Nigeria Needs Leaders With Good Listening Ears

A CLERGYMAN in the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan Metropolitan See, Rev. Fr. Anthony Akinwale (OP) on Thursday 30th July 2016, called upon political and spiritual leaders around nations of the world to increase “The spirituality of listening” in their leadership role for a united and peaceful world.

He made this call at St. Benedict cathedral Church in Osogbo, Osun state in his sermon, at the episcopal ordination mass of Most Rev. John Akinkunmi Oyejola as the new Bishop of Osogbo Catholic diocese.

Reverend Father Anthony Akinwale in his sermon, established the fact that the vocation of a bishop is that of a Prophet, Shepherd and Martyr.(First reading-Jeremaih.1:4-9, Second reading-I Peter.5:1-4 and Gospel reading-John.10:11-16).

The words Prophet, Shepherd and Martyr as reflected in the three readings of the day he said, indicate to us that the Bishop is a Prophet, Shepherd and Mytr. He observed that the Bishop in our time today, is what the prophet Jeremiah was to the people of his generation(Jeremaih.1:5).

He urged the Bishop elect as he has been chosen by God to lead the church as a prophet, an intermediary between God and the people , he further admonished him to let the words of God to Prophet Jeremiah be fresh in his mind and in what so ever he does for the growth of the church and the flock.(Jeremiah.1:7)

He sees the preaching ministry of a Bishop as a prophetic one and the most important in his life. He however warned that contrary to what people understand or take a prophet or prophecy to be, a prophet he said, is not a soothsayer or fortune teller that predicts events of life or spokesman for politicians, political parties or their ideology, but a spokesman for God.

As the oracle of God the Bishop he said, must tell the people what they need to hear and what God wants him to tell them and because he prays and listen to God, he must tell the people what God is saying about the church and the flock.

In his exposition of the vocation of a Bishop, he said, a Bishop as a prophet listen to God before he speaks and his message must always be credible because he listen to God before he speaks. As a prophet he said, the Bishop must also listen to the people of God, the clergy, the consecrated people and the lay faithful.

Further in his sermon, Fr. Akinwale said, the spirit of God speaks to the Bishop through the people by the virtue of the Holy spirit endowed in them at baptism. The Bishop because he is closer to God in prayer and hears from God when he listens attentively, the Holy Spirit speaks to the Bishop, so that he can authoritatively speak to the people. In this way he said, the bishop and the people are united and breathe the Holy Spirit together.

When the Bishop and the people minister the Holy Spirit to each other, they form a church that listens to the spirit, a church where everyone listens to the spirit, so that this church can truly speak for God in today’s world and can be truly a prophetic church, he explained.

As a shepherd a Bishop he said, must care for the flock of Christ entrusted to him faithfully and not for money or any selfish end but for the love he has in doing the service for God. The two functions of a Bishop, as a prophet and shepherd he said, points to the fact that a Bishop as a prophet must listen to God and as a shepherd must listen to the people.

“When a leader listens, his authority is not weakened but strengthened, a listening leader strengthens the people and the leader of a strengthened people is a strengthened leader ,” he said.

He expressed the view that many conflicts in our world, our country and even the church today, are because we are not listening. We neither listen to God nor to each other. He pressed that we need to cultivate the spirituality of listening to make us live in communion with God and in unity with each other..

“If we listen prayerfully to God in all we do, the world will be a better and peaceful place to live in,” he said.

Apart from the fact that many don’t listen to God when they pray, he noted that majority don’t even know how to put their petition across to God in prayer for answer.

He defined prayer as a humble request for what we do not deserve, many today he said, misunderstand prayer as prophecy and decree and when they pray, they talk to God instead of conversing with God, not that his will be done, but rather, they decree that their own will be done by God.

This he said, brings conflict with God and eventually make us enter into conflicts with one another. The Bishop as a prophet he said, prayerfully and attentively attends to the needs, hunger and thirst of the flock and most importantly their hunger and thirst for justice and what is right. He feeds the flock with the words of God, he uses the sacrament to heal them and strengthen them. He also uses the Blood and Body of Christ to nourish them and when he preaches, he speaks with the voice of Christ, the good shepherd.

As the herdsmen listen and care for their herds in thirst for water and in hunger lead them to where to graze.. He said , the Bishop in the same manner must listen attentively and attend to the cries, difficulties and needs of his flock. He however reminded the congregation that, “The imagery of a Bishop as a shepherd to his flock has its limitation, for the flock the Bishop leads is not an unintelligent flock. The people of God confided to the Bishop’s care are not a people without intelligence; they are a thinking flock and not foolish animals. They are human beings endowed with the grace of baptism to enlighten their reasoning and gives them sense of obedience and wisdom to assist their Bishop with wise counsel and this is why the Bishop must always listen to them.”.

Considering the vocation of a bishop as that of a Martyr, he emphasized the words of Christ in the gospel reading for the day viz: “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”( John.19: 11).”

The good shepherd he said is a martyr, . a bishop he also said is a mytr, because he is a shepherd. In Christ imitation the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his flock. As a leader a Bishop he said is one who leads the church in martyrdom. The Bishop he said not only leads thee church in offering the sacrifice of bread and wine, he leads the church in offering himself as a sacrifice to become a real priest in the true sense of the word.

Rev Fr. Akinwale admonished the new Bishop to emulate the good works of Saints Peter and Paul, great Apostles of Christ who bore supreme witness to the faith in the city of Rome, to constantly remind us that the vocation of a shepherd is the vocation of a martyr and not of someone who is after material benefits of pastoral ministry.

As the new Bishop has been chosen and given the grace of his calling by God to lead the church as a Bishop, Fr. Akinwale said, he is called to serve as a Prophet, Shepherd and Martyr to the flock of the church in the catholic diocese of Osogbo. Prohet, Shepherd and Mrtyr he said have three qualitites in common, conviction, courage and wisdom. Prophets, Shepherds and martyrs have convictions, they are not afraid to take a stand in important matters, they have the courage to live for the faith and even die for it if need be.

A Bishop he said must have courage to lay down his life and even courage to sacrifice his reputation for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. He however warned that, courage without wisdom is recklessness wand wisdom without courage is cowardice. He prayed that the Holy Spirit will grant the new Bishop the gift of courage and wisdom, wisdom to be diplomatic and speak wisely in the face of provocation.

Fr. Akinwale praised and commended the courage and wisdom of catholic bishops of Nigeria in their fight for peace, unity, justice and growth with which they have wisely counseled successive governments and leaders in the country. Though Bishops he said, do not command armies, but they are respected because they are true prophets who speak the word of God.

Fr. Akinwale admonished the new Bishop to be a good leader of the church, he likens the church to an Orchestra of singers in which the Bishop is the conductor of the Orchestra, if members of the Orchestra follows diligently the directives of the conductor, they will sing harmoniously to produce melodious and beautiful songs in praises to God.

He prayed that the Orchestra that the church in Osogbo is, led by its new Bishop, its new chief orchestra, may sing with one voice and that the church wiil know peace in his time and sing harmonious melody the Psalm: “I will sing forever of your love O’Lord” sang beautifully by the cathedral church choir at the ordination.

Ending his sermon, Fr. Akinwale says the ministry of a Bishop a difficult and enormous burden made light by God himself, but with prayer and support of the clergy, religious and laity in the diocese he said, the new bishop will bring peace, unite the people and make the church flourish.

Performing the episcopal ordination rite after the homily, Archbishop Abegunrin, the chief host and principal ordination Bishop after reading the Pope’s letter of the Bishop elect’s appointment to the congregation by a priest, he was called to the altar, where Archbishop Abegunrin anointed his head with the blessed oil of prism, gave him the ring as a sign of his marriage with the church, the Mitre as a crown for his new office and the Crosier, the pastoral staff of a shepherd o

Individual bishop lined up and in turn laid hands on his head and prayed for the new

Bishop. He was accorded the traditional church kiss of peace to welcome him to the fold of Bishops. The new Bishop blessed the entire congregation before been led to his official seat in the church. The concelebrated episcopal ordination mass with more than 30 bishops was at the liturgy of the Eucharist rites led by Most Rev. Oyejola, the celebrant.

The history making ceremony was attended by Osun Stae Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, the State Chief Judge, Justice Adepele Ojo, the Head of Service, Mr. Sunday Olayinka Oyeleye, Royal Fathers, Traditional chiefs, Educationists, University Dons, Foreign Dignitaries, Top government functionaries, His Excellency Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, the Papal Nuncio in Nigeria who represented the Pope, Eminent Cardinals, serving Archbishop, Emeritus Archbishops, serving Bishops, Emeritus Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters, the Laity, church societies, Youth organizations in the church, Catholic church National Youth Corps members, representatives of students from catholic secondary schools in the state, Knights of St. John and St. Mulumba, other civil and religious leaders and organizations from within and outside Osun State. The ceremony was covered by media men and women from different media organizations in the state and security was provided by men and women of the Nigerian police force.

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Articles by Babatunde Joseph Oduntan