Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: RELIGION AND CIVIC DUTY
By: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21.
Some Nigerians came to ask: “Is it right to join the ongoing street protests against police brutality?” I responded: “Stand up for justice, stand against brutality and uproot the underlying cause of brutality, which is wickedness. Besides, respect civil authority and obey the laws of the land as you call your leaders to account for the power which they wield over you; promote human dignity, resist tyrants, stand firmly against abuse of power and wanton destruction of precious lives; for peace is the presence of justice. Join hands to build the kingdom of God on earth through peaceful means.”
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In the last few days, we have witnessed civil disobedience in Nigeria. The protests of youth across the country came as a result of the recklessness and brutality of a special unit in the police called Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS). Pundits trace the root of police brutality to lack of accountability and endemic corruption. They say corruption gives birth to poor training and poor funding of the police. People pay taxes to the government because the government maintains social infrastructure and provide security for the people. Other services, which the government provides include education, law enforcement and other social services. When elected leaders fail to rise up to their responsibilities, citizens have a moral responsibility to call them to order.
The words of Jesus, “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” has been interpreted and even misinterpreted in many different ways. The most common interpretation is that of dividing the world into two, by saying the sacred has nothing to do with the secular; public life has nothing to do with private life; religion has nothing to do with politics. This interpretation is wrong as long as we accept that God should be all and in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). This is the reason why Christians shy away from anything politics and call it a ‘dirty game.’
We need young people in politics today who will go in there and influence government policies and make positive impact in the lives of people. We need honest politicians who will go into politics and stand up for what is right.
The famous Mahatma Ghandi was a politician who was remarkably honest because he did not separate his religion from politics. He said, “My politics is my religion and my religion is my politics.” The first task of Christians today is to engage in national discourse and see how they can rise to transform the nation. To transform the society, we need to have a good knowledge of history, to be grounded in our religious values and to have a strong determination to depart from the past mistakes that have kept us backwards. If we do not know the current debates going on in the society, there is no way we can make any meaningful contribution to transforming our society. It was the theologian Karl Barth who advised young theologians “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.'”
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