Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we have come to this new month with great expectant hope that things will be better for us. As God’s children, let us be undaunted even amidst current individual and national problems. For we who are His, God assures that He will not fail with his blessings and protection (Ps. 91:7). It is with this assurance that I welcome you with great hope to this new month of October, 2016.
This month is very significant for us both in the Church and in our nation, Nigeria. It is one of the two months in the year dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are called specially to pray the Rosary more often and with greater devotion this month, calling on the intercession of Mary, Mother of God on our world. At the national level, it is this month that we recall and celebrate the Independence Day of our beloved country, Nigeria.
Quite obviously, the whole idea of independence from colonial masters all pointed towards the country gaining freedom. This was achieved fifty-six (56) years ago through the efforts of many of our nationalists who saw the need for us to begin to live freely, govern ourselves and better our lives. As we look back to October 1st, 1960, we know that the purpose of our nationalists for fighting for freedom is yet to be achieved. Looking at the current problems the nation is facing, ranging from terrorism to bad governance, from bad economy to corruption, from poverty to even neo-colonialism (which is a sort of mental and psychological enslavement to the colonial dictates); what immediately strikes the mind is the fact that perhaps, we have not really gained freedom as we thought.
The fact that nothing seems to work for an independent nation that we claim to be is a sign of a more fundamental problem. Our nation has been through tough times not only for those who have little or do not have at all but also for those who used to have in abundance. Both the rich and the poor are crying.
Our currency has never fallen to this extent before as to have the value of one dollar to be four hundred naira. This has impacted on the price of goods and services. It has made it nearly impossible for those who do business abroad to carry out their business as usual. Many companies are sending back their expatriates and those still around are not sure of payment at the end of the month. Many breadwinners who have huge responsibility to care for their families are losing their jobs. Those who still have their jobs have their pay cut down because their organizations cannot afford to pay their usual salaries and benefits. Our economy is dwindling; we are in need of help.
The unrest in our country has made the international community to tag us as one of the terrorist regions in the world. This is not a plus to us. Many have been rendered homeless due to the activities of terrorists and other aggrieved groups in our country. It was once reported that a whole village was nearly wiped out in one instance. The number of lives lost was not reported but it is better imagined than described. The wanton destruction of infrastructure that would cost a great fortune to restore in an economy that is daily sinking leaves our nation in dire need of help.
The security of persons and goods is not assured. Many go to sleep in fear of what will happen when they sleep. Some are kidnapped right in their houses, some on the road. And a huge ransom is demanded and when not paid, the victims lose their lives. Some religious men and women have also suffered in the hands of those who perpetrate this evil act.
In the light of our Independence celebration and amidst all of these happenings in our country Nigeria, we cannot but ask ‘who shall save us?’ (Rom. 7:24). Who shall save us from this darkness that has enveloped our country and crumbling every aspect of our lives? The Psalmist assures us that the Lord saves (Ps. 55:16). Therefore, at this time of our lives together and in our history, we need to cry out with all our hearts; “Lord save us.”
In every situation, God has proved He is able to save. When we reflect on the salvific event of the Israelites in Exodus 13 and 14; when they fled from Egypt, they apparently seemed to be in a worse situation when faced with the problem of crossing the Red Sea and the Egyptian army advancing. But they never lost sight of the source of their salvation, God, and after making recourse to that source; they were saved and guided by God through the wilderness until they got to the Promised Land.
We would also recount that the Israelites, the chosen people of God went to exile at a time in their history. This was because they failed to keep the law of the Lord and their hearts were far away from their God who loves them so much. The prophet Baruch 1:15-20 warns the people of Israel who were in exile in the city of Babylon, that unless they return to the ways of the Lord their God, they would remain in exile. In the next chapter of that book, Bar. 2:11, we immediately see the reaction of the people of Israel. They turned to the Lord in prayer; they cried out: Lord save us! And they were saved.
This was the same cry of Peter when he was about sinking, he cried out - Lord save me! (Matt. 14:29-30). And Jesus reached out and saved him. This is what we are to do at this time of our history. Together we must cry to the Lord: Lord save us! We have no other assurance than that of God. And we know He will save us. Let us commit ourselves to Him and pray specially for our country Nigeria as we celebrate our Independence. The prayer for Nigeria in Distress must be said more earnestly in our Parishes during liturgical celebrations, at our prayer meetings and family prayers at home. Our God is our help in trouble and our sure hope for salvation (Ps. 46:1).
May our Lady whom we honour very specially during this month of October intercede for our country Nigeria and bring us peace. God bless you!
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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