“Let’s Celebrate the Discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary”

Being a homily delivered by Fr. Justine DYIKUK during the Parish Day Celebration of St. Mary’s Parish Jimpi, Toro LGA, Bauchi State on 29th May 2021

1. Introduction

Beloved in Christ, two years ago, I arrived this parish as a humble servant sent on mission. Since I got here, we have been planning to have our parish day celebration. One thing or the other kept preventing us from realizing this dream. Since the scripture attests to the fact that God’s time is the best (Cf. Proverbs 16:9) and “there is time and season for everything under the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:1), I am confident that this is the day the Lord has made. Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

Although our parish is replete with various sodalities and pious societies, permit me to summarize the protocol as follows – The Vice Chairman of the Parish Council and his Exco, the Vice Chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council and her crew, the Catechists and Evangelists, the Chairman of Zumuntan Maza, the Parish Uwar Zumunta, the Youth President, our distinguish invited guests, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I welcome you heartily to our parish celebration.

An occasion like this reminds us of the scripture which says: “How good and pleasant for brothers and sisters to dwell in peace” (Psalms 133:1). When the Parish Priest is present with all the parishioners at any liturgical function, the Church becomes alive and active. As we relish the presence of the Lord, I am more than confident that the fruits of this solemn celebration would follow us all the days of our lives (Cf. Psalm 23:6).

2. The Focus of Our Celebration

Beloved in Christ, our celebration is fourfold – First, in line with the provision of the diocese, we shall inaugurate our Parish Pastoral Council today. The Pastoral Council is a body presided over the Pastor (Parish Priest) which is composed of members of the congregation together with those of the parish staff who have pastoral care by reason of their office and are saddled with the responsibility of promoting pastoral action in the parish (Cf. Canon 536 #1).

Second, we shall appreciate our “pastoral agents.” In this light, a special collection will be taken from men, women and youth groups to support the parish. Although we know that times are hard and many families are struggling, we must also acknowledge that our Catechists go to the same market with us. Therefore, we must appreciate them for their meritorious service to the Church. Without Catechists, who will prepare us for the sacraments? As such, every Church and Zone will demonstrate their love and solidarity with their Catechist through the outpouring of gifts.

Third, we shall celebrate our cultural diversity in the parish. The major ethnic groups which comprises of Afizere, Shammo, Igbo and Kurama would display their cuisines and dance. Since the Church is made up of people from different ethnic nationalities, we shall use this parish day celebration to showcase our rich cultural diversity and Catholicism bearing in mind that we have one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Cf. Ephesians 4:5-6).

Fourth, we shall have a 30 minutes’ novelty football match between the Zumuntan Mata and Zumantan Maza. The saying goes: “All work and not play makes Jack a dull boy.” This football match is meant to promote our unity and also remind us that in as much as we are called to holiness, we must also take care of our bodies through exercise for optimum performance in the Church and society.

3. The Spiritual Dimension of Our Ceremony

We chose this day and Month for our celebration because May is dedicated to Marian Devotions. Today happens to be the usual Saturday memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because the name of our parish is St. Mary, we are caught up in “a remembrance of the maternal example and discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, strengthened by faith and hope, on that ‘great Saturday’ on which Our Lord lay in the tomb, was the only one of the disciples to hold vigil in expectation of the Lord’s resurrection.”

This connects with our readings. Our first reading from Ecclesiasticus 51:17-27 challenges us to seek wisdom. It emphasizes that wisdom gives instruction, helps us to pursue what is good and prevents us from shame. I am pretty sure you can remember how King Solomon settled the dispute between two women who were fighting over a child. He simply ordered for a knife to divide the child so each would have one part.

While one of them was cool with the idea, the other objected and suggested that the child be given the other woman to save his life. At that, Solomon ordered that the child be given to the woman who wanted the child to live (Cf. 1 Kings 3:16-28). “Wisdom indeed is profitable to direct” (Ecclesiastes 10:10) as the Bible tells us. In a world where many people prefer to seek knowledge rather than wisdom, we are reminded that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, God is able to grant us wisdom to pilot our affairs at home, in the country and the Church.

In the gospel, (Mark 11:27-33) we are told that while at the Temple in Jerusalem, the chief priests, scribes and the elders of the people questioned Jesus’ authority for performing miracles and daring everyone. He asked them “Under whose authority did John baptize?” This unsettled them. They started arguing among themselves:”If we say from heaven, he will say, ‘Then why did you refuse to believe him?’ If we say “from man?” the people would rise against us because everyone saw him as a real prophet. As such, they replied: “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them: “Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.”

The only thing that stands between us and God is sin which stems from unwise decisions. Sin weakens our authority to stand before God and men. It destroys our “operating system” and makes us soft targets for the devil. As such, today’s celebration “is a prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the weekly memorial of the Resurrection of Christ” which shows that “with the ‘Virgin Mary’ [who] is continuously present and operative in the life of the Church, ” we can acquire enough wisdom to withstand the ancient enemy and stall tall.

4. Testimonies About Our Lady

For me, one big takeaway from our celebration is the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I can testify that she never disappoints as she did for the couple at Cana in Galilee (Cf. John 2:1-12). There is this parishioner who shared a testimony with me. I will not mention her name since I did not seek her permission to share this story.

She had travelled to the East for the funeral of a relation. On their way back to Jos, their luxury-bus developed a technical fault around Hawan Kibo village in Riyom Local Government Area of Jos Plateau State. It was around 3am. She said, something told her to pray the Holy Rosary but she kept procrastinating perhaps because the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak (Cf. Matthew 26:41). At last, she reluctantly removed her rosary and started praying it. Just then, some armed robbers stormed on them.

At gunpoint, they flashed a touch-light on the driver who was sleeping and ordered him to open the door. He obliged. They then directed everyone out of the vehicle. Everyone went outside and laid down facing the ground except this Mama who kept saying the rosary. Do you know what? As one of them approached her, he did not say a word to her.

After a few minutes, he spoke to his colleagues and they ordered everybody back into the bus. They closed the car and bid farewell to them without hurting or taking anything from anyone. Tell me what this is if not a miracle!

In a related development, there was a ghastly motor accident on one of the major highways in Nigeria. Unfortunately, everyone died in that mishap except one woman who was found under the tree. Guess what? She was found all covered with dust with her rosary. Is this a mere happenstance or the miraculous power of the Holy Rosary? Well, you make your conclusion.

5. Conclusion

Friends in Christ, I do not intend to deceive you that anyone who prays the rosary is automatically immuned from misfortune. However, I can assure that based on Mary’s promise to the three Seers of Fatima – Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, praying the Holy Rosary slows your will to commit sin, obtains uncountable graces for devotees, increases ones’ commitment for the things of God, helps one to endure misfortune with equanimity and assists those who are committed to praying it to receive a signal from heaven at the hour of their death. What could be loftier?

I would like to conclude by urging you to always pray for me, your parish priest. Praying the 20 decades only takes 1 hour. If God demands an hour out of the 24 hours he gives you each day, would he be asking too much? I challenge everybody in this parish to start saying the 20 decades of the rosary. Let me see your hand up if you are willing to accept the hash tag #20decadesoftherosarychallenge. May the Lord strengthen your resolve to commit to the things of God. Always visit the grotto of the Blessed Virgin in the Parish Church to pray for breakthrough in your life and family as well as for peace in our country, Nigeria.

I want to thank you immensely for your sacrifices towards the development of the Parish. In a special way, I deeply appreciate the Catechists and Evangelists, Parish Exco, organizing committee, men, women, youth, children and all those who worked behind the scenes towards the success of this event. As you go back to your various communities after the celebration, may the Blessed Virgin Mary cover you all with her virginal mantle. I urge you to keep celebrating the discipleship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the Lord bless his words in our hearts. Amen!

 

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