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Pope Francis: Life is a constant call to go forth

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter’s Basilica for those Cardinals and Bishops who have died in the past year, saying that “life is a constant call to go forth”.

We provide here the full text of the homily pronounced by Pope Francis during the Mass celebrated for Deceased Cardinals and Bishops.

 

In the parable of today’s Gospel, we heard that the bridesmaids, all ten of them, “went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Mt 25:1).  For all of us, life is a constant call to go forth: from our mother’s womb, from the house where we are born, from infancy to youth, from youth to adulthood, all the way to our going forth from this world.  For ministers of the Gospel too, life is in constant movement, as we go forth from our family home to wherever the Church sends us, from one variety of service to another.  We are always on the move, until we make our final journey.

The Gospel shows us the meaning of this constant wayfaring that is life: it is a going forth to meet the Bridegroom.  This is what life is meant to be lived for: the call that resounds in the night, according to the Gospel, and which we will hear at the hour of our death: “Here is the Bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!” (v. 6).  The encounter with Jesus, the Bridegroom who “loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), gives meaning and direction to our lives.  That and nothing more.  It is the finale that illuminates everything that preceded it.  Just as the seeding is judged by the harvest, so the journey of life is shaped by its ultimate goal.

If our life is a journey to meet the Bridegroom, it is also the time we have been granted to grow in love.  Every day of our lives is a preparation for the wedding banquet, a great period of betrothal.  Let us ask ourselves: do I live like someone preparing to meet the Bridegroom?  In the ministry, amid all our meetings, activities and paperwork, we must never lose sight of the one thread that holds the entire fabric together: our expectation of the Bridegroom.  The centre of it all can only be a heart in love with the Lord.  Only in this way will the visible body of our ministry be sustained by an invisible soul.  Here we begin to realize what the Apostle tells us in the second reading: “We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18).  Let us not keep our gaze fixed on earthly affairs, but look beyond them.  It is true when they say that the really important things are invisible to our eyes.  The really important thing in life is hearing the voice of the Bridegroom.  That voice asks us daily to catch sight of the Lord who comes, and to make our every activity a means of preparation for his wedding banquet.

We are reminded of this by what the Gospel tells is the one essential thing for the bridesmaids awaiting the wedding banquet.  It is not their gowns, or their lamps, but rather the oil kept in small jars.

Here we see a first feature of oil: it is not impressive.  It remains hidden; it does not appear, yet without it there is no light.  What does this suggest to us?  That in the Lord’s eyes what matters is not appearances but the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7).  Everything that the world runs after and then parades – honours, power, appearances, glory – passes away and leaves nothing behind.  Detachment from worldly appearances is essential to our preparation for heaven.  We need to say no to the “cosmetic culture” that tells us to worry about how we look.  Instead of our outward appearance that passes away, we should purify and keep custody of our heart, our inner self, which is precious in the eyes of God.

Along with this first feature – not to be flashy but essential – there is another aspect of oil: it exists in order to be consumed.   Only when it is burned does it spread light.  Our lives are like that: they radiate light only if they are consumed, if they spend themselves in service.  The secret to live is to live to serve.  Service is the ticket to be presented at the door of the eternal wedding banquet.  Whatever will remain of life, at the doorstep of eternity, is not what we gained but what we gave away (cf. Mt 6:19-21; 1 Cor 13:8).  The meaning of life is found in our response to God’s offer of love.  And that response is made up of true love, self-giving and service.  Serving others involved a cost, since it involves spending ourselves, letting ourselves be consumed.  In our ministry, those who do not live to serve do not de-serve to live.  Those who hold on too tightly to their lives will lose them.

A third feature of oil is clearly present in the Gospel: it must be prepared.  Oil has to be stored up ahead of time and carried with one (cf. vv. 4, 7).  Love is certainly spontaneous, but it is not impromptu.  It was precisely by their lack of preparation that the bridesmaids excluded from the wedding banquet showed their foolishness.  Now is the time for preparation: here and now, day by day, love has to be stored up and fostered.  Let us ask for grace to renew daily our first love with the Lord (cf. Rev 2:4), lest its flame die out.  It is a great temptation to sink into a life without love, which ends up being like an empty vase, a snuffed lamp.  If we do not invest in love, life will stifle it.  Those called to God’s wedding feast cannot be content with a sedentary, flat and humdrum life that plods on without enthusiasm, seeking petty satisfactions and pursuing fleeting rewards.  A dreary and predictable life, content to carry out its duties without giving of itself, is unworthy of the Bridegroom.

As we pray for the Cardinals and Bishops who have passed away in this last year, let us beg the intercession of all those who lived unassuming lives, content to prepare daily to meet the Lord.  Following the example of these witnesses, who praise God are all around us in great numbers, let us not be content with a quick glance at this day and nothing else.  Instead, let us desire to look farther ahead, to the wedding banquet that awaits us.  A life burning with desire for God and trained by love will be prepared to enter the chamber of the Bridegroom, for all eternity.

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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