Celebrating Mary; Queen and Patroness of Nigeria
“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13).
In Nigeria, October First is the day we as a country mark our “freedom” from British Colonial Rule, thereby transcending into self-rule. It is almost six decades now, but it is quite clear that things are far from being at their best given the great potentials we see every now and then. While individual Nigerians are doing great exploits in almost all fields of life all over the world. Nigeria as a country suffers from a very bad reputation internationally.
One thing is clear; not many Nigerians today are proud of being Nigerians and if given the chance, over half of our population would prefer to become citizens of other countries.
This includes those agitating for self-rule (such as Biafra) which is not surprising for a country that was created by the British primarily to serve British colonial interests. A day like this provides another opportunity to pray and hope for a better tomorrow.
It is in the light of this hope that our first reading today is taken from a portion of Isaiah that speaks of a time when things would be well.
Re-reading this passage in Nigerian terms, it would appear like this: “On that day, there shall come forth, a leader and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord… He shall not steal our money… he shall not be an ethnic bigot… he shall decide with equity for the meek… he shall not tell us lies… righteousness shall be the belt of his waist…”
In fact, when this God-appointed leader comes, the Psalmist sings: “In his days, shall justice flourish and great peace forever.” He shall save the needy when they cry, the poor, and those who are helpless, he will not send EFCC after his political enemies while the real thieves walk freely, he will not go on months of medical tourism while our hospitals have become dignified mortuaries, he will not send his children to school abroad while our universities lie in shambles, he will allow free and fair elections, he would use monies meant for Nigeria for the good of all Nigerians.
We know that this shoot from the stump of Jesse as prophesied by Isaiah is Jesus Christ who came in the fullness of time to make all things right.
Just as Mary was instrumental to the coming of Jesus, Nigeria as a country is dedicated to our Mother Mary in the hope that she would plead with God on our behalf to give us such a leader who will bring peace. A leader like Jesus Christ who as our second reading says, destroyed the hostility among men through the Cross. We need a leader who will not encourage division by making certain persons feel like they have no share in the commonwealth of Nigeria.
We are so assured that things will be well for this country as we ask Mary’s intercession.
Apart from the fact that she quickly intervened at the wedding feast at Cana, Mary is a woman who understands the meaning of hardship. Our Gospel passage today tells us how Joseph had to wake Mary up in the middle of the night (a few days after she delivered the baby Jesus) to run to Egypt. Mind you, Mary was already stressed up from the journey they embarked upon to take part in the census. They had nowhere to stay other than a manger where animals were kept and Mary, just like a majority of Nigerian women (not minding its two thousand years after) gave birth without professional medical care.
Our Gospel passage today ends by telling us how Jesus became identified as a Nazarene simply because upon their return from Egypt, Joseph and Mary settled in a city called Nazareth. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria.
A person is not considered a native of a place even if he was born and brought up there. Ethnicity is one big problem that has prevented Nigeria from moving forward. If for instance, my parents are from the south and I was born and brought up in a place like Kano, (up north), I am never identified as a native of Kano and no matter how good I am, I cannot become the governor of Kano. What parable can I use to describe Nigeria? We are like people living in the stone age, but want to enjoy by all means the facilities of the twenty-first century.
Time has come for us to drop our ethnic baggage behind. Time has come for us to stop putting people in boxes just because of where they come from or the language they speak. Let us love our fellow Nigerians. Let us begin to think of what we can do for Nigeria and not be solely concerned about how to eat from the National cake.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, your mother understands hardship, as we honour her today as Queen of Nigeria, may she intercede for us, Amen.