A REFLECTION AT THE OPENING MASS BY ARCHBISHOP KAIGAMA DURING THE 5TH STANDING COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE REGIONAL EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF WEST AFRICA IN ASSINIE, IVORY COAST, 29th MARCH, 2017.
“Behold these shall come from afar , and behold , these from the north and from the west…. sing for joy … and exult, break forth into singing” (Is 49: 12-13).
It is by God’s loving guidance and protection that we are here in Ivory Coast. Thank you for your warm and cordial welcome to Assinie, where the Christian missionaries first arrived in Ivory Coast. We the Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops have come from Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana and Nigeria and we arrived here safely travelling in that big object that lifts itself from the ground and flies non-stop until it lands, carrying hundreds of people. If I were to come here by foot from Jos, I would have not done perhaps up to 100 kilometers by now, if by road from Jos, maybe I would still be in Lagos! I ask the question: is this fast modern means of travel because of technological ingenuity or the wisdom of man? For me it reveals God’s power at work, the same power he gave Moses to work signs and wonders. God continues to show his power, mercy, love and kindness.
When God sent Moses to liberate the Israelites from the Egyptians and God led them through the desert where he provided manna from heaven, fresh water from the rocks, fought their wars and carried them on eagle wings, how was he paid back? By infidelity, obduracy, obstinacy, indifference, defiance, etc. They decided to fashion a molten calf and worshipped it and went after pagan gods, etc. This is the nature of man: ungrateful and ready to choose the path that leads to darkness instead of light.
The gospel reading is a continuation of the story of the healing of the man burdened for thirty eight years by sickness. The Pharisees were not happy with Jesus for healing the man who had been sick for thirty eight years, accusing him of disrespecting the Sabbath law and equating himself with God. Jesus explains his identity and source of authority, pointing out that he and the Father are one and they are always at work, giving human beings opportunities, graces, offering forgiveness and reconciliation and not tabulating our sins on computer, Facebook or Twitter to make us guilty or miserable. We have the assurance of mercy and forgiveness and the refreshing presence of Jesus who says, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Our preoccupation during Lent should be to be conscious of the negative impact of sin on our lives, to cherish God’s willingness to forgive us unconditionally and to in turn forgive others who offend us, to do good works at all times and in all places, to look out for the helpless and come to their assistance. Like the sick man in the gospel many in our respective countries have the same predicament: “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred, and while I am going another steps down before me ” (John 5:7). Dear Christian, do not delay in helping especially those who are sick and have no one to help them go to hospital. Be another Christ to anyone in need. Do not be indifferent. Remember that the rich man in the gospel of Luke did not drive away Lazarus from the gate of his posh home. He simply ignored him, he was indifferent to his plight. This is the case in our countries today where because of corruption the poor get poorer and ignored and the rich become richer and are always the centre of attention. The Government should do more to offer concrete material help to the poor, homeless, hopeless, hungry, thirsty, etc. While the Church complements Government effort in the areas of education, medical care, social welfare, etc, she must however not forget those hungry for the good news; those crippled by unbelief. Let us all resolve to bring them to the water of life, Jesus the Lord.