Introduction

In today’s mass readings, one can hear the situation of Nigerian society denounced in both the first reading and the Gospel. The first reading is about the prophetic vocation of Amos, and the Gospel is about the healing of a paralytic. Listening to these readings, I heard them speak to our Nigerian situation.

Historic condition of Amos’ time

Amos was initially a shepherd who had no plan of doing any special ministry than taking care of the sheep. He was also a sycamore dresser. When the Lord called him, he went to the neighbouring Kingdom of Israel, where the rich freely abused the poor.

Israel was enjoying relatively economic stability by this time. The rich had enough money to buy whatever they wanted. And to ensure they had the upper hand over the poor, they freely bought the poor or took away their belongings without difficulty. It was under this condition that the prophet answered his call to speak in the name of the Lord.

Historic Condition of Matthew

The author of Matthew wrote his Gospel around 40 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. It was also around ten years after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. It was around this time that Mathew wrote to his Jewish brethren, who were by then new converts to the new way that Christ inaugurated with his life, death and resurrection.

Nigerian Historic condition

Looking at Nigeria and the situation of her citizens today, one can see a replica of a community of Amos with our leaders who constantly sell our future to the highest bidder. Like in the time of Amos, the destiny of future generations of Nigerians has been mortgaged.

Also, like the community of Matthew, Nigerians have lost many of their worship centres to different Islamic empires and capitalist gods. Believers like the community of Matthew, we are neither at ease with our traditional spiritualities nor our new accepted credos.

The reaction of prophet Amos (Amos 7:10-17)

Given the situation of the poor, Prophet Amos decided to stand by the poor and the abused members of his community. He went headlong against the ruling class:

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks! The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.… Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years.” (Amos 4:1-2;4)

The reaction of Jesus (Matthew 9:1-8)

In the Gospel of today, Matthew presents Jesus as a healer to his community. He has just calmed the sea showing his power over nature, and then cast away demons from two possessed men. Now he completes it by showing his power over sickness.

For the community of Matthew who seems to be undergoing an identity crisis - are they Jewish or new converts? — being sure that Christ is Lord over nature, evil spirits and sickness were crucial. For this community that was in serious difficulty, they needed to know that the Lord was still in control.

Reaction of Nigerians

In the light of these two communities, Nigerians need revolutionary prophets to speak the truth to the occupants of Aso Rock and other government quarters. There is a need to rise and denounce all the vampires socking the blood of our citizens and vultures feeding on the bodies of our dying nation.

We also need our citizens to stand their ground, holding firm on the Lord who can stop even the deadliest enemies of our land.

Conclusion

Like in the time of Amos, our nation is hostage, and the condition of the poor is unbearable. The rich have taken control of the entire society and are ready to sell our citizens to the highest bidders. The situation of Nigerians is like that of the citizens of Israel in Amos’ time. Our leaders pretend to be religious; they offer sacrifices and pay tithes hoping to bribe God. But the Lord will never give up on his people. He is like the Jesus of the Matthean Gospel. He has power over everything. Yet, Nigerians should continue to fight for their deliverance.


During the mass of Saint Peter and Paul, I asked myself, who is Jesus for a Nigerian today? The Gospel of the day was Matthew 16:13-19. And in the light of our situation as a nation, this Gospel took a new meaning for me. Like Matthew, who was writing to a community mourning the destruction of their temple and the killing of some of their brethren by the Roman Empire, Nigerians are mourning the destruction of our nation and the daily killing of our fellow Nigerians. So, like Matthew’s community, Nigerians are facing a broken future.

How then should we respond to this Christological question? To do this, let us first agree that Nigeria has been taken hostage with neither Churches nor Mosques to worship in peace. And while Christians are devouring one another at the altar of tribalism, the Muslims and Christians are barely talking to each other, with the ongoing killing of many Christians by Islamist groups standing as a stumbling block. At this juncture, it seems no one knows who the Messiah is in our national history.

So, this Gospel has become vital to us as a nation who claims to love God.

In this passage, while Jesus was walking with his disciples, he asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

John the Baptist (replied) says some; others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

But in his usual way, he brought the question home by asking them: “But what about you?” “Who do you say I am?”

To understand the implications of this question, one needs to consider that in Matthew, Jesus didn’t simply ask, “who do people say that I’m,” but rather, “who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

In the Old Testament, “the son of man” is used in different ways. First, it was used to depict a mortal man or the frailty of our human nature (Num. 23:19, Job 25:6, Psalms 8:4, Sirach 17:30). It was also used to describe the prophets or those chosen by God (Dan. 8:17).

But in Jewish Apocalyptic literature, “the son of man” was also used to describe the divine, the chosen one, or the Messiah (Dan. 7:13-14, 1 En 37-71, Ez 13.)

Though Matthew must have used it in this last meaning, I would want us to briefly see how these other Old Testament meanings of the son of man can apply to the Nigerian situation. For example, the first response noted here—some say you are Elijah—could be traced to the insinuation of Herod Agrippa (Mat. 14:2); Jesus as one of the prophets could be what the Jewish people thought of Jesus’ identity.

Yet, Jesus wanted something more, something personal. And Peter, after three years of relationship with Christ, proved to have encountered the true nature of Christ. He has understood that Christ is the Messiah.

This confession of Peter is the faith of Matthew’s community. They have recognized on the crucified Christ the full presence of the promised Saviour. He who accepted to die on the cross to stand by the side of the truth cannot be but their Messiah, their Saviour, the eternal Hero who ended his quest by offering his life to cement the project he firmly believed in.

Today, the same question is being addressed to Nigerians: “who do you say the son of man is?” Is he a tribal warrior, the spokesperson of our ethnic groups, or is he who comes to redeem our entire nation?

Unfortunately, despite our (external) religiosity, we are still ignorant of the principles of our different beliefs. And Nigerians having a short memory, we often forget that Christ (Isa) went against his people’s religious beliefs to stand by the side of the oppressed. Moreover, he also went against the ruling class and the tribal religious leaders, even to the extent of paying the ultimate price.

So, today, how do we want to make our choice of leadership? Are we going to stand by the truth or our ethnic interests? Are we ready to give up our comforts and our religious and tribal differences to stand by the side of the truth? At this moment, our nation is bruised and destroyed by her leadership. So, who do we say that the son of man is? Are we standing by him or selling our birthright to the vultures roaming our political spaces?

Demons are not absent in Nigerian society though they mainly appear like Angels. They also seem invisible, but not how we think of them. Indeed, they operate not only in the middle of the night but mainly during the day and in our government and civil servant offices. They are not roaming or flying by night in the form of cats or bats. They dress in agbada or religious attires and stand in their self-erected altars where they drug Nigerians with venomous preaching that takes away our power to fight for our freedom. Our national demons are human and operate as leaders to keep us in bondage through their unending strikes and corrupt practices.

Today, the son of man is asking us to give up our tribal quests and stand firmly by the side of the truth to assist him in the liberation of our nation from the hands of political and religious vampires.

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Nigerians have over-depended on fortune tellers that now and then, one of them would wake up to serve us our due poisonous portion. More problematic is that, without exception, every religion in Nigeria has fallen prey to that snare. They have all understood that they need to play with our gullible attachment to miracles and supernatural powers to thrive.

You see, Nigeria can happen to the best of all of us. Have you recently noticed that even in Islam, many new shamans are waking up from the dead? And to understand that it's Nigeria happening to Islam too, one can consider that women have not been generally seen to play any public role as religious leaders in Islam on the global level, then come to think of the African cultural context. Yet, we have many ladies in Nigeria taking up the mantle of "prophetship" among the Nigerian Muslims.

So, as you wonder why Mbaka is trying to resurface from the recent oblivion the arrival of new dukes in town has plunged him into, tell yourself that Nigeria can happen even to the best among us. Nigeria is happening to Fr Mbaka, and we should not be surprised. But unfortunately, the problem is not our self-proclaimed prophets but their clientele. Watch how those colleagues envying his strong position will jump on this situation to claim some of his clients.

Maybe, it's time for us to wake up and ask ourselves why China is progressing without allowing anyone to deceive them with God said this or that? Why is Canada one of the best destinations for many Nigerians when Canadian society is strongly growing in the opposite direction with its religious practice? Ask yourselves why even Saudi Arabia has grown stronger now that the country has relaxed most of its religious rules? And forget that the US continue to sell us their In God We Trust" logo; we all know that the most outstanding American God is now capitalism. So brief, religion is essential, but it saves no nation. It can only save some of its citizens' souls and not because they worship their self-made prophets.

So, get it from me today; our fight is no longer against prophets and their religious utterances. Today our battle is on the street. That's where difficulties abound. Get your #PVC, ignore these religious merchants, and open your eyes to fight against anyone who might want to steal your votes. Our priority this time is to stop giving people authority they do not have. The only two prophesies that should preoccupy us now are there is power in your #PVC and that evil reigns in the land because good people closed their eyes. Get down from the fence and fight for our great grandchildren's future.


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