THE FEAST OF THE PILGRIMAGE CENTRE OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION AND SPECIAL MARIAN DEVOTION, ELELE.
HOMILY BY MOST REV. IGNATIUS A. KAIGAMA, ARCHBISHOP OF JOS AND PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA, 25TH NOVEMBER, 2016
It is great to meet on this holy ground and around this altar. The Lord carried us as if on eagle wings and as a man carries his child, all along the roads we travelled (cf. Ex. 19:4; Dt. 1:31), from different parts of Nigeria to bring us to Elele, a special pilgrimage place where God is worshipped through Eucharistic adoration and devotion to our Blessed Mother by millions of people who over the years have received graces upon graces. May God’s grace, mercy, love and peace be yours in abundance now and forever.
The only reason we human beings differ from ordinary animals is that we are rational. We do think. We are able to appreciate the things God does in our lives and we have the capacity to give thanks, praise and adoration to God for the wonders of His being. We can equally count our blessings. Imagine how God has led me [together with my people] from Jos to Elele. I travelled to Abuja by road and from Abuja to Port Harcourt by flight, just like my brother the Bishop of Maiduguri who lives in the Boko Haram infested area, where the fanatical Islamic group has done so much destruction to human lives and property did. He travelled all the way from Maiduguri to Elele. Our faith has led all of us here – lay people, religious, priests and Bishops to this place of prayer for a special encounter with Jesus and His Blessed Mother. We have no other way of showing appreciation to God than to fall on our knees and worship Him as the people of Israel did in the first reading (Ex.12:22-27) when Moses finished addressing them about the redemptive value of the blood of the lamb.
The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ is our teacher of how to contemplate Jesus. One can imagine that when Jesus was born in the stable, Mary in the solitude of that environment stared at the face of Jesus with great, tender loving care. Her spouse Joseph too would have been contemplating in his heart what the child would turn out to be. The shepherds on hearing the news from the Angels about the birth of Jesus went hurriedly to “see” [worship] the infant Jesus. As for Mary she treasured all these and continually pondered over them. The wise men from the East as we read in Matthew chapter two did not only travel from very far, being guided by the star but brought him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and adored him. We too have come from North, South, East and West of Nigeria and beyond. We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
What can we give the Lord that is of any value? Is 66:1 says Heaven is God’s throne and the earth His footstool. In a Preface of the Eucharistic prayer we say that God has no need of our praise and thanksgiving. He the Lord says in Is 1:11 that he does not need or delight in endless sacrifices of burnt offerings of rams and the fed beasts; the blood of bulls and lambs and he-goats, of cows and goats. What He needs are those who are meek and contrite of heart, who tremble at His word ( cf. Is 66:2).
Our simple catechism teaches that God made us to know him, to love him, to serve him, so as to be happy with Him forever in heaven. What we need to offer him on this our earthly pilgrimage is praise, worship and adoration and by His grace, if we make it to heaven where we all aspire to be, we shall gather before the throne of God with the Angels and the Saints, to give Him endless thanks and singing, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”. The door of heaven can only be opened to those deserving of the eternal company of God such as the humble, the gentle, the pure of heart, those persecuted, etc. and those who open the door of their hearts because Jesus stands at the door and knocks (cf. Rev. 3:20). May we be counted among those John saw clothed in Revelation 7:13 standing before the throne of God serving him day and night in His sanctuary (cf. Rev. 7:15).
Our world has become so noisy and our time is filled up with so many distractions that we hardly have time to reflect or listen, yet the Lord says, “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). When we come before God in Eucharistic adoration we are contemplating the holiness and goodness of God. It is not about making a budget or a litany of requests to bombard God with, nor are we coming for social entertainment as some want to turn the Holy Mass into – that will be an assault on the Mass. Nowadays some of us prefer a “man-centered” to a God-centered” liturgy. We should remember too that when we come to God we do not do so as we go to a police man – we need a policeman only when we are in trouble. We should not insist when we pray that what we want should be done instantly. Of course I pray that God should do for you NOW what you desire that is good – if it is His will. Some people tell me that there is a church today called the “God of now now church”. People are told that if you go to that church whatever you ask God he will give you immediately – “now now”. Some people flock there! Do they understand the ways of God? Is that a good spiritual approach? Jesus says, “ask and you will receive” but he did not say, “now now”. Thinking you can force God to act “now now” is a magical approach to prayer. God’s response to your prayers may be now but it could also be later or next year or even in a way and time that will surprise you. Unfortunately, many today want their will and not God’s will to be done! Their lack of patience and trust leads them to a desperate search for solutions to their problems. Sometimes they get depressed or even angry that God is not answering their prayers fast enough and so they shift base. Some return to traditional fetish practices, some like herdsmen (nomads) move from church to church in search of miracles or running after pastors who promise them prosperity and miracles.
My dear Catholics, the greatest miracle is the Eucharistic miracle which Catholics with faith experience each time they participate in the Holy Mass. The Gospel taken from Mark chapter 14 has Jesus saying, “take and eat, this is my body” and “take and drink, this is my blood”. Ordinary bread changes into the body of Christ and wine into the blood of Christ (transubstantiation) at the words of consecration. The body and blood of Christ which we eat and drink nourish or souls and in the Blessed Sacrament His body assures us of His redemptive presence.
When at communion the priest says, “the body of Christ” and you say, “Amen”, you are receiving Jesus who says he or she who eats His body will never die. The Eucharist is therefore as St. Ignatius of Antioch says “the medicine of immortality”. Do not put your trust in the babalawo, dibia or even the so-called prophets who promise to give you instant happiness! Always cry out, “Jesus I trust in you”.
The Blessed Sacrament that is mounted for adoration on the altar is like the bronze serpent Moses made and put on a standard so that anyone bitten by a serpent or tormented by the problems of life and then looks at it would live (cf. Num. 21:8,9). May Jesus in the Eucharist bring you total healing, take away your pain, refresh your spiritual life and make you holy because the Lord is holy (cf. Lev:19:2). When later at communion time you say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”, please do so with profound faith, conviction and adoration. Prayers offered before the Blessed Sacrament in faith and hope will pierce the heavens (cf. Sirach 35:17, 18), until the Most High looks down and consoles you.
The short prayer used after communion as found in the Jesus the Saviour Rosary booklet, composed by the Father Founder of the Religious Family of Jesus the Saviour, Fr. EMMANUEL Edeh, has borne fruits for millions of God’s people, so I ask you to use it often: “Jesus I love all I have is yours, yours I am, and yours I want to be, do with me whatever you will”. What a powerful and trust-full prayer!
As we lift up the Eucharist today, tell Jesus in your native tongue or the language you are familiar with that you love him and you want him to come into your heart and you want him to heal or touch you where you are in need of help.
Pope Francis stated that we have lost a sense of the supernatural, and Adoration restores this!! (https://www.romancatholicman.com/pope-francis-encourages-eucharistic-adoration/). We thank God for the Pilgrimage Centre of Eucharistic Adoration and Special Marian Devotion, Elele. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) after a long period of study and review of the activities of the pilgrimage Centre approved the statutes and upon recommendation by the Local Ordinary of Port Harcourt Diocese and the committees set up by the CBCN to study the matter has in a letter dated 16th of February, 2016, granted it a national approval and recognition where Catholics and indeed all who love and seek God can come together to worship God in the Eucharist and express true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, because all its activities are Christocentric (centered on Christ) and Marian; and all the spiritual practices here are in conformity with Catholic doctrines and traditions . What distinguishes Catholic spirituality and liturgical practice is orderliness/discipline during worship as recommended by St. Paul.
We thank God for the way God used Fr EMMANUEL Edeh, Cssp, to begin this place of Eucharistic adoration and devotion to Mary. As a priest of the Holy Ghost Congregation, the Holy Spirit inspired him to do this and now as the Father Founder of Jesus the Saviour Congregations, he and his priests, religious, monks and nuns have been promoting Eucharistic adoration and doing wonderful social work in universities, polytechnic, college of education hospital, peace and reconciliation centre, etc. The talents God has given each and everyone must not be hidden. Everybody has something God has given him or her. No one is so useless that he or she does not have a special gift from God. Put your gift(s) in service of the Church.
We are aware of contemporary trends to start ministries that do not conform to Catholic spirituality and traditions, which develop into personality cults where the focus is not Jesus, but the so-called miraculous activities or powerful preaching of the “owners”. Unfortunately, many today engage in ministries for financial benefits or power. They adopt the method of the traditional fortune teller who tells you that your uncle or your mother-in-law is the cause of your sickness, thus bringing immeasurable suspicion and distrust/split to an otherwise happy family. They see evil spirits everywhere and in everything instead of the Holy Spirit and urge you to pray against enemies instead of for enemies as Jesus teaches. Worship becomes for them a sort of social entertainment, all in the name of trying to attract people. Catholics beware!!!
We congratulate the Religious family of Jesus the Saviour for a place like this where authentic Catholic spirituality is practiced and it is our prayer that this place will continue to provide for Catholics and non Catholics and especially those Catholics who drift away so easily, the nourishment and hope Jesus and His Mother offer.
Permit me in closing to use the words of Pope Francis:
“Moreover, I want to encourage everyone to visit – if possible, every day – especially amid life’s difficulties, the Blessed Sacrament of the infinite love of Christ and His mercy, preserved in our churches, and often abandoned, to speak filially with Him, to listen to Him in silence, and to peacefully entrust yourself to Him”.
With the authority of Jesus, I say to you all of you pilgrims, return home in God’s peace and safety, your faith in the Eucharistic Jesus and your unwavering love and devotion to our Blessed Mother will heal and save you. Remain as St Paul says, blameless in spirit, body and soul until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1Th 5:23).