it in our respective communities, schools, workplaces, families, circles of friends and acquaintances, and even to strangers whom we encounter daily in our lives. We cannot however be effective careers of the good news, unless we have a good understanding of the Scriptures.
To the Parish Priest of St. Michael’s Kagini, Fr. Sebastian Sanni, the 240 candidates for confirmation and the entire parishioners, you are challenged today to be zealous missionaries; to be exemplary in faith and unity and to do nothing to promote the culture of disharmony. I enjoin you to joyfully join the prayer for Christian unity today at the National Christian Centre, since your Parish Priest is the FCT Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). We need to come together to pray for one another and for our nation as the general elections draw nearer; and to remind ourselves to continue to radiate the light and goodness of Christ.