Homily of Tuesday, 28th Week, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus & 2nd National Workshop of Communication Directors on October 15th 2019.
Readings: Rom 1: 16-25
Gospel : Luke 11:37-41
“The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the hearts” words from today’s acclamation, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I welcome you all with great affection and cordial greetings. I say a big thank you to the National President for his work. In the same vein, I offer sentiments of gratitude to all diocesan communication directors. I offer my affection of love to you all for your presence in Warri diocese. Your roles in the Church is essential for so many reasons. As you are aware during Vatican II, the decree on social communication was the second from the sixteen documents promulgated. It came after the constitution Sacrosanctum concilium. Therefore, due to its essential nature, there was no much debate and controversy among the Council fathers. It was even promulgated before Lumen gentium due to the complex nature of the schema De Ecclesia which became Lumen gentium. By its nature, social communication is ‘popular’. It embraces the Church and the civil society. Because as etymology teaches ‘communication is the process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means, speech, oral; writing, graphical representations, signs, signals. Communication is said to be “the creation and exchange of meaning.”
The mass media in Nigeria has been effective as seen from the several strides she has recorded. However, another dimension which seems to weaken its success is due to many fake news. In the words of Pope Francis in his 2018 message for world day of communication, he asserted: “In today’s fast-changing world of communications, we are witnessing the spread of what has come to be known as “fake news”. This calls for reflection, which is why I have decided to return to the issue of truth, which was raised time and time again by my predecessors, beginning with Pope Paul VI, whose 1972 Message took as its theme: “Social Communications at the Service of Truth”. In this way, I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth”. Therefore, I will add as you begin your workshop on Communications Media and Security in Nigeria, that you could effect meaningful and impactful changes to the holistic structure in Nigeria: from security, formulation of economic policies, and gathering national statistics in all strata in Nigeria. This could be in form of developing an authentic website similar to the Pew research centre in America. An authentic website devoid of fake news.
Beloved, the Scripture readings for today requires some focused reading and thought. They are filled with philosophical descriptions. The first reading of today says: You are without excuse. Is St. Paul telling us to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, to be naive? Part of the prophetic role of the baptized is precisely that: to be prophetic, not to abstain from taking positions. Part of our being sent is to call evil what is evil and good what is good. Did not the psalmist say in Ps 4:6 “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord. Embedded in this statement is truth. Hence Pope St. John Paul II affirms in his encyclical, Veritatis splendour of 1993 in n.2: “No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil? The answer is only possible thanks to the splendour of the truth which shines forth deep within the human spirit”. But this does not necessarily mean that we have to set ourselves up as judges of others. It entails charity. Hence Pope Benedict XVI pontiff emeritus affirms in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in veritate in n.2: “caritas is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. Therefore, through modern means of communication, the social communication department could contribute her quota to nation building. This accounts for the reason. I advocated the need for gathering of essential statistic data which currently eludes Nigerians. If data from your websites, or any means are authentic, your body will be reckoned with.
In the English, a pertinent distinction is offered in the use of two different words, namely, critiquing and criticizing. Both have the same etymological root in the Greek verb krinein, but they have different meanings. We critique products: books, paintings etc. We criticize actions, strategies, principles etc. The moment we pass from products to persons, from actions to agents, we are no longer critiquing, we are criticizing. And in criticizing we are setting ourselves up as judges of others. We are able to critique products, because, at least to some extent, we can “measure” their quality. But we do not have any sure gauge to measure the intention and heart of the agent, as distinct from the action itself, and so to criticize the person. Likewise, as communicators, you may confidently critique through your any means of social communication, the products arising from the actions of policies makers and government’s establishments without being imputable. In doing such, you are able to kill two birds with a stone without involving in the destruction of personality since you refrained from criticizing but involved in critiquing. It is equated as avoiding argumentum ad hominem.
However, St. Paul’s injunction envisages criticizing, not simple critiquing and it amounts to an injunction to avoid condemning. Despite this, we are privileged to live at this time in the Church’s history, when Pope Francis proclaims mercy as the guiding light of his ministry. Therefore, St. Paul’s point in the first reading today is that every person has within them the power to know that God exists. That there is a God is a certain fact, for the world does not provide its own explanation. Scientists can learn everything about the universe that can be discovered, but they will never find within the universe, the answer to the most basic question possible: Why is there something rather than nothing? This is the point of the psalm today as well: “The heavens declare the glory of God: how is it that we exist? The mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation are matters of faith, but logic is sufficient to deny atheism.
Atheism is nonsense, and this is not an insult thrown ad hominem. The atheist accuses the religious person of inventing God. In reality, the atheist has invented a more fanciful thing: a universe that exists without any explanation. No philosopher can deny that the existence of God is logically proven. Unable to deny the proofs, they deny the human mind is capable of discovering the truth. They claim that any sense we have of knowing the truth is an illusion. According to their thinking, thought only tells us about the thinker. So the accusation of St. Paul applies to them: “claiming to be wise, they became fools”. If the human mind works, then we know that the universe needs an explanation, and that explanation needs no explanation. Only God is a sufficient answer to the question; How did all this get here? God created it. How did God get here? He is and has always been here.
The Gospel messages show us how Jesus loved the weak and the strong, people of influence and people with no influence, the healthy and those lacking good health, people with money and power and those who owned nothing and had few options. Jesus asks us to be faithful to the Gospel, in our thoughts and in our actions, and to not “exchange the truth for a lie.” While there are endless temptations, we are reminded to keep our faith strong, making the Gospel the backbone of who we are and how we live our lives. The Gospel messages are as alive today as they were in the time of Jesus and we are directly reminded that “The one who is righteous by faith will live”; and those who “Become vain in their reasoning, while claiming to be wise will become fools.
Today, you gather together in Warri diocese as social communication directors who perform veritable roles in the life of the Church. It suffices to say that some Catholics have the opinion that Vatican II Council intended a radical break with the past to make the social communication relevant. As you are aware, it is Inter Mirifica promulgated as the second document of Vatican II in 1963 that introduced the expression Social Communication. At the ante-preparatory stage of the Council from 17 May 1959 after the announcement on 25 January 1959, the schema on social communication was not included. However, at the preparatory stage with Pope St. John XXIII Motu proprio, Suprema nutu Dei of 5 June 1960, ten commissions and two secretariats were set up to handle the schemata. The schema became a prominent one due to the avalanche of suggestions that came from the world bishops on the need to include a schema on social communications. It was handled by one of the secretariat known as the segretariato della stampa e dello spettacolo which was under the chairmanship of Archbishop Martin John O’Connor. And with the second period of the Council from 29 September 1963, it was promulgated as a decree. The fact of the historical evolutions tells how important you are in the life of the Church. By now, with this, a fixation on only or mainly Mass Media is overcome and the ground was prepared for a broader understanding of communication expression of human society in general. Social Communication includes all forms and ways of communicating in human society from traditional forms like storytelling, drama and music to the Internet and cyberspace.
Even before Inter mirifica of Vatican II, Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Vigilanti Cura of 1936 called for national film offices which, through Inter Mirifica n. 21 were extended to cover all media. The offices were also made part of a permanent structure for the whole Church. Inter mirifica n. 21 states: “This Council therefore decides and ordains that national offices for the Press, Cinema, Radio and Television be established everywhere and be properly supported”. As a body, do you have a national transmitting station? Will this be beyond your reach? It is a challenge I am throwing on you today. Inter Mirifica in n.19 clarifies and develops a permanent structure and line of responsibility for social communication within the Catholic Church. This was done already five months after the promulgation of the decree on 2 April 1964 through Pope St. Paul VI Motu Proprio Fructibus multis of 1964. I think it will not be out of place if every diocese should have a strong social communication centre equipped with a transmitting station. I am aware that almost every diocese in Ireland, who brought the Catholic faith to Nigeria owns a transmitting station. Yes, I forgot to mention, Nigeria is a growing Church. If this assertion is true; how do, we juxtapose Nigeria as a growing Church vis-a-vis the exhortation Africae munus of Pope Benedict XVI of 2011?
More so, I want to throw another challenge to you. After the promulgation of Inter mirifica in 1963 and the subsequent Frucitibus multus in 1964, The office came up with an elaborate Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio in 1971 which was updated in 1988, i.e., the secretariat of stamps, which of course later became a Pontifical Council through Pastor bonus of 1988. Today all the means of social communications such as: social communications council, Holy See press office, Vatican radio, Vatican TV centre, L’osservatore romano, Vatican Publishing house are classified under the dicastery or secretariat of social communications established in 2015 by Pope Francis. The challenge is that with Communio et progressio of 1988 some guidelines in form of instruction was given. It follows that it will serve the Church in Nigeria, if your body could propose to the social communication department of the CBCN some guidelines in form of instruction that will aid social communications in Nigeria. I am of the view that with a firm foundation and possession of the necessary means such as Radio station, TV centre, Magazine, and many others, the topic you have earmarked for your workshop will be meaningful and effect changes in the quest for nation building. If not?….. I am afraid, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Finally, making reference to Pope St. John Paul II in his 2005 Apostolic letter Il rapido sviluppo in n. 3: “The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance for many people in their personal, familial, and social behaviour. We are dealing with a complex problem, because the culture itself, presiding from its content, arises from the very existence of new ways to communicate with hitherto unknown techniques. Ours is an age of global communication in which countless moments of human existence are either spent with, or at least confronted by the different processes of media. I limit myself to the interpretation and structuring of affective relationships, the coming together of the educative and formative phases, the elaboration and the development of social, political and economic life”. Your role as directors of social communication is to educate all Christ’s faithful on all these areas. We are called to persevere in following Jesus since he loved us as the life of St. Teresa proved it in order to secure our lives in the happiness of heaven. Let’s all find a way to make a sacrifice of ourselves because God exists and lets us “win the victory over the beast” and so be invited into the Heavenly chorus where we will together sing as we read in Rev 15:3-4: “Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy”. I impart upon you all my blessings and I entrust you and your 2nd plenary workshop to the maternal intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary, mater ecclesiae, through Jesus Christ our Lord.