Dear Family of God, on behalf of the Chief Shepherd in Ibadan Archdiocese, Most Rev. Gabriel Ojeleke Abegunrin, I welcome you to Omi Adio Parish as you begin your special Week with this Mass of thanksgiving. Our Archbishop would have loved to be in your midst, but other pressing pastoral assignment has not permitted him, he however sends his greetings and wishes all of you fruitful deliberations.

Permit me to appreciate you, our dear lay faithful in this Archdiocese with similar words used by Saint John Paul II in his apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem on the Dignity and Vocation of Women on the occasion of the Marian Year, 15th August, 1988, no. 31, “The Church gives thanks for each and  every lay faithful in this Archdiocese, for the lay faithful dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for the lay faithful who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for the lay faithful who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect” lay faithful and for “weak” lay faithful, for all the laity in this Archdiocese as they have come forth from the heart of God… The Church gives thanks for all the Charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to the lay faithful in the history of our Archdiocese, for all the victories which She owes to their faith, hope and charity”.

The readings for today’s liturgy remind us once again that our Vocation and Mission as baptized persons is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. While Jesus in today’s Gospel reading says, “He who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God”. Two important sentences not to be forgotten: we are created in Christ Jesus for good works and secondly, he who does what is true comes to the light.

Dear lay members of Christ’s faithful people, always remember that you form that part of the people of God which might be likened to the labourers in the vineyard mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Mt. 20:1-2).

Your “vineyard” is the vast world we live in, one that is to be transformed according to God’s plan and in it, a multitude of men and women are called to labour in anticipation of the final coming of God.  What can you do to labour in the vineyard?  I think the first and very important point to remember in answering this question is to pay heed to the words of St Gregory The Great, “keep watch over your manner of life, dear people, and make sure that you are indeed the Lord’s labourers. Each person should take into account what he does and consider if he is laboring in the vineyard of the Lord”.

Consider laboring in the vineyard by your example. By living a faithful life, you place God first in all things and this is reflected in: the decisions you make, how you communicate and interact with others; what you are involved in; your approach to matters; your life style; all of which are indicative of your desire to cooperate with God’s graces and plan for your life.

By living such a life, you are evangelizing all the time wherever you go, with whom ever you communicate and come into contact with. It is a life that evangelizes by works and by actions, when your words are holy and of good repute and your actions are prompted by charity, justice and purity, you are spreading the Gospel of Christ to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Considering laboring in the vineyard in your family. The family becomes the primary place where to demonstrate that life example, to your spouse and children. The family is the Ecclesia domestica (the Domestic Church), where God is at the center of the family, providing graces, blessings, protections and guidance, allowing both the father and the mother to transfer the faith to the children by their life example. As we all know that, The family that prays together stays together! Let your house be a house of prayer and genuine love.

My dear lay faithful in Ibadan Archdiocese, you are celebrating your week this year that Ibadan Diocese is 60 years. Sixty years ago, the Bishop and all the priests were non Nigerians, to the Glory of God, today our Archdiocese has more than one hundred Nigerian diocesan priests. We are indeed grateful to our Fathers in the Faith, the SMA Priests in particular; Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles and Medical Missionaries of Mary Sisters. Some SMA fathers died of malaria just few months in Ibadan and were buried at St Theresa Minor Seminary cemetery. They never returned to Ireland because of their love for Africa! May God grant eternal rest to the dead.

I think we can assess our Diocese at 60 using the words of Pope Benedict XVI during his Last General Audience at St Peter’s Square, 27th February, 2013: “I have felt like Saint Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us so many days of sun and of light winds, days when the catch was abundant; there were also moments when the waters were rough and the winds against us, as throughout the Church’s history, and the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord is in the boat, and I have always known that the boat of the Church is not mine but His. Nor does the Lord let it sink; it is he who guides it, surely also through those whom he has chosen, because he so wished. This has been, and is, a certainty which nothing can shake…. God guides his Church, he sustains it always, especially at times of difficulty. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the one true way of looking at the journey of the Church and of the world”.

Our Archbishop, Most Rev. Gabriel Leke Abegunrin in his address at the annual archdiocesan get-together on 5th January, 2018 at Onireke, Ibadan, called for unity in order to continue to build Ibadan Archdiocese as one family church, “Whenever I visit parishes, I am impressed when I hear slogans and anthems aimed at fostering a family spirit. Please express this goodness in live actions, interpersonal relationships, forbearance with one another, readiness to forgive, readiness to help, looking out for each other, in short, loving one another knowing that ‘ife bori ohun gbogbo’ that is, love conquers all”.

Building Ibadan archdiocese as one family chucrh: The Laity is a formidable force. Aware of this power, Vatican II declared that, “The Church is not truly established and does not fully live, nor is she a perfect sign of Christ among the people, unless there exists a laity worthy of the name, working alongside the hierarchy. For the Gospel cannot be deeply imprinted on the mentality, life and work of any people without the active presence of lay people. Therefore, from the foundation of a local church, very special care must be taken to form a mature Christian laity” (Ad Gentes, no. 21)

As members of the laity, you are called to exercise an important role in the mission of the Church by participating in the Eucharist and receiving the sacraments, by praying and offering thanksgiving, and by living a holy life marked by self-denial and in active charity towards others. You share in a mission of “love and life” by being faithful to the duties of marriage and the family. You transform the world and sanctify it from within by bringing the Gospel to public life and to the work place.

In every Christian community, whether it be the “domestic church” constituted by ‘the family’ or the parish collaborating with the priest, or the diocese united around the Bishop, the laity strive, like the followers of Christ in the first century, to remain faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, faithful to fraternal service, faithful to prayer and to the celebration of the Eucharist.

Parish as the “family of families”: By nature the Parish is the ordinary place where the faithful worship and live their Christian life. The Parish is the place which manifests the communion of various groups and movements, which find in it spiritual sustenance and material support. We Priests and you lay people should work together to make sure that Parish life is harmonious expressing the Church as family. We must never forget that all of us belong to the family of God, the same blood flows in our veins, and it is the blood of Jesus Christ. The same Spirit gives us life, and it is the Holy Spirit, the infinite fruitfulness of divine love.

An authentic Eucharist Community is a total self-giving love community. A community in which every single member gives himself to the others in the example of Jesus. The reason of Jesus’ death was that men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them (cf. 2 Cor 5:15). Beginning from the Eucharist celebration, Christians build vital interpersonal relationships with one another. In the Church as family of God, we are to love and serve one another as brothers and sisters of the same family. Therefore, all forms of hatred, division, discrimination, domination and pride within the Church are to be denounced.

It is my wish and prayer that as we mark 60 years as Diocese this year, the family of God in Ibadan Archdiocese will continue to imitate the First Christian Community that, “remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to prayers… Each day, with one heart, they regularly went to the temple but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved (Acts 2:42-47).

“O Virgin Mother, guide and sustain us so that we might always live as true sons and daughters of the Church of your Son. Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth the civilization of truth and love, as God wills it, for His glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen” (Christifideles Laici, no. 64).

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