Responsive Adsense

Thank you for visiting. In honour of the 5th anniversary of Uwakwe Reflections, we have relocated to a bigger platform at www.uwakwereflections.org. Do meet us there.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah’s Sermon on the Occasion of the Thanksgiving of Chief Jim Nwobodo at Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu on January 10, 2016



When I saw two missed calls from Jim Nwobodo over a week ago, I decided to return the call immediately. He sounded quite excited when he answered the call and then went straight to the point. I have good news for you, he said.

I have decided to join the Catholic Church and I want to specially invite you to be at the Mass in Enugu on January 10th. I congratulated him and said I would check with my Diary to see if I had a window. I used the chance to first call the Bishop of Enugu, His Lordship, Bishop Onaga to intimate him of the invitation. He too sounded quite excited and went on to tell me some of the good things that Chief Nwobodo had done for the Catholic Church during his tenure as Governor of Anambra State. 

He added his voice to the invitation and by the time we had ended, he asked if I could take the Sermon for the day. Two days later, I again saw two missed calls or so from His Eminence, Antony Cardinal Okogie, the emeritus Archbishop of Lagos. I returned his call immediately. After the pleasantries, he confirmed enthusiastically that Chief Nwobodo had also invited him. He said despite his health, he would see if he can make the trip. Two days ago, I again saw two missed calls from him.


I returned the call and he said he did not think his health would permit him to make the trip. Please, he said, try and go there to support him and also use the opportunity to represent me too. Cardinal Onaiyekan also said he had been invited but he could not make it. A combination of these star studded invitations left me little room to manouvre and that is why I am here.Understandably, this Cathedral is having one of the biggest crowds it has ever had barring either priestly ordinations or Sisters making their final vows. 

Many people would be tempted to wonder why a simple event of this nature should attract so much attention. Well, I recall what happened in Kano some time in the 80s when most of the prominent Muslims across Nigeria trooped to Kano to formally receive Chief Nzeribe who was alleged to have converted to Islam. Those who remember will recall that the huge crowd finally dispersed because Chief Nzeribe finally did not show up!Our presence here will naturally elicit curiosity among friends and foes. 

There are former and current political and business associates, family friends, school mates and so on. Whatever may be your reasons for being here, we are glad that the Nwobodo family has brought us here to rejoice with them. We are gathered not to judge for as Pope Francis has warned us: Human beings, whenever they judge, look no further than the surface while the father looks into the very depth of the soul. How much harm words do when they are motivated by jealousy and envy. 

To speak ill of others puts them in bad light, undermines their reputation and leaves them prey to whims of gossip. As pastors, we judge no one who approaches God’s door of Mercy to which we are mere gatekeepers. So I am here to encourage Chief Nwobodo to kneel before God and in the words of the publican say, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner (Lk.18:13).Please do not be mistaken. We are not here to celebrate what for some might be a big catch. We are not celebrating a victory, nor should anyone feel a sense of loss or defeat. 

The Catholic Church has not gone out fishing to find Chief Nwobodo. To the extent that we are all Christians, children of God, his decision to come to the Catholic Church is at best a return home. I say return home for reasons that all of us who are Christians already know.

I do not need to bore you, but at least we know that before 1517, every Christian was Catholic. As such, today we know that:
If you are Lutheran the your Church was founded by Fr Martin Luther in Germany in 1517
If you are Menonite, your Church was founded by Grebel, Mantz and Blaurock, in 1525
If you are Anglican, then your Church was founded by King Henry XIII in 1534
If you are a Presbyterian, then your Church was founded by John Knox in 1560
If you are a Congregationalist, then your Church was founded by Robert Brown, in Holland in 1583
If you are Baptist, then your Church was founded by John Smith in Amsterdam, in 1606If you are a Methodist, then your Church was founded by John Murray in New Jersey, in 1770
If you are a Mormon or Latter Day Saint, then your church was founded by Joseph Smith in New York, in 1829
If you are a Seven Day Adventist, your Church was founded by William Miller in 1831
If you are Salvation Army, then know that your Church was founded by William Booth in 1865
If you are Jehovah Witness, then know that your Church was founded by Charles Russell in 1872Here at home,
if you are Redeemed Christian Church of God, then you know that you were founded in 1952 by Josiah Akindayomi
If you are a member of Deeper Life Bible Church, then you were founded by Pastor William Kumuyi in Lagos in 1973
If you are Mountain of Fire, then you were founded by Dr. Daniel Olukoya in 1989. We can go on and on. 

I am listing this not to denigrate anyone but just to set the records straight. The Catholic Church has remained where it has been since Christ instituted the Eucharist, called the Last Supper. 

We continue to do over and over what He commanded when He uttered those holy words over the bread and cup, take and eat, take and drink and ordered them to do this in His Memory until He comes again (Mt. 26:26). So, we were founded by Jesus Christ, beginning with that gathering at Pentecost (Acts 2:1) over two thousand years ago led by 266 successors of the Chair of St. Peter. 

That is who we are and what we represent.We must give thanks and praise to God our Father Almighty for the gift of the Holy Spirit which has inspired and continues to inspire thousands of men and women to give glory to His name. it is not in our place to judge anyone except that we both as Christians or citizens have a duty to listen to St. John who has enjoined us not to believe everyone who claims to be guided by the spirit. John calls on us to; test every spirit to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone into the world (1 Jn. 4:1). 

There is no gainsaying that a highly criminalized and fraudulent society has continued to answer the calls of various kinds of spirits and prophets who produce prophesies to suit the social, economic and political fraud of the moment. In a dysfunctional society such as ours, where the corruption of the moment his produced a culture of relativity, we now have a society whose moral compass is constantly shifting to adjust to the expectations of the moment. 

The Nigerian economy and political systems are merely paying lip service to international norms of scientific conduct and relations. Economic prosperity or political processes and outcomes are neither the result of sound economic policies but the magic of spiritual entrepreneurs who prey the political landscape prowling on the unwary with the greed of lions looking for whom to devour (1 Pet 5:8). 

It is not clear whether winners of elections should praise and trust the efficacy of Electoral machinery or the efficacy of prophets and prayer warriors. This moral ambiguity has placed religion under scrutiny. 

What impact has Christianity made in our society? If the illiterate men that Jesus called and finally handed His Gospel to were able to take it to the ends of the earth, how come we are seemingly unable to make the world feel the impact of Christianity? Jesus told His successors to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, but warned them to drop all earthly means of support and power: Carry no clothes, money, sandals and so on ( Lk. 9:3, 10:4).

Today, it seems the burden of wealth, power and position have become obstacles to the impact of Christianity. On a day like this, we must seek to return to the true message of our Lord and Saviour.Since the election of Pope Francis, the 266th Pontiff on March 13th, 2013, the entire world has had to sit up and see the Catholic Church completely differently. A Church that had been vilified and become morally demoralized has suddenly leapt into public life, re-igniting the world with curiosity, enthusiasm and excitement among non-Catholics, non-Christians and non-believers. 

Today the Catholic Church is enjoying a re-awakening and vitality that was unthinkable barely four years ago. Indeed, on January 4, this year, Deepak Chopra wrote an article which was published on the Yahoo website titled, Will Pope Francis become a Holy Man for the world? The article from a non-Christian was a song of praise for how Pope Francis has brought freshness and simplicity into the Catholic Church leading to a new awakening around the world. 

Chief Nwobodo has responded to this new voice and all we can say is: This is the Lord’s doing, we rejoice and it is marvelous in our eyes (Ps 118: 23, Mk. 12:11).In confronting these realities, Pope Francis has literally set out to re-awaken our consciousness of our understanding of the faith itself and our challenge as evangelisers.
He was barely six months a Pope when he published his Apostolic Exhortation titled, Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel on November 24th, 2014. Central to his message has been the need to re-enkindle the spirit of the joys of the good news brought to us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He called on Christians not to behave or look like men and women coming back from a funeral but to become joyful. He called on priests not to turn the confessional into torture chambers where penitents experience psychological crisis and pain instead of the liberating message of Christ our Redeemer.Indeed, Pope Francis in the same Document warned Christians of six types of robberies that they must look out against. In order not to be robbed of the joy of the gospel, the Pope enjoins Christians to imbibe the fragrance of the Gospel. Then, he proceeded to warn Christians against being robbed of the Joy of Evangelisation, joy of Hope, joy of a sense of Community, joy of the Gospel, joy of fraternal love, and joy of Missionary vigour. It is against this background that the Holy Father enjoined Consecrated Men and Women to wake up the world to the realities of the joys of being a Christian today.

Another key component of the preoccupation of Pope Francis has been the message of what I will call the Gospel of Mercy. At a time when Nigeria is writhen in the pain and convulsion of corruption, a disease that has ravaged every artery of our body, we must hear this message. Today our disfigured country is paying the price for the affliction of corruption. We now have a country that is more divided than almost at any time in our history, a society largely socially and culturally disoriented, a country where a substantial percentage of office holders are far less competent and motivated towards doing good, than those they lead, a country whose growth has been arrested and stunted. We are paying for the years and years of outrageous and gargantuan corruption perpetuated by the insatiable and irresponsible appetite of its elite. 

Today, with wide oceans of inequality between public officers and the rest of Nigeria, violence and anger are the identity cards carried by the victims.Our leaders say that we cannot develop in an environment of violence and instability. What they fail to accept is that the violence in society is the reaction of the victims. The Pope said: The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. 

When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility.I want to appeal to the Igbo political and religious elite to close ranks and take charge of the future of the people of this area.
Please learn from the mistakes of the elites elsewhere when politics was allowed to trump the urgent task of community building. You must take charge and by negotiation and using back room channels, improve on the quality of the sound of the music produced by your Youth. Do not ignore them but in patience, process and improve on the quality of their sound. You enjoy ethnic, moral and cultural harmony to a large degree since you loosely speak one tongue and are predominantly Christians. So, as St. Paul said to the Colossians, Let the message of Christ in all its riches fill your hearts, use it to teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16). You have lessons from the tragedy of the war and you have lessons from within and outside Nigeria of allowing youth frustration and restiveness to gestate. 

There is a saying in Hausa: If you see your brother’s beard on fire, put water on your own. Let men and women of courage become peacemakers. The time is now and the place to start is here. May the Lord inspire you. We Catholics, nay Christians, must turn our Religion into a force for good. Today, neo-paganism and Voodooism have combined to poison the message of Christianity. It is a tragedy that while calling themselves Christians, many of our political and economic elite continue to traverse the length and breathe of Nigeria seeking for prophets, priests, to compel God to answer their wishes. The central message of Christ was not miracles or prophesies or even healings, at least not in the dramatic way we now see them as they are calculated to call attention the powerful men of God. While our so called men of God are putting out posters and selling all kinds of dubious wares, they must ask how this compares with Jesus simply went about doing good, Jesus who went into hiding when they were about to take him and make him King by force(Acts 10:30, Jn. 6:15). 

My dear friends, brothers and sisters, this gathering should remind us of the need to remake a broken world such as ours. It is a time for us to recall the father of love and compassion. We are being called by a Merciful God who does not keep record of our sins but asks us to forgive seventy times seven times (Mt. 18:22), the one who overlooked the scandalous lives of men and women unacceptable to society but welcomed by him as in the call of Matthew(Mt. 9:9, or Zacheus, Lk.19:1ff, ate with sinners(Mt. 9:11, or allowed the woman with a bad name and reputation to anoint him and kiss his feet (Lk. 7: 36ff). 

The challenge for us Christians is to ask how we allowed Mercy to slip out of the grammar of Christianity. How did raw power and the quest for vengeance take centre stage in the daily grammar of our lives as we have today? We hear such sayings as Do me I do you, God no go vex, Return to Sender, Holy Ghost fire, all as metaphors for vengeance and the quest for afflictions of our enemies, all in sharp contrast to what Jesus Himself has taught us. We Christians can and must change our world. Again, Pope Francis has said, Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and power.So on this day of the baptism of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may the Lord of mercy let His blessing come down upon us. To our friend and brother Chief Nwobodo, we commit you and your entire family to God asking for mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. We thank the Anglican Church for nurturing you all these years. Those who think that their loss is our gain are mistaken. We are not building empires or playing politics. We are working in the Lord’s vineyard as His servants. We have a duty to show the light to the rest of our society. So, there is neither room for sulking nor triumphalism, let us close ranks as leaders of Christ’s faithful. 

We should thank Patricia, his wife whose dutiful commitment to the Church must have served as an inspiration both to her husband and children. God bless your family. In the end, we are a family of God’s children and doing His work in faithfulness defies the boundaries of our denominations. So, in prayer, let us close ranks. May God bless the people of Enugu State, may He bless and give peace to Nigeria.

2 comments:

  1. I am privileged to be a Catholic ,I cherished my faith may our lord Jesus Christ preserve me to the very end.Amen

    ReplyDelete

DISCLAIMER: Comments, remarks and observations are allowed to enable my readers freely express their opinions concerning issues raised in this post. However, while I recommend the observance of the rule of courtesy for every comment, comments on this post do not in any way express my personal opinion. They are strictly the opinions of those who made the comments.

Print Friendly

Subscribe to our posts through E-mail