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First Professions in West Africa

Date: 06 Sep 2017

Venue: West African Province

On the 26th August 2017, the West Africa Province rejoiced with the whole Congregation of the Presentation Brothers/Family, as two young men, Titus Liambee and Christopher Simon, took the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience in the Presentation way of life. Below is a heart-touching reflection which was delivered by the Province Leader of the West Africa Province, Brother Emmanuel Aminenta, on the theme: Build your Christian Life and Vocation on the Kingdom Values.

Readings: Ruth 2:1-3.8-11; 4:13-17   Mt. 23:1-12 

REFLECTION          

Good morning Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I know these two young men have their own reasons for choosing these readings for today.  If you look at the readings, you would see that the two are parallel to each other.  One is talking about how difficulties can lead to humility and the other is about power and pride.  On the other hand, they have a point of convergence; which is humility.  I therefore see it that today Christopher and Titus are once again, calling each one of us to humility, especially we the Brothers. 

We have intended humility and unintended humility.  The unintended humility comes when we are saddled with circumstances beyond our control forcing us to nothing but a choice to be humble.  That was the type of humility Naomi and Ruth were confronted with.  I don’t think there are such circumstances forcing these two young men or any of us sitting here to be humble, but it is a duty call from Christ and our founder Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice to be humble.  Christopher and Titus were not forced by famine or any hardship to leave Nigeria and come into this foreign land in search for freedom, not even BOKO HARAM.  You came in here because you want intended humility, humility that would enable you serve God to the full as a member of the Presentation Brothers. 

The intended humility is that of a choice which Jesus is calling each one of us to in the Gospel to embrace. Ruth had the choice to go back like her sister did, but she chose to follow Naomi.  ‘I will go where you go,’  ‘I will sleep where you sleep,’  ‘I will eat what you eat,’  ‘I will die where you die,’ these were the words of Ruth who had all the choice to return to Moab and be comfortable in life.  This reminds us of the rich young man who couldn’t let go of his wealth to follow Christ Mt. 19:21-22.  He started nicely by obeying all the commandments, but ended badly because he couldn’t let go of his earthly possessions.  How many of us Brothers, started nicely as Brothers with full enthusiasm; and how many of us are now struggling to come out of some particular sins, yet finding it difficult?  One commitment to the core values of our founder Edmund Rice is letting go of some earthly possessions be it material or attitude.

In the Gospel, Jesus said “the teachers of the religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the scriptures.  So practice and obey whatever they say to you but don’t follow their example.  They don’t practice what they preach.  They saddle you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden.  Everything they do is for show.”      

Dear Christopher and Titus; are your life styles going to confirm what Christ is saying in the Gospel?  You have made up your minds to embrace intended humility by taking the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.  The sad thing is that, these vows instead of making us humble sometimes rather deceive us and put us in a high pedestal above other people.  Then we are often referred to as Reverends. Are you going to be called reverend thereby you would be ‘reverending’ over people, taking places of honour and would like to be giving all the preferential treatments? 

You chose these readings to keep you on track and to make a difference.  Don’t go out there and use your position or the property of the Brothers to make a show.  Challenge Brothers who are living lives that would bring shame to the Brothers and Mother Church as a whole, not to engage in unhealthy competitions and relationships.  Remember you are professing the vow of poverty to live evangelical poverty not ostentatious life style.  If you want ostentatious life style this is not the place you better stop. This applies to all the Brothers sitting here.  You are professing the vow of chastity to live single but in community and have unconditional love towards everybody.  If you want to be selective in your love towards people especially to only some particular young ladies thereby living more or less a married man, please this is not the place for you, stop and find somewhere else.  That also applies to all the Brothers sitting here.  You are professing the vow of obedience to obey lawful authorities.  If you turn to become an authority yourself, how would you obey your authorities?  Then this is not the place for you, you can find somewhere to become your own authority.  This again applies to all the Brothers sitting here.  Remember you are going to live with other Brothers in communities.  Know that you need to depend on them and they depend on you.  If you begin to struggle for your independence, your freedom and struggle for control thereby sneaking away and hiding to do many things this is not your place. You need to be out there, get your job, control your own resources and decide when to do what.  What legacy would you like to leave behind?  The Brother who is prayerful, who builds community, who welcomes the poor, who is modest and many people find comfort in his presence or the Brother who is bluffing, competing with young men over ladies, showing off in his dressings and use of the community vehicle or motorbike?    

Let’s stop grumbling, let’s stop gossiping, let’s stop the pull him down syndrome and support each another in our communities, apostolate or work places to build the kingdom of God.  Let’s love our own and speak the good of each other, celebrate the success of our Brothers and sympathize with each another where necessary.

First experience in the life of every person is very important.  So, senior Brothers, you owe it a duty to let young Brothers experience good community life especially the first communities that they find themselves.  The presence of the young Brother in the community should challenge and help the senior Brothers to check their behavior and lead a good life.  Young Brothers should also let the life of the senior Brothers make theirs better.  The mistakes and careless life style of the senior Brothers should make young Brothers correct their own.  Don’t say ‘big Brother is this or that what about me?  I’ll show him that I can even do more.’  Remember salvation is an individual affair. You don’t need somebody to do the right thing.  Just imagine you have gone to God and God opens two doors; one is heaven and the other hell.  God then tells you; ‘look through each of them, where you find your friends and the people you like you can go in there to join them.  Where you also see your enemies and those you don’t like, stay away from them.  Now, you realize that, your friends the people you like and respect so much are in hell but your enemies and those you didn’t want to see at all, are in heaven.  Which of these choices would you make? 

Let’s be considerate in our ways of doing things.  You don’t need to bring your friends to empty the fridge or the food bowls in the community in the name of being good.  You don’t share community properties with friends and family neither should you use your meager community budget to do charity to the detriment of the other community members. 

Remember also, that it is very difficult and painful sometimes to be a humble person.  People belittle you and you can feel like making them know that you cannot just be taken for granted.  However, remember also that anything that is built on humility, simplicity, obedience, commitment, generosity and above all love, shall surely bear lasting fruits to the glory of God and the general good of others.   

May the spirit of Blessed Edmund, may Mary of the Presentation and may our Lord Jesus Christ continue to be with us now and always.  AMEN!

By Br. Godfrey Kuugbar.

West African Province Secretary