Ever since the Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand heard that there was an African Catholic community in Auckland, discussions have been taking place on how to gather them together to celebrate their faith.
Holy Cross Seminary rector Fr Mathew Vadakkevettuvazhiyil said this when introducing Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, at the start of a Mass celebrated during an African Cultural and Faith Day held at the Fickling Convention Centre at Three Kings, Auckland, on Mission Sunday, October 23.
At the start of the Mass, at which Archbishop Rugambwa was the principal celebrant, he said that “It is nice that we are here – and, our course, the first thing we should do is to thank God for the gift of our faith, which unites us here”.
In his homily, Archbishop Rugambwa, who is from Tanzania, highlighted two words from the readings of the day that “are central to the Christian life” – prayer and humility.
“Those who pray must be humble, and the humble understand better what prayer is,” the archbishop said.
Reflecting on the Gospel passage from Luke 18:9-14, which depicted the prayers of a prideful pharisee and a sinful, yet humble, tax collector, with the latter going away justified with God, Archbishop Rugambwa said that nothing prepares the human heart for unbelief than pride.
Pride prevents prayer and leads to the self-deception that one is perfect and self-sufficient, the archbishop said.
“Prides leads to madness by which the person. . . makes a habit of self-praise. Not only that I am good, but I am the best, and the best of all the people. . . .
“According to the Gospel, such a person cannot achieve justification.
“The pharisee’s prayer did not have spiritual value. It was a waste of time. But the prayer from a humble heart cannot be a waste of time.”
Using words from the first reading, from Sirach 35, the Apostolic Nuncio said that humility is presented “as a means of powerful prayer. The prayer of the humble person pierces through the clouds . . . and does not stop until it reaches its destination”.
We live in an age when “the humble, the needy, the poor, the widows etc. etc. are despised”, Archbishop Rugambwa said.
But their prayers have much power, he added.
“There was no moment when our Lord Jesus Christ was so despised than at the hour of the cross,” but in that humiliation was power.
“It was there on the cross . . . that his prayer of redemption pierced through the clouds, and achieved the redemption and life for all who believe in him and confess his holy name.
“God listens to and answers those who pray with humility.”
The archbishop reflected on Our Lady’s humility, as stated in her Magnificat prayer, but God raised up she who was lowly.
“Why are humble prayers so important to the heart of the faith?” Archbishop Rugambwa asked.
“Humble prayers are important because they consist in telling God the whole truth about ourselves, about you, about me, like the tax collector did.
“Humble prayers tell God that we are in need of him. We can’t boast of being self-sufficient in any way. We tell God, yes, we need you God.
“Humble prayers thank God for his gifts to us. Humble prayers ask forgiveness for sins, because, indeed, we are all sinners. . . . We are sinners who are on the way to holiness.”
The archbishop added that the Church is “inviting us today to say ‘No’ to pride in our heart by accepting that we are not self-sufficient, and therefore be humble enough to confess our sins. We don’t tell God half-truths. That is impossible, He knows us, after all”.
Archbishop Rugambwa encouraged those at the Mass to “be true to our own selves, to our nature as creatures of God”.
He added that pride “generates gaps in society. Pride separates the human person, not only from God, but also from other people, from other persons, from families”.
Among those at the celebration at Three Kings were Pasifika young people from Mother of Divine Mercy Youth from west Auckland, as well as seminarians from Holy Cross seminary. An African choir added to the vibrancy of the liturgy.
After the Mass, there were cultural performances, including a powerful and loud item featuring drummers from the African nation of Burundi. A dinner followed and the dance floor was opened until late in the evening.