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.
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.