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Homilies/Reflections

EMBRACING STEWARDSHIP IN GOVERNANCE. A reflection for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B).
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 18 Jul 2021

Jesus’ apostles, whom he sent out in pairs last Sunday, “giving them authority over unclean
spirits” (Mk 6:7), have returned with excellent results. Their stewardship of the Gospel meant
fruitfulness in the service of God and the people. Let us repeat stewardship, fruitfulness, and service
of the people—today’s Gospel shows how they re-joined Jesus, telling their stories to his delight.
Service, more service, and teaching outreach greet Jesus in the Gospel. Jesus “sets himself” at
length to provide for the people. He shows us how, through us, God raises shepherds for the pasture.
In a way, the prophetic “remnant” that Jeremiah speaks about (Jer 23:3) survives in all those willing
to trust and follow Jesus’ example of selfless services. Whether they are religious or secular leaders of
civic societies of all ages, good leaders echo today’s readings as good shepherds of the people. As
good shepherds, good leaders are true representatives of the collective will. They use the
commonwealth of their nations or communities to serve the common good of all. And they make
God’s compassion real.


Today, we need to hear about the re-gathering announcement that, “the remnant of my flock I
will gather from the nations.” And we must not forget that God’s actions are continual in history and
compelling for posterity. We say God’s love, not simply for some people in exclusion of other
peoples. Or God’s care in some places to the abandonment of different areas. As St Paul reminds us,
God’s care is equally for the non-Jews, Greeks, and Christians in the past and the present. God’s care
is for our present society in its need to stand up for peace. Listening to Christ and living in Christ kills
the hostility, sues for reconciliation, and paves the way for all to co-habit under the panoply of peace
in society. This position is a self-evident truth that everyone can know, foster, and strive to live every
day.


Additionally, Jeremiah’s language about “doom for the shepherds” (Jer 23:1) needs a broader
understanding. Jeremiah was, in fact, a man of peace and timid temperament. He was called a priest
and prophet by divine providence (Jer 1:4-8) and mandated to be celibate (Jer 16:2). In Jeremiah’s
spiritual experiences, he could hide nothing in his distaste for structures of sin and the forces of evil
that raged in his time. Thus, for more than 40 years, Jeremiah’s ministry was one of long martyrdom
(B.C 626-580), even though his name reflected his hopes and those of his people. It meant, “God
exalts.”


Jeremiah’s denunciation of the corrupt rulers sounds the echo for the present time. Apart
from Hezekiah and Josiah, who made genuine efforts to reform their nation, the kingdom of Judah,
the godless rulers counted Manasseh, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, including Zedekiah. The bad leaders ruled
Judah at the time of Jeremiah’s oracle in use for today’s reading. God’s action counted his intention
for direct action. The “I myself” formula heralds God’s intervention to act against misgovernance,
care for service, justice and enthrone authentic leadership. God wields the righteous branch. God
demands honesty and integrity in the land. The indictment is strong and direct: ‘You have destroyed
my sheep and scattered them’ (Jer 23:2). Nowhere else is this truer than in the entirety of Nigeria
today!


Today’s message does more than Jesus welcoming his disciples or pitying the people. It
challenges religious leaders to be faithful shepherds to their people. The word of God also indicts the
secular leaders fleecing the people while coasting on ethnic politics. The people governed – both in
the civic and religious parlance need good leaders. Muslim or Christian leaders must care more for
fairness in leadership. Good shepherds give and show genuine concerns for the flock they lead. The
uncountable lives wasted daily by banditry should matter more to the government than posts read on
Twitter or WhatsApp. Nigerian politicians should rise above the current ethnic interests and give
better examples as custodians of the common good of diverse peoples, which is the hallmark of
credible leadership.

Let our leaders retreat from arrogance to rebuilding the broken lives of our people. Let the
reconciliation and mutual distrust among all segments of the Nigerian polity cause the Nigerian
government to rethink the present policies. Our societies learn nothing from history if we continue to
keep silent in the face of the injustices. And our governments are self-serving if our people continue
to cringe under the burden of hostilities and the divisions which ethnic bigotry inflicts.

 

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