3 October 2010
Homily of Bishop Éamonn Walsh at Mass to celebrate Nigerian Independence Day
It is a privilege and honour for me to be among you today here in the Spiritan Church of Kimmage Manor; the home of the Spiritan Fathers, where the faith-filled and courageous member, Bishop Joseph Shanahan will forever be revered from the moment he made his way up the Niger.
You are joined by many Missionary Sisters, Brothers and Fathers, lay missionaries, and development workers who have given such loving service to the people of Nigeria.
We gather in prayer for the people of Nigeria at home and abroad. We pray for your political leaders, your Church leaders and for the forthcoming Presidential Election in 2011.
We remember the people who so tragically died on Friday following the Abuja car bombing; we remember their families and we pray for peace and commit ourselves to work for peace.
Working and fighting for Independence as a nation is something Nigeria and Ireland have in common. With it comes joy and national pride; with it comes responsibilities. Sadly conflict and civil war are often companions along the growth in Independence. Today we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Nigerian Independence which began with Jaja Wakuku receiving the ‘Freedom Charter’.
People of all faiths and none share the responsibility of building Nigeria into a nation that cherishes all its peoples equally, regardless of tribe, creed or circumstances. People of all faiths have a special contribution to make through living the richness of their faith and putting it at the service of the country through lives of loving service.
Religious belief ought to be an enrichment to a nation and all of society. Sadly it has often been used as a force for division and war. Such use of religion is a disservice to any religious faith and is a distortion of its core truth.
For Christians the Word of God is our centre of gravity. The Word of God is the lamp for our steps. I would like to reflect on that Word and soak our minds and hearts in its relevance for today.
If we have the mind of Jesus Christ then we need not be afraid, or lack confidence, knowing that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus and that he is our companion on the journey. In Jesus is found righteousness – it is ours as a gift we follow in faith.
This wisdom was pointed out by Habecuk in the first reading.
‘You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the upright will live through faithfulness’.
Praying the Word of God constantly gives that spirit of uprightness.
The second reading has that beautiful image of fanning the flame:
‘I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift of God that you possess through the laying on of my hands”.
If we can do that then we will be equipped to respond to what St. Catherine of Sienna exhorted. “If you are what you should be, you can set the world on fire”.
The Gospel has the Apostles asking Jesus to ‘increase our faith’. Jesus uses a powerful image in reply. “If you had faith like a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you”. On another occasion he uses the image of faith moving mountains. These examples are not to be taken literally, but to be understood as saying to the Apostles and today to each one of us, if I ask God in faith to walk with me; allow God freely to work in and through me, then nothing is impossible to God and we need not to be afraid no matter what mountain we may have to climb; no matter what obstacle or challenge we may have to face.
This is an outstanding invitation and promise. It is much different to willpower; much different to positive thinking and the power of mind over matter. This is walking hand in hand with God; this is soaking my mind and heart in the Word of God – reflecting on what Jesus said and showed us by example. This is walking in Jesus’ footsteps and allowing him to walk in our shoes. Once we begin to do that, we will find ourselves seeking to be of service to one another, to our country, through living our faith.
You are the Nigerian Irish. You are a people of ancient and rich culture and deep faith. When you meet and greet you have such genuine time and interest in each other. You are not like some of us who politely say, how are you? but hope you will not tell us because we are in a hurry! This is just one example of how you are enriching our culture.
Independence is being free; for the Christian it is being free to be my brothers and sisters keeper. It is being free to be of loving service to one another, to our homeland and to our country of residence. You can be of service to Nigeria and to Ireland as Nigerian Irish.
Pope Benedict in addressing the African Synod of Bishops draw their attention to the fact that God’s plan does not change – ‘Through the centuries and upheavals of history, he always points to the same goals; the Kingdom of Peace and Freedom for all… we think in particular of the brothers and sisters in Africa who suffer from poverty, disease, injustice, war, violence forced migration. All of this too was part of our history here in Ireland.
As Irish we have to continue our commitment to those in greatest need overseas. Needs are relative, and inward-looking eyes can easily block our global view of life.
Pope Benedict continues in his address to the African Synod of Bishops: ‘Courage! Get on your feet Continent of Africa, land that welcomed the Saviour of the world when as a child he had to flee with Joseph and Mary to Egypt for safety during Herod’s persecution. Welcome with renewed enthusiasm the proclamation of the Gospel so that the face of Christ might illuminate with its splendour the multiplicity of the cultures and languages of your populations”!
Today, I invite you to be the face of Christ here in Ireland so that as sisters and brothers we can walk with God and let God live in and through us as native and as Nigerian Irish.
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678