CATHOLIC Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, has described 2016 as a very turbulent year especially for the underprivileged in the country, reports Sam Eyoboka.
He prayed for a better new year, and expressed hope that the new year will turn out to be a better year for the people of this country.
Cardinal Okogie, in his New Year homily, said: “We have just lived through another year of turbulence. We have witnessed terrorist acts in the world and in our country. Nigeria continues to be in crisis. Our political situation offers much cause for concern. Our economy faces difficulties that confound its managers. Our moral and infrastructural deficit has broken all records. We live in what appears to be a state of permanent insecurity of lives and property. Abductors and avengers, herdsmen and insurgents make us restless in the day and sleepless at night.
The primary responsibility of government is to protect us and our land. But government has consistently failed to convince Nigerians that it is able and willing to assume this sacred responsibility thrusted on it by the Nigerian constitution. Nigeria is like a ship caught in a tempest while the helmsmen seem not to know what to do to salvage the situation. Instead of engaging in dialogue, government officials talk down on the people and sometimes embarrass dissenting voices.
Drawing inspiration from the Yuletide message, Cardinal Okogie contends that despite our concerns, at the beginning of a new year, “we are still filled with the joy of the coming of our God as a little child, and we are filled with hope that the presence of the Almighty will be our strength. Present to us and set before our eyes of faith is the Infant Jesus. The God whom we cannot see has come to us as a child we can see. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus in the manger, and we shall see the presence of our Mighty God in a tiny and fragile little child.”
According to him, God has always shown himself to be present to us in the helplessness of our human weakness, “the helplessness we experience in a real way in Nigeria today. For this reason, unlike some people, we are not looking for predictions mistaken for prophecies. Our role as Christian leaders is not to be fortune tellers or star gazers. Our role is to give the people hope in the midst of their fears. Only those who are afraid of the future are looking for predictions. Those who have faith leave the future in the hands of God. They have confidence to face the future. Come what may, we believe our God is with us. And because he is with us, we are not afraid.”
Continuing, Okogie further averred that our greatest asset in life is neither the money we have nor the expensive property we keep, but rather the presence of God in our lives. “God makes himself present to us in his Son born for us in Bethlehem. God is present to us in his word proclaimed to us in every liturgical celebration, especially in the Mass. God is really present to us and in our lives when we receive the Holy Eucharist. And because God is present to us, we are never alone. Even when our friends desert us, even when our leaders disappoint us, we are not alone, because God is with us. May the year we have just begun be a year in which we deepen our awareness of the presence of the Son of God in our lives.
“We enter every year with uncertainty in our hearts. That uncertainty puts fear in many people. Fear can only be in us if we have no faith. But we are men and women of faith. We have faith in a God who is present, loving, and caring. May he accompany us throughout this year, and may his presence be our strength at all times.
“In spite of what we experience as a country, let us be grateful and faithful to God for giving us the strength to continue to survive. And if we are faithful to our vocation to holiness, our vocation to love, things will be better for us and for our country Nigeria. Let us always remember that fidelity is the attitude of gratitude. When one is grateful to God for his blessings, one shows this gratitude by being faithful to the Lord and to his teachings.
“Let us pray for peace and justice in our land, for the grace of fidelity in gratitude, for the grace to be good Christians and good citizens,” he urged Christians.