AT A TIME LIKE THIS {IN NIGERIA}: PAYING OUR DUES TO GOD AND THE STATE. – HOMILY

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HOMILY 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YR A. WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2020

{Is. 45:1.4-6; Ps. 95:1.3-5.7-10; I Thess.1 :1-5; Mtt. 22:15-16

On this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr. A, we celebrate the 94th World Mission Sunday with first been in 1926. The Theme for this year’s celebration is lifted from Isaiah 6:8, “HERE AM I, SEND. Dear friends, mission and evangelization is central to the life of the Church. It is the reason for her being and without it she ceases to exist. The Church therefore exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection

The theme for this year’s WMS, “Here am I, send me” is an ever new Response to the Lord’s invitation and question – “Whom shall I send?” In his meditation at St. Peter’s Square on 27th March, 2020 the Holy Father, Pope Francis remarked, “like the disciples we were caught off guard and unprepared by an unexpected turbulent storm. We have realized that we are all on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to grow together, each of us in need of comfort yet comforting the other. On this boat, are all of us. Just like those disciples who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying, “We are, perishing’, so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together we can do this…”

“Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church…The Mission, ‘the Church on the move’, is not a programme, an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you…” Pope Francis, Message of 2020 WMS

In all these, let us ask ourselves – are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and listen to the call to mission either as Individuals, Married couples, Ordained ministers, consecrated persons or singles? Are we completely like Mary whose will is whole submitted to the service of God’s will – Lk. 1:38? Are we ready always to build up through the power of the Holy Spirit the body of Christ, the Church? In all these, interior openness is essential if we are to genuinely say to God – Here am I, send? (Is. 6:8) when and if He comes asking – Whom shall I send?

PAYING OUR DUES TO GOD AND THE STATE – A TRUE TIME TO BE ALIVE AND A NIGERIAN

Today’s Gospel reminds us of our dual citizenship/obligation, the first to God and the other to the state, our country (Nigeria). We are citizens of the world and citizens of Heaven. We have  allegiance and an obligations to each.  And the obligations will never and should never clash because the second is founded on the first. But if they ever do, we must resolve them through the voice of the Conscience, God’s special gift and law imprinted in our hearts for discernment and decision according to His will without compromise to our God or to our conscience.

Perhaps we can illustrate all this with one case, that of St. Thomas Moore, the English martyr who was councilor to King Henry VIII and Lord High Chancellor of England. Robert Bolt dramatized More’s conflict – regarding what is Caesar’s and what is God’s – in the drama, A Man for All Seasons.

Recall the story of Thomas’s conflict with King Henry VIII. King Henry VIII of England was, by Papal dispensation, validly married to Catherine of Aragon, his elder brother’s widow. Seeking a male heir and attracted to Anne Boelyn, Henry appealed to Rome again to have his marriage to Catherine annulled – which would mean that the Papal dispensation had been sinful! Rome refused. Henry took matters into his own hands, declared himself Head of the Church in England and “married” Anne. He then ordered his friends and officials to sign a document declaring that they agreed he had acted rightly in the matter.

Many of Moore’s friends signed, but Moore refused. Henry demanded that he sign or face arrest, trial for treason, and execution by the state. Moore refused: he knew he had two obligations, one to God and one to his country. When they conflicted, More knew he had no choice but to remain faithful to his obligation to God.

On his way to public execution in 1534, Moore encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the Faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

In the past few days now running into weeks, so many of us have reasons again to be proud as a people, united in one mind and one heart, seeking the common good of all and an end to ineptitude, bad governance, maladministration, police/SARs brutality (Military brutality), indifference to national security, High cost of governance, fighting corruption with deodorants rather than insecticides and sheltox. It is a time when the voice of truth roars heavily in protest and self assertion through our gallant and vibrant youths and well meaning Nigerians of all walks of life – from religious leaders to secular celebrities (Falz, Mr Macaroni, Brother Shaggi, Davido, etc). I congratulate and thank every Nigerian that have by action and word and through social media lend their voices to this common struggle.

We have a rekindled hope in our Mother, Nigeria, we can sing  with Pride our National Anthem, “Arise O Compatriot…” yet prayerfully, ask the “God of creation to Direct our Noble Course, and guide our Leaders right, Know Him truly and inspire their decision. And to obey her clarion call to tend and grow our Father’s land. May the Labours of our heroes past never be in vain. Young Nigerians are simply paying the due to Caesar, in the Protest and it has been 90% very peaceful amidst reports of malicious and supposedly sponsored miscreates and agents of darkness that had surfaced as well. The voice of truth can never be silent.

God won’t do for us what he has bestowed us with the capacities to do for ourselves. To say Nigeria is a country blessed with abundant resources, both human and natural, is to simply make a repetition of known and obvious truth. The tragedy is that we have failed her and also failed to realize that our Mother Nigeria has enough for our needs but not enough for our Greed.

1) We need to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”: How?

It is the duty of Christians and all citizens of the country, to pay for the services and the privileges that government provides, like paved roads, police and fire departments, banks, schools, and other necessities. If we refuse to pay taxes, how will these needs be met? In Nigeria, what is our current state – we pay tax directly or indirectly and for those who don’t, we urge ourselves to do the needful. But in Nigeria, we have horrific structures soaked in corruption. Thus, leading to lack of social securities, increasing poverty, death trap high ways called roads, universities bereft of amenities, lack of social amenities, thanks to the corona virus that has exposed how bad the health system has been. It would have been worst. The least is endless.

Another way of “giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is to participate actively in the running of the government, electing the most suitable candidates and influencing them through frequent contacts. Third, we must submit to the civil authorities and respect the just laws of our country in order to live in peace. As loyal citizens, we must also see to it that our elected representatives are faithful in maintaining law and order in the country and in promoting the welfare of all its citizens without violating God’s laws. We urge Catholics to take active parts in politics, this is the calling of the Catholic Action. Go and transform it.

In his recently released (Oct. 4th, 2020) encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (All Brothers) the Holy Father reminds us that, “the task of politics is to find a solution to everything that violates fundamental human rights, such as social exclusion, trafficking of persons, drugs, sexual exploitation, slave labour, organized crimes, etc. What we need is a politics that is centered on human dignity. He says, we must transcend from the politics “towards the poor” to a politics with the poor.

2) We need to “give to God what is God’s.” How?

Since everything is God’s, we must give ourselves to Him 100%, not just 10% on Sundays. We should be generous in fulfilling our Sunday obligations, and we should find time every day for prayer and worship in the family, for the reading of the Bible and the proper training of our children in Faith and morals.

We are invited each year to make a stewardship pledge of our financial offering to the local Church for the coming year. Our contribution to the parish Church should be an expression of our gratitude to God, giving back to God all that He has given us. Active participation in the various ministries of the parish is an offering to God of our time and talents, yet another way of giving to God His due, our whole self.

 


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