True Wisdom and Selfless Leadership

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time A, 30th July, 2023, Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama

Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

True Wisdom and Selfless Leadership

Today we are reminded that the Kingdom of God is the greatest of all treasures, greater than silver and gold. We are called as Christians to give up all else for the kingdom of God. Our decision for the kingdom of God should therefore not be delayed or postponed.

Today’s first reading describes the attitude of King Solomon before God shortly after he succeeded his father David as the king of Israel. David had fought many wars and conquered great pagan nations, and settled the people of Israel and established Jerusalem as the capital of their nation. The reading says, King Solomon “used to sacrifice at Gibeon… where he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon during the night that Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘ask what you want me to give you’” (1 Kgs. 3:4-5).

King Solomon asked God to give him an understanding mind to governing the people and to discern between good and evil. He asked for a gift that would enable him to function well as a leader. Solomon felt he was too young and inexperienced to govern his people. He knew that a king could be misled by emotions, passions, and rash decisions; tempted to assume false powers and he could make the wrong allies that might lead to the fall of the kingdom. Solomon, rather than asking for wealth, connections, increase in military might, destruction of his enemies, etc., instead asked God for wisdom: “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kgs. 3:9). God was pleased to grant him this request. God gave him a mind capable of noticing what others overlook, a heart that truly identifies with his people, to act compassionately, and to be sensitive to people’s needs and potentials.

These qualities are deficient in many African leaders because they are driven not by the desire to serve their people with the fear of God as Solomon did. Leaders must seek wisdom that is beyond knowledge from books; wisdom that leads them to be compassionate, sensitive, and to show love and mercy to their subjects. Unfortunately, some people who think they are rich or knowledgeable or powerful, say they don’t believe in God. The Bible says only a fool says, “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1).

Only those with true wisdom will understand Jesus when he compares the Kingdom of God to a treasure in a field; to a pearl of great value; and to a net thrown in the sea collecting all kinds of fish. Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven is hidden, but of surpassing value and that seeking this kingdom should remain our utmost priority.

Our second reading offers us a consolation by assuring us that nothing that happens – disasters, violent conflicts, and other evils are new to God. God, who cannot be taken by surprise can turn everything unto good for His children.

We are living in times when the temptation to exclude God from our daily life is increasing, especially among those who are in positions of authority or endowed with great knowledge. Fortunately, Chief Mrs. Felicia Sani, OON, does not belong to that category. For her, nothing is more precious than the kingdom of heaven. God’s wisdom has guided her since she was born on 22nd July, 1937. With a B.Sc. in Banking and Finance, founder of various market Associations in Benin City, Jos, Abuja and the founder of Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria; a mother of 4 children, 13 grand children and 2 great grand children; she believes that her achievements in life are due to God’s graces and blessings. We celebrate her specially today just as the Pope asks us to celebrate grandparents and the elderly every year. Happy 86th birthday Mama Felicia! May you continue to enjoy spiritual and bodily freshness. We wish you God’s blessings and more joyous years ahead.

Today also in this Mass, we celebrate with the management and officers of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), as they mark the 20th anniversary of its establishment which coincides with the 2023 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. I congratulate the Director-General, Professor Fatima Waziri-Azi and her team members for the great milestones they have achieved over the years. We remain united in the fight against trafficking of persons. God bestowed every human being with dignity; to be loved and respected. Human beings do not deserve to be violated or treated as objects of commerce. Please be assured of our prayers and support, through the collaboration of our social arm, the Justice, Development and Peace (Caritas) Commission.

Like Solomon, God has given our leaders blank cheques, but they choose to write only things about riches and power. Leadership is not merely a position for power but rather an opportunity for personal sacrifice and service. From Solomon, who, though a young leader, was deeply concerned about the well-being of the people he was governing, we learn a fundamental principle that leadership is not about personal gain but of service.

May God endow our leaders with the spirit of selflessness and genuine care about the masses. Leaders should not focus on “what is there for me?” They should prioritize the needs of the people rather than their personal gains and comfort. The present hardship experienced by the people is telling. I just returned from my village where I could see desperation and frustration written on the faces of many.

Let us pray for true wisdom for our leaders and followers, that like King Solomon, we may live according to God’s will so that all things may work for our good.

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