RECEPTION BY ST. MICHAELS YORUBA SOCIETY FOR JOHN CARDINAL ONAIYEKAN
AT QUEEN OF NIGERIA CATHOLIC PRO CATHEDRAL ABUJA: "GAUDETE" SUNDAY 16TH DECEMBER, 2012.
By Most Rev. Emmanuel Ade Badejo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo
Congratulations to you all here. You need not tell anyone: "levels don change". You are now a cardinal archdiocese. We from elsewhere can feel it. Great indeed among you is the Holy one of Israel as the first reading of today declares. May you enjoy this next level for a long time to come. Amen.
"Joy to the World, the Lord has come Let earth receive her King" has become over the years. one of the most popular Christmas hymns. We shall all soon be singing it at Christmas. Well before that hymn came to make any sense, a few other hymns of joy and praise were composed by two most important but as yet probably most under-acclaimed composers of all time namely the MAGNIFICAT by a certain Mary who became the mother of Jesus Christ and the BENEDICTUS by Zechariah the father of John the Baptist. Both hymns are surely more than adequate to express the mood and feeling of today's gathering and reception. They deserve to be joyfully sung to express the joy that we have inside on this day. "My soul now glorifies the Lord who is my savior. Rejoice for who am I that God has shown me favor". Characteristic of our God he has put a new song in our mouths through His Holy Church which has created a certain simple John Olorunfemii Onaiyekan a Cardinal. Indeed, "The Lord has sworn an oath he will not change" reads psalm 109/110... "you are a priest forever, a priest like Melchizedech of old".
The philosopher Friedrich Nietsche once said that the heart has reason that reason does not know. Well, our God has reasons that man would never fully know or understand. Why did God make our Cardinal the way he has made him? I don't know. Why is he so intelligent, cheerful, likeable, successful? I do not know! Why King David? Why Mother Mary? Why St Paul? Why St. Peter? We could ask a thousand questions about the Cardinal and not find one single correct answer. The good old late Archbishop G.G. Ganaka used to say: "Be careful of asking God too many questions about life, for he might sooner call you upstairs to give you the answers". We must continue to say: "The Lord is good..." But as if God wanted to reaffirm and justify our gathering, today has been named by the Church, "Gaudete Sunday" meaning the "rejoice" Sunday. This is a day of joy, a day of joy... I have joy like a river...."
God calls us to rejoice! Someone might ask, Rejoice? In Nigeria? Rejoice over what? If I asked you now to list the woes of this country, I would surely get a deluge of them and everyone here would have something to grumble about from inept leadership to corruption and indisciplined citizenry to the erosion of moral values. And we would still be counting.
If I were to ask for a list of the good things in this country we could become lost for words. Well, God says again "rejoice' and St Paul butresses it in Philippians 4, "Rejoice in the lord always again i say rejoice". And if there be anyone who has the authority and clout to say so, surely He the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the One who is who was and who will be, is the one. Today God has done great things for us and indeed it is wonderful in our eyes. If in doubt, take a look at John Cardinal Onaiyekan! Is he not radiant? is he not wonderful and resplendent for all his 68 years of hard labor in the Lord's vineyard? It has to be "amazing grace that could have kept any man going this far, this hard and looking this well.
People of God, by the message of this Sunday and the revelation before us we are called to rediscover the power of God, and his love and presence in our lives and to refuse to concede this world to the devil, no matter how tough things may be. (Psalm 24). When soldiers go for their tough exercises, in order to keep their morale and energy high they sing various empowerment choruses even with meaningless words and sounds. tututurututu yaya, iyoroto iyo, kiri yolo yolo o kiri yoloyolo, kiri ya, kiri ya kiri yoloyolo
We must do the same...In our expectation of Jesus we must keep our morale high, keep our spirits high. Our Lord and Saviour is coming. "Ti Oluwa nile ti ekun re gbogbo o... I see my Lord Jesus... God will find a way where there seems to be no way". We are thus called to develop what a certain writer, Mary Hilkert in her book "Naming Grace", has called "Sacramental Imagination", It is the art of seeing the world through the prism of God's promises that all things shall be well. It is a great lesson which we can also learn from the person of Cardinal Onaiyekan who is ever so positive, hopeful and joyful.
Learn to be positive so as to be joyful. Yes, we must all vigorously play our part and then God will do the rest. One with God is a majority and therefore today we declare that Nigeria' s cup of joy is not half empty but half full, that our staircase of glory is not going down but up and that the best of Nigeria is not in the past but yet in the future. I just love the good song of the late Sonny Okosun: Wake up from your slumber, people let us go put on your shoes, don't be a drag... we'll bring back the happy days, happy days will come......
Your Eminence, to you we say "CONGRATULATIONS! In your interview with the Guardian Newspapers last Sunday you said "Being a Cardinal is spiritual promotion. it has not boosted my economic fortune." Well we are glad you said that and we are not ashamed as church to confirm to the world that it is true. Certainly, there will be no presentation to you of a private jet at this ceremony.
I am not sorry about that! You might not even get any exquisite personal gifts in spite of all the great things which God has done through you and the 40 years or so of hard labor you have done as a priest. In the Catholic Church this is quite understandable. What you will surely get is the satisfaction that through you and because of you all generations shall call us Nigerians blessed. In fact your joy is not about any gift you might receive. You yourself really are the gift. You are a gift to our generation. You are the gift from God through the Church that has at this material time shown the world that not all that is Nigerian or African is bad, corrupt or fraudulent. In a continent where favoritism and referential treatment, based on tribalism, nepotism and ethnic clannishness have often robbed us of our dignity and self respect, you are the gift showing us the truth of what St Peter said to the folks gathered in the house of Cornelius: "i realize that God does not show partiality, but in all nations he listens to everyone who fears God and does good" .that indeed God has no favorites" (Acts 10:34-35).
Because you are a gift, Your Eminence you are a present to us all. And because our present brings so much joy, I hereby declare that as God lives there is great hope for the future, for the Catholic Church, for God's people and for our country, Nigeria. Our help is in the name of the Lord... who made heaven and earth. In expectation of our saviour who is already present with us in his word, in the Eucharist and in his blessed ministers we sing together the popular Catholic hymn; Christ come quickly, there's danger at the door, Poverty aplenty, hearts gone wild with war, There's hunger in the city, there's famine on the plains... COME LORD JESUS, THE LIGHT IS DYING, THE NIGHT IS CRYING COME LORD JESUS.