Universalis
 
 
 
News & Events…

 
Contextualising the Theme of the Workshop: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”

SECAM GOODEN JUBILEE WORKSHOP: 22 - 24 July 2019

Theme: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee!
Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”

Monday, 22 July 2019 (Feast of Mary of Magdala)
09.15 - 09.35: 1st Speaker: Rev. Sr. Teresa OKURE, SHCJ

Topic: Contextualising the Theme of the Workshop: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour” (Essentially an input for discussion not an academic paper)

This presentation has the not so easy task of “Contextualising the Theme Workshop: ‘Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour'”. Its scope is to highlight the aim and purpose of our three day jubilee workshop. The key word of the topic, “contextualising”, is an action word. It invites us to identify concrete, measurable and sustainable ways of making the theme of the workshop, become a reality, not merely a programme, in our personal lives and diverse contexts in Africa. The workshop theme itself, “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”, is in service to the Kampala Document that will emerge as Post-Jubilee Exhortation of SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar). We hope that this Document will be a jubilee call to action by SECAM to all members of God's Family in Africa, Madagascar and beyond.

It is a great privilege with heavy responsibility for this august Assembly to contribute towards the final content and character of the envisaged Post-Jubilee Exhortation of SECAM. In this way the Kampala Document will truly be a Document of the Church-Family of God in Africa, celebrating its jubilee in the Golden Jubilee of SECAM (29th July 1969 - 29th July 2019), welcoming and proclaiming Jesus Christ our Saviour.

The workshop theme has three elements: a roll call and two invitations to action:

  1. Roll call: Church-Family of God in Africa (and beyond)
  2. First invitation to action: Celebrate your jubilee
  3. Second invitation to action: Proclaim Jesus Christ your Saviour

These three elements are to be contextualised or appropriated at the personal, family and diverse ecclesial communities, parishes, dioceses, regions and continent, not forgetting the Diaspora and our collaborators. The call and invitation aim at bringing to life and keeping alive in and among us the mission of Jesus who said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in ever increasing abundance” (John 10:10). This is the scripture text of the envisaged Kampala Document. We are to work together (labour) during the next three days on the Instrumentum Laboris to identify ways of making this gospel message of Jesus' mission, become a reality and a way of life in and among us. To do this end, we need first and foremost to answer the jubilee roll call; that is, accept and come to grips with who we are so that we can respond authentically and positively to the two invitations to action. On our answer to the roll call depend our responses to the calls to action (Compare the roll call at ordination and profession ceremonies: If the candidate does not answer when called the ceremony ends there).

The workshop is set within the Golden Jubilee of SECAM. Biblical jubilee in the Old Testament was essentially a call to action; an opportunity given to the people to undertake actions commensurate with their identity as God's covenanted people, in relation to God and to their covenanted brothers and sisters. We situate our efforts to contextualize the theme of the workshop within the perspective of the OT biblical jubilee (Lev 25:8-22, 23-55), and more comprehensively in the perspective of God's eternal jubilee year granted as grace to the entire creation and proclaimed by Jesus in his inaugural missionary discourse in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus accomplished his mission once for all on the cross when he said “It is finished” (John 19:30) (done, completed and stands eternally and irreversibly and irrevocably completed); we and all Christians need to participate in his mission by appropriating its fruit: by receiving, consciously contextualising and proclaiming it in our diverse life and global contexts.

With this brief entry, I think I have said what needs to be said on the topic of this presentation. Namely, that the workshop invites us to stand up and be counted as God's Family in Africa and together work out sustainable ways by which we and all God's Family in Africa and beyond can effectively respond to the two-fold invitations to celebrate our jubilee and proclaim Jesus Christ our Saviour. However, we flesh this out a little by looking briefly at each of the three elements of the workshop theme as they relate to that of the Kampala Document.

  1. The Roll Call: Church-Family of God in Africa

This roll call invites us to become profoundly conscious of who and whose we are, “Church Family of God in Africa”. The determinative or defining word in this designation is God; we are God's Family, constituted so by God (not by us or any humans). God's delightful action in making us his children and family predates “the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). Because this family is constituted by God, it is real; we do not have to put it in place. Furthermore God's family is the foundational family of all other “families in heaven and on earth”; these derive their name, nature and character from this divine family (Eph 3:14-15). rooted in the Trinity, three persons one God. In order to properly understand what family is; we need to use God's family as a mirror. In our reflection on what it means to be church family of God, we move beyond identifying this family with the Catholic Church; to an all- inclusive understanding; since God's family embraces the entire creation, “things in heaven and things on earth” (Col 1:20). Our thinking about the Church-Family of God needs to expand beyond the Catholic Church or even Christian churches to embrace every inhabitant of this continent.

Scriptural resources for grounding our self-understanding as Church-Family of God

Scripture offers rich resources for grounding our understanding of the nature and scope of God's Family as constituted by God and embracing the entire creation. To cite a few examples: Jesus declared, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all peoples [and things] to myself” (John 12:32). He did this on the cross and through the resurrection (what John calls his “glorification” (cf. John 3:14). By this glorification he became the New Humanity (adam, anlhropos) (Eph 2:14-16) and brought into existence a “new creation”. As a result, “when anyone is in Christ that person is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). In him all distinctions, barriers, and categories of racism (“Jew and Gentile”), class (“slave and free”), and biological sex and gender (“male and female”) and such discriminating ideologies as Black-White, North-South, East-West, developing and developed nations are demolished. All are one person in Christ (Gal 3:25-28); in him “all things hold together” as one united Family of God.

Challenges and Graces. The awareness that God's Church-Family is not limited to Catholics or even Christians on the continent poses challenges which we need to grapple with together at this workshop for sustainable solutions. These challenges stem from the nature of our vast continent with its different religions, language and socio-cultural groupings (ancient and modern) and geographical and ideological affiliations that govern its vast population in a globalised world. These challenges exist also within God's core Family, our Holy Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless, they serve as ladder steps for all to climb together towards that fullness in Christ which God out of infinite goodness and pure, unmerited love destines for all his household and for the entire creation that is groaning to be set free with us and enjoy “the glorious liberty of God's children” (cf. Rom 8: 18-25). The awareness also offers graces which we need to recognize and appropriate to meet the calls to action.

First we review the past (where we have been) in order to move forward by reflecting on some fundamental questions about how we have lived our identity as God's Church-Family in Africa up to this point.

  1. Have we in Africa, in particular Roman Catholics, the core nucleus of God's Family, “entrusted” from the beginning with the responsibility to proclaim God's good news to all creation (Eph 3:10-11), , practically fully understood our common identity as God's family, called to partner with God in building this family across all human barriers and divides?
  2. Can we say that we, Roman Catholics and Christians in Africa, do truly bond together in all sectors of life within our countries, across the countries, regions, language groups, dioceses, parishes, religious congregations and Christian communities, etc., as God's Family?
  3. What visible evidence have we that we are, and are seen by others to be God's family? (Recall how the believers “were first called Christians” in Antioch, because they had transcended [and people saw that they had transcended] their age-old divisions and discriminations based on race (which includes class and gender; Acts 11:19-26). If there are no clear evidence in Christ that we have bonded together as family, what can we do to remedy the situation?

This first set of questions invites us to an honest and in depths consciousness evaluation of how we stand with regard to practically seeing ourselves as Church Family of God. If this exercise reveals that “Yes, God can claim us as members of God's Family in Christ Jesus because of how we have lived and related with each other across the board, similar to how members of the Trinity live and relate with each other, we give thanks to God for it and identify newer ways of sustaining and intensifying this Christ-centred and Trinitarian-like interpersonal relationship. If on the other hand our finding is negative (that our claim to be God's Family in Christ is mostly verbal, not in reality or by deed), this Jubilee celebration offers us a God-given opportunity to swing back to action and recommit ourselves to return to our God-given roots and evolve sustainable actions in all areas of life that will obligate and commit us individually and as Church-Family to meet and proclaim Christ our Saviour in each another and in all others, as members of God's beloved Family. A possible direction to in this regards would be to listen to Jesus who says, “Welcome my beloved siblings, members of my family, for I was hungry and you gave me to eat . . .” (Matt 25:31-46).

It is a not waste of time that we grapple together with our lived self understanding as Church­Family of God, beyond verbal definitions; for example, as in the twenty-five year old Ecclesia in Africa. (Its anniversary is this year). Our definition needs to be visibly rooted in life. Family by nature exists in real life, not in documents. Very few families have their written records. From the fruit of our common struggle at this workshop guided by the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26), we invite all members of this Family who are not privileged to be here to do the same; so that the whole Church-Family of God may work together towards making our God-given identity a joyfully lived reality in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands.

To rephrase summatively the core questions: God constitutes us as God's Family by God's own reckoning, how much are we in touch with this truth as a rule of live at the personal and interpersonal levels? Do we sincerely in the depths of our consciousness, instincts, in all areas and sectors, live as God's life-giving and visible Family in the manner God, not we, intends this Family to be? If not, why not? What do we need to do to make this family become a reality in life? How can our experience of natural family, real or longed for, help us to understand what it means to be God's family?

Awareness and ownership of us as Family of God is the first or foundational element of this workshop. On it, on our ownership of who we are by God's doing, depends all we will do at this workshop and afterwards as Church-Family of God.

Graces of the Call to be Church Family of God in Africa

In coming to grips with our identity as Church-Family of God we become aware not only of the challenges but also of the wealth of graces God has given us for realising this identity.

  1. Jesus Christ demolished all barriers concretely not theoretically by his body on the cross and by the Eucharist, giving himself as food and drink for all believers. He reconciled us to God in his person. Indeed God in him “was reconciling the world to the divine self” (2 Cor 5:19...) and the same God equally “entrusted to us”, his beloved children, that “ministry of reconciliation”: a ministry of breaking down barriers; asking us to go out to the whole world, live and proclaim this good news of God that we/all peoples are (reconciled to God; are reconciled: not will be or may be. Because God did this, as Paul tells us (Gal 3:28):

There is no more Jew or Gentile (racism, nationalism, regionalism,

Ethnicism, etc.);

There is no more slave or free (classism, ranks, people consigned to their own level, etc.);

There is no more male and female [though in the first creation God

Created them “male and female”; Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2]: dehumanising patriarchal and gender issues that affect both men and women, though differently.

All are one in Christ (Gal 3:25-28), stamped, sealed with the seal of

God's own life principle, the Holy Spirit (John 6:63).

  1. Pentecost. The Second African Synod (twenty-five years ago) spoke relentlessly of our living in a new Pentecost. Pentecost is God's promised baptism of the earth with fire to make all prophets, God's spokespersons, as Peter explains the event (Acts 2:14-21). The images of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are powerful wind and fire. Wind and fire know no boundaries and observe no distinctions or discriminations; they affect and level all equally (e.g., in the wild fires of California, the different hurricanes, tsunami, old Trade Towers, Glenfield Towers, etc.). God has stamped and sealed us with the seal of ownership, the Holy Spirit, so that we can go out to the whole world as one united family of loving children to be and to proclaim God's goodness and Good News, Jesus our Saviour, to all and sundry without boundaries or discrimination. To do this we need a spiritual revolution”, “a resetting” of our minds, heart (the seat of life) and mentality to their “default status” in Christ Jesus. We do this concretely, with measurable, sustainable and evaluable actions. We do so using the process of see, judge and act; of action, refection and action. Believing in Jesus who said, “I am with you always till the end of time” (Matt 28:20) and who points us to himself as the sure way “I, the Way, the Truth [Reality, Substance] and the Life” (John 14:6).
  2. The Human Body. The Church-Family of God is the Body of Christ. A powerful image is the human body. Paul reminds us that together we make up Christ's body and individually are parts of it (1 Cor 12:12-30). I am increasingly amazed at what we can learn from the body about what it means to be members of Christ's body, individually and together. No one part of the human body is independent of the other. No one part is self-serving; all exist in service or function to the whole body. All parts are so interconnected that pain in the stomach causes headache. Toothache wracks the body and a pain in the toe makes walking a torture and so forth. No part of the body glories in being what it is and treats other parts as inferior to it, or relegates them to existing “at their own level”. Comparison and ranking do not exist in the body, in their internal relationships. We bring the distinctions into the body by comparing the head to other parts, and so forth.

Our ancestors in the faith knew of no such distinctions. What they knew were different ministries, different charisms (gifts of the Holy Spirit) for building up the whole body till it grows into the full stature of Christ himself (Eph 4:13) into God's beloved family. In the effort to grow as Church-Family of God in Africa, we need to reconnect with this reality, that we form the body of Christ in Africa and with all others across the globe because we belong to the cosmic Christ and live in a “Common Home”, “Mother Earth” (Laudato Si').

  1. The Eucharist. We cannot think of being the body of Christ without bringing in the Eucharist as a daily reminder that we each eat and drink of the Lord and are thereby nourished, sustained, empowered and called to be one with the Lord and with each other. We do this in memory of the Lord, by breaking the bread of our individual and corporate lives for others to eat and have life in its fullness. In this way we do not limit our celebration of the Eucharist to a ritual a daily attendance at Mass and reception of Communion or frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament, exposed and adored. We make individual and united effort to live the Eucharist in our daily lives as Jesus did throughout his life. Jesus had a Eucharistic mindset and invites us all as members of his body to do the same “in memory of him”, to keep alive the kind of life he lived.
  2. Our baptism into Christ as male or female. The Jewish boy was circumcised into the observance of the Torah (the girl into the marriage chamber). The entire ritual of circumcision emphasised this observance of the Torah. Then followed concrete formation in knowledge of the Torah such that at the age of 12 the Jewish boy was deemed fit to take his bar exam and be called to the bar to prove he knew the Torah by heart. There were no ready books as we have today. Jesus passed his bar mitzvah so well that he did not want to return home with his parents. Through his parents, he realised that he was called not just to keep the Torah but to be one to initiate a more comprehensive, all-inclusive and all-liberating, life­giving Torah. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7) is commonly held as new Torah given by Jesus: “You have heard that it was said . . ., but I say to you..”. “The one who hears my words and keeps them is like a wise scribe who brings out of his/her treasure house both the old and the new” (Matt 7:24-27). Such a person hears my words, keeps and does them. As a result when the winds come, the gales blow and beat upon the house, that house stands firm because it was founded on the rock which is Christ, Christ in each member of God's family, whether boy or girl, man or woman Black or White, Anglophone, Francophone or Lusophone.

Forward Looking Review Questions:

a)    After birth at baptism, how are God's new born children fed nourished into becoming people initiated into and committed to observing the new Torah, Jesus and his gospel? What can we do in the new Catechesis to make this happen? This is very important since most Catholics are baptised as infants and need to be systematically fed and nourished to grow into being the Christ that they are at birth in just as they are nourished with natural food?

b)    The baptised are given a white cloth and candle. Can we revisit the rite of baptism so as to incorporate into it the gift of the book of the gospels, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Social Teachings of the Church which will enable us to grow together as Church-Family of God beyond our inherited colonial artificial boundaries?

c)    What else do we need to do concretely in order to commit us as individuals to grow into becoming another Christ? To help bond us together into being the living body of Christ, members of God's family?

d)    What graced features of African culture do we need to tap, use as our human foundational resources to bond us into being one true Family of God; a family that is outgoing, not turned in upon itself or “self referential”, in Pope Francis' words? Can the way we relate culturally, naturally to our siblings and people “from m place” help us to relate in the same way in the church Family of God, as siblings of Jesus and people who are from the same place, his body and the household of God which embraces creation?

e)    What dark shadows of African culture and colonised cultures do we need to penetrate with the light of the gospel? The endemic preference and dependence on the foreign, the Nazareth syndrome: Can anything come out of Nazareth?

We need not be afraid to test the spirits; to discern the spirits and penetrate with the light of the gospel, Christ, and with faith in the transforming and life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, the world of evil spirits of witchcraft, of cultism in all its forms (including nationalism, tribalism which is a form of cultism) and the world in­between to align it with God's world. We need to examine and take seriously the belief systems that govern the lives of our people, regardless of the level of education, and help them to grow in the faith that will liberate them from excessive fear of the real or imagined curses.

Church-Family of God in Africa, know who you are, come to grips with who you are, celebrate who you are and use who and what you are as the foundation for celebrating your jubilee, welcoming and proclaiming Christ your Saviour.

  1. First Invitation: Celebrate Your Jubilee

Jubilee is essentially a call to personal and communal action (Leviticus 25:18-55). Its core action was the liberation of peoples, animals and the land. On the personal level each person had to move, to return to their ancestral land. On the communal level, they had to do it together as a covenanted people. After the initial public Day of Atonement for failure to live up to the covenant, the jubilee actions were largely social: granting liberty to slaves, domestic staff and beasts of burden, not belabouring the land itself by ploughing it, but letting it produce of its own accord; not cheating others in interpersonal relationships and transactions; in sum living and letting live as God intended as at creation. Gratitude to God for heir election as God's people, trusting that God can and will provide for all their needs in the jubilee year and the year following. till the harvest. In the NT perspective, God in Christ celebrates the jubilee for humanity by declaring a general amnesty to all creation and fulfilling this through Jesus' passion death and resurrection. As a result we and the entire creation now live within God's eternal jubilee year.

Celebrating the jubilee for us requires returning to our African roots of humanity ubuntu (“I am because we are and because we are I am”). This philosophy of life rejoins the imagery of the body, and the intrinsic, inalienable relationship between its parts already evoked. We return to the roots of our African ubuntu (humanness) whereby we call a person from our village “brother and sister”, though there is no immediate blood relationship. We bring this as a natural asset to understanding and living our baptismal roots in Christ, by which we have become God's children; bonded together in the one body of Christ, in the family of God. We reconnect with the sense of hospitality by which we give to the visitor the best we have even if this means depriving ourselves. We connect this with the Eucharist by which Jesus gives us totally and fully the all he has, his body and blood as eternal life giving food and drink. We return to what we committed ourselves to as Church-Family of God in Ecclesia in Africa and at the church leadership level to the original and purpose of SECAM.

To this end we ask ourselves some practical questions:

  • How concretely are we connected to our African and, baptismal, Eucharistic and Christological roots?
  • How do we call each other to return anew to these roots in today's Africa, differently from how we did in the past?

The Eucharist for Jesus was not as a ritual, but giving us food to eat and blood to drink; asking us to do the same. Do not send them away to go and beg from donors. You give them something to eat out of your own resources, no matter how meagre they are. Bring them in faith to me, I will bless and multiply them and you will have abundant surplus left over. Give them something to eat; do not feed on them or exploit them such that while they grow leaner and leaner, thinner and thinner; while you grow fatter and fatter, huger and huger.

This call to “celebrate your jubilee” is a call to communal action. Assemble, come together joyfully, with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Blow the trumpet through the land of Africa. Let the town-criers: the media, the evangelisers, the preachers, the basic Christian communities, the formal missionaries, the families and all the different ecclesial communities and groups come together. Together let us look at where we have been, what has inspired and guided our way of life all these years, review what routes we had taken to land us where we have arrived. Let us review our journey of life and with honesty see where we had derailed; identify the death­dealing routes we want to abandon, retract and retrace our steps as we move forward with renewed zeal, Christological zeal and passion towards our common destiny in Christ.

Let us draw strength from Christ's own zeal and passion: “I have a baptism to be baptised, I have come to cast fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49). This fiery zeal recalls and rejoins the Holy Spirit as fire that unstoppably demolishes and reduces all that it catches to ashes. “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you”; to give you my body and blood as lasting food and drink so that you can share fully my life and have it to the full. Pass over from division to union, from segregation to unification in my body, in the Trinity, with Spirit led and Spirit filled zeal towards your God given common identity and destiny as God's children in Christ Jesus. God “destined us in love to be his adopted children in Christ Jesus”. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life whom we are called to proclaim

  1. Second Invitation to Action: Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour

This second invitation requires little elaboration. It is the natural outcome of living true to our identity as God's children and family in Christ, in the spirit of the eternal jubilee, sealed and stamped with God's seal of ownership, the Holy Spirit; which God has given to us in Christ. If individually and together we live in every respect like Christ, we will instinctively proclaim him as Our Saviour. Our first proclamation will thus be by our individual and collective witness of life. Jesus proclaimed and revealed God by the totality of his life, by watching, observing, learning from and doing whatever he saw God doing (cf. John 5:19). He declared that God lived, spoke and acted in him (John 14:10-11). He prayed for the same grace of unity of life and love and synergy with God for all his siblings “so that the world may believe” it was God who sent him (cf. John 17:20-21).

We cannot overemphasize the importance of living the totality our lives in God, as God desires it; not with the diverse ideologies that today claim to promote human rights and dignity when in reality they deprive people of their true, God given identity in Christ Jesus. Not with the spirituality that seeks visions and miracles and shouts the name of Jesus but has little or no connection with the life Jesus lived and wants his siblings to live.

The first responsibility to witness to Christ as our Saviour lies with the individual. Before individuals can assume this responsibility, they need to be well grounded in their faith and helped to understand and appropriate fully what God has given to them in Christ. The unfortunate truth is that most Catholics, the majority of God's family and household in the Catholic Church, do not believe the call to holiness is for them. They see themselves as the laity, second class citizens who must depend on the clergy and, to a certain extent the religious, to be holy for them. We need to come to grips with the stunting effect of this false belief inculcated in the people in so many practical ways, if not theoretically and theologically. The diminishing word, the laity, used in calling and speaking about them, needs to be revisited. In my Ibibio language, the laity is translated as “nkanga owo”. Nkanga signifies empty; example, nkanga ubok, “empty hand”; so nkanga owo is an empty person. We might review the equivalents in our languages. This demeaning tag is a product of Constantinian ecclesiology, not that of Jesus, God's gospel, and his gospel. We need to return to our God-given roots in this respect in our desire to proclaim Jesus Christ our Saviour.

The proclamation of Jesus Christ our Saviour obligates us to see every Christian as another Christ. Further to see and treat every human being as Christ; since by his incarnation Christ assumed the whole of humanity and becomes the sibling of every human being according to the flesh. Jesus himself openly claims that he is in every Christian and every human being. To Paul who persecuted the disciples, Christians (men, women and children), Jesus said (when Paul asked him “Who are you Sir?”) “I am Jesus and you are persecuting me” (Acts 9:5). At the last judgement, “all the nations”, not merely individuals, will assemble before him, “the human being” the child of a human being (“son of man” in English; not so in the Greek hyious tou anthropou or Hebrew/Aramaic ben ha-adam/bar enosh, or in my language eyen owo) (Matt 25:31-46).

The criteria for this last judgment would bar from entrance into heaven, most of us clergy and religious who seem to believe the administration and reception of the Sacraments is our sphere of proclamation of Christ, but tend to ignore or relegate to the background, the need to provide food, clothing, shelter and essential bodily needs and life-vitals for our siblings in Christ including those “according to the flesh”. That the criteria for the last judgement are devoid of religious practices and affiliations calls for sober reflection. They recall the beatitudes, the core of the Gospel message, the New Torah which upsets and upturns religious criteria for being acceptable by God: declaring the poor blessed, persecution for the cause of truth seen as a blessing, loving and praying for one's enemies, forgiving from the heart, being gentle and humble and so forth.

The fortunate truth is that nobody can truly receive the good news of God yet keep it to oneself. For the laity to believe that this does not apply to them is gross misunderstanding of their God-given baptismal birth. The gospel by nature propels the genuine receiver to run, proclaim and share it. We see it in Mary of Nazareth, after the annunciation, the first Evangelist in the new dispensation, who rose “with haste” (Luke 1: 39) to share the joy of what God had done for Elizabeth, only to reach there and be praised for believing what the angel told her from God. Her own faith-filled response is the Magnificat (Luke 1:41-55). We see it in the deacons Stephen and Philip selected and anointed to share food. The food they are reported as sharing was to proclaim the Lord Jesus outside Jerusalem and the circle of the Twelve: Philip to the Samaritans, the Ethiopian Eunuch and others (Acts 8:4-8, 26-40); Stephen to the Jews among whom were Diaspora Jews like Paul; to the degree of being the first to witness to Christ with his life (to make the supreme witness- martyrdom) (Acts 7).

We see it in the first people who broke the boundary of proclaiming the gospel only to Jews and the God-fearers by proclaiming it to Gentiles. They formed the first truly Christian community of Jews and Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). This community formed Paul and Barnabas for what eventually became the worldwide mission of which delegates from Jerusalem, example Silas, Silvanus became strong members. True reception of the gospel urged, propelled Paul himself to run the length and breadth of the Roman Empire like the town crier, telling all and sundry of the Lord Jesus, God's “overwhelming love”, for humanity (2 Cor 5:14-15); he did so at great cost to himself (2 Cor 11:21b-29); even to the extent of counting his noble Jewish pedigree “as rubbish” (Phil 3:3-11). All these people were “the laity” in their Jewish set up. We do not forget the other women (apart from Mary and Elizabeth), outstanding among them Mary of Magdala to whom Jesus entrusted the resurrection message that we are now his “siblings” (John 20:17); Lydia, the first convert of Europe who led Paul to bodily conversion (Acts 16:11-15, v 15) and in the infancy narratives the Prophet Anna, the first to proclaim the child Messiah “to all who were looking forward the liberation of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

In natural human family nobody is a second class member, though in some families the hierarchy is such that certain members have little or no say in the affairs of the family. That is not how we learn Christ and are given a place in him. Ours is the family of God, who “makes no distinction” or “discrimination” (Acts 10:34-35; Rom 2:11). There are different roles and responsibilities, but not ranks of superiority and inferiority. Scripture is very clear that different charisms, not offices or positions, are given to all members for building up God's Church-Family, not for self aggrandizement, till the entire family reaches its full, God destined stature and maturity in Christ Jesus (Eph 4:13).

Proclaiming Jesus Christ our Saviour as Church-Family of God would require that we review the language, method, presuppositions, formation - spiritual and theological given to every member of God's family. Whatever we come up with has to aim to equip the people all the people to be living witnesses to Christ; and not to be ashamed of the gospel. This is very important today given the many challenges that God's children face from aggressive and militant jihadists, who proclaim a world political empire under cover of religion. In the face of a type of spirituality and religion that believes in miracles, sees God as a great provider and does little or nothing to assume the responsibility to address the social, economic, political and genuine religious needs of the people. A formation to counteract the attitude that believes God only provides from abroad not from home; so the people undertake mass exodus in search of greener pastures abroad where they become second class citizens; while they leave behind untold wealth God has give them free of charge. Or they believe in amassing this wealth for themselves and their families and depositing them abroad, supposedly for safety when in reality they are impoverishing themselves, their people and the future of their nation.

In short, formation for proclaiming Jesus Christ our Saviour needs to be proactive, focused, and aim at the total formation of each and every member of God's family, recognize the common responsibility to proclaim the Gospel that Jesus entrusted to us, a gospel which is essentially a way of life, first lived by Jesus himself and his first witnesses. A gospel which we proudly say was lived by many sons of daughters of Africa, among them the Martyrs of Uganda (all lay people, Catholics and Anglicans) in whose land we providentially celebrate this Golden Jubilee of SECAM.

Conclusion: Call to Evolve Sustainable Actions

We end with what we started with: the need for the workshops to evolve sustainable agenda for the Church-Family of God in Africa to realise and claim who she is by God's gracious gift and doing; to celebrate the jubilee, God's liberation of creation and all humanity without exception from sin (alienation from God) by reconciling them to the divine self in Christ, with no cost on their part. From the awareness and reception of God's goodness and Gospel, Jesus the Messiah, to proclaim the same without shame to all and sundry by living and growing in all ways into Christ. What we need now is action plan not words; viable and sustainable action plan for all in the different areas surfaced in the Instrumentum Laboris, as captured by the theme of the workshop.

In this current climactic celebration of the SECAM jubilee, for instance, we have an agenda that was carefully drawn up with specific items listed on it. We executed the items one by one beginning with online registration, booking of flights, taking the flights to get here and leaving our rooms to be here at this Opening Session, eager to participate in and enjoy the rest of the sessions till departure. The agenda for celebrating our jubilee, God's eternal jubilee in Christ for the entire creation, as Church-Family of God, our proclaiming Jesus Christ our Saviour, has to be that concrete. As we draw up the agenda for the Church-Family of God to celebrate its life-long jubilee, we need to ask ourselves whether the items on it are concrete enough, doable. We need to set time frames and criteria for evaluation, for reporting, for accountability at different levels and contexts. To ensure we do not miss the flights that will take us to our desired goal of living and proclaiming the gospel as one beloved and united family of God.

Action is capital. This is what will make the Kampala Document different from other documents; where it will bear lasting fruit; where it will give evidence, faith-filled evidence, that God has done and is doing a new deed among us. Even now it comes to pass and we can perceive it: water in the wilderness, efforts to rescue our princes and princesses from the slumps where they have been reduced by self-serving citizens and foreigners. Rescue such citizens and foreigners too by helping them to see with the light of Christ, of the gospel, judge with the mind of Christ and of the gospel, and act with the energy and zeal of Christ and the energising Spirit.

Together let us jubilate; thank God, recognise that God is with us, show our utter dependence on him; recognize and embrace, proclaim the great deed God has done and is doing in our midst. Let us recognize it no matter through whom God does it; through whom God speaks. Let us not say “Is this not the carpenter's son?” “Is not this the woman called x y x”? “Is this not only a ‘layman', a ‘laywoman?' a ‘youth' a ‘child'”? No, let us recognize only God and God alone who distributes God's gifts as God judges fit for the good of the family, not of the self glorification of the individual. Let us reject out right the Nazarene syndrome Do we not know this person? “How come that he or she knows all this?” Let us reject the syndrome that thinks little of self, and of things African despite the immense wealth and resources, human, spiritual and material with which God has endowed this continent in incalculable abundance; to be used for the good and wellbeing of every citizen. Let us stop aligning ourselves with the builders who reject the cornerstone and kill the prophets and builders God sends them. Let us opt to discern and align ourselves with the true prophets God sends us for our sole good.

May we find ways of getting all involved, on deck, not allow any to sit on the fence neither going in nor allowing others to go in, or even actively persecuting and blocking those who want to get on board. May no one be or be seen as a stranger, a foreigner, an observer. May all members of God's Church-Family be alive and active in this family in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. He is God's gospel and power that can save every category of human being on earth. To God be the glory in every sector of God's Church-Family and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

Teresa Okure, SHCJ

15 July 2019

 


See Other News & Events »

 

 


Copyright © 2013.
Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.
All Rights Reserved.

Designed By Verbum Networks