Keta-Akatsi @ 25: Promoting the Kingdom of God Through Word and Sacrament- Bishop A.A. Mante’s Take
By: Damian Avevor
As the Catholic Diocese of Keta-Akatsi climaxes its 25th Anniversary of its creation (1995-2020) on Sunday, November 15, 2020, the hierarchy of the local Church deemed it feet to choose as its theme for the year-long celebration “Promoting the Kingdom of God Through Word and Sacrament.”
The year-long celebration on the theme was launched on June 10, 2019 at the St. Michael Co-cathedral at Keta by the Most Rev. Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, the Bishop of Jasikan, who delved deep into the importance and impact of the Kingdom of God, the Word and the Sacrament.
The Theme chosen for the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Keta-Akatsi Diocese in my candid opinion is very apt since the Church worldwide this year 2020 also marked the 1600th anniversary of the death of Saint Jerome.
He was the great translator of the Bible, who sought to render the Scriptures into the “common” everyday language of ordinary people, so to make the written Word of God available for all.
His (St. Jerome) zeal to make the Scriptures accessible to people arises from his conviction that “ignorant ia Scripturarum ignorantia Christi est” (ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ).
The choice of the theme for Keta-Akatsi 25th Anniversary celebration “Promoting the Kingdom of God Through Word and Sacrament” is also coincidental because the year 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF).
Unpredictably, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has also chosen as its theme for its 2020 Plenary Assembly currently underway in the Keta-Akatsi Diocese as “The Word of God: Christian Formation for Transformation in Ghana.”
The happy coincidence of these two Church anniversaries (1600th anniversary of the death of Saint Jerome, and 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Catholic Biblical Federation) inspired the Executive Committee of the CBF to encourage the CBF members to mark 2020 as a “Year of the Word of God” from the First Sunday of Advent (December 1, 2019) until the feast of Saint Jerome (September 30, 2020).
The choice of the themes based on the Word of God by the Keta-Akatsi Diocese and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s 2020 Plenary Assembly is an encouragement to tease out Bishop Mante’s insights on the Keta-Akatsi Silver Jubilee theme “Promoting the Kingdom of God Through Word and Sacrament.”
The Evangelization Mission
Dilating on the theme as the Guest Speaker at the launch of the Keta-Akatsi Silver Jubilee at Keta on June 10, 2020, Bishop Mante said “Undoubtedly, like all other dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church, this Diocese, in almost the 25 years of its life as a particular Church with its focus on primary evangelization and continuing formation of all Christ’s faithful, has continued with the evangelizing mission of the Universal Church.”
Speaking to the large crowd of Clergy, lay faithful and Traditional Leaders, he stressed that “All these have so far been undertaken with the challenging prospect of achieving integral human development of the people for the sake of the Kingdom of God in view. While time will not allow the enumeration of the outstanding achievements of the Diocese at this point in its life, at the same time we recognize the establishment of the structures, the putting up infrastructure and institutions and the institution of formation programmes that are carried out by entities like the Small Christian Communities and Faith and Culture Commission.”
In all of this, it is the view of the Jasikan Prelate that there has been the employment of personnel needed to sustain the Diocese’s evangelizing mission, adding that “The Diocese has achieved these and some others in the face of constant challenges major among which are realities like widespread unemployment among the youth, the persistence, if not the resurgence of traditional religions, the phenomenon of charismatic and pentecostal movements and a politically polarized society. That the Diocese has stood its ground and marched on to fulfill its Christ-given mandate is attested to by the fact that the Kingdom of God is both vibrant and radiant in the Diocese. This is even obvious to those who do not share the Catholic faith with their non-Catholic counterparts.”
In the voice of Bishop Mante: “Let me at this point, indicate that what has been said so far is a feeble attempt to address the past of the Diocese with theme of the celebration in mind. We, however, need to reflect on the theme from the perspective of the Diocese’s future as it stands on the threshold of its young adulthood of 25 years. Therefore, what is meant by the phrase “Promoting the Kingdom of God” as stated in the theme?”
The Concept of the Kingdom of God
In an attempt to answer the question he posed, he proposed the revisit of the concept of the Kingdom of God and said “The Kingdom of God is not a theory, but the action-oriented reality of God which defies an exact and full human understanding, because it is essentially not territorially bound like any earthly kingdom or state. Rather, it is a divine action through which God enters human life, radically transforms and uplifts it in a manner that does not leave the human person in the condition they were before their encounter with God.
In his view, the Kingdom of God is also the power and force God uses to reclaim humankind and the world at large from evil powers that, according to the biblical narrative, have sought from almost the beginning of creation to possess and dominate humankind and, indeed, the entire creation of God.
According to the Jasikan Bishop “The Kingdom of God therefore represents the limitless and beneficent sovereignty of God over the world, whose entry into human life demands conversion and the total surrender of the human person to the presence and direction provided by God through Jesus Christ. In this sense, the conversion and surrender the Kingdom of demands include anything and everything that stand as barriers between the coming together of God and humankind. Otherwise, the fulfillment it promises cannot be attained.”
This is what the gospel according Mark seeks to convey when it reports that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). What Mark is speaking about is both the good news from God and about God at work in Jesus Christ pointing to God as ultimate goal of reconciliation between creation and God.
Kingdom of God and Reconciliation
In a very deep sense, the Bishop of Jasikan told the Clergy and lay faithful of the Keta-Akatsi Diocese that the Kingdom of God is the manifestation of the reconciliation primarily between God and humankind, and the empowerment of humankind to seek reconciliation among themselves and live with it as an expression of a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface, Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe). Now, how do we pursue the promotion of this Kingdom?
Empathically, Bishop Mante said at Keta “Let us understand and be clear about it that promotion in this context is not a reference to the strategy commercial entities employ to attract and entice people to get them almost permanently hooked to their products regardless of their prices and cost to their customers,” adding The overall and binding reason is that the Kingdom of God and the Christian message it entails cannot and even must not be trivialized and cheapened to entice people to embrace it.
In other words, Bishop Mante noted “the Kingdom of God is not a marketable entity like any other institution or commodity. It is, as already stated, a divine reality at the centre of which we find and encounter Jesus Christ, with the initiative coming from him. And Jesus Christ, the living core of the Christian message, is not a commercial commodity and, priceless as he is, he must not be turned into one. It is in in this regard that the Letter to the Hebrews admonishes and counsels that “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (cf. Heb. 13:8).”
According to Bishop Mante, what this citation meant in contemporary context is that whatever inventions and innovations, scientific or otherwise human advancement offers to us, the promotion of the Kingdom of God must always be the proclamation of Jesus Christ, his teachings and the authentic teachings that his passion, death and resurrection have generated throughout the ages.
There is virtually no need to mention the realities that pose challenges to the promotion of the Kingdom in this Diocese, because as stated briefly above you have experienced them in the past 24 years and you know them. Reflecting on them now, however, is intended to remind us of them to enable us keep them in focus in our journey of faith into the future.
Challenges of Promoting the Kingdom
The Bishop of Jasikan made attempts to enumerate some of the challenges that are likely to be faced in the promotion of the Kingdom of God:
The Challenge of Unemployment
The first and rather widespread reality that Bishop Mante feels poses a serious challenge to the promotion of the Kingdom of God in this country and, for that matter in the Keta-Akatsi Diocese, is unemployment and its concomitant threats to society. It has over many years given rise to migration, especially among the youth.
The Jasikan Prelate laments “In recent years, in its external or foreign manifestation in relation to countries with advanced economies, it has brought in its wake dangerous and fatal consequences. We cannot ignore the fact that many of our families in Ghana have lost children and relatives in the Mediterranean Sea, and it even needless to mention lives that have been lost in attempts to cross the dreaded Sahara Desert. Within our country, however, migration of the youth has both positive and negative consequences for the Catholic Church and for that matter the Diocese of Keta-Akatsi.”
On the positive side, the Bishop is of the view that “provided they keep and nourish their Catholic faith as well as retain their Catholic identity, some young migrants, by and large, become pastoral agents by witnessing actively to their faith. They thus become invaluable assets in their new communities.”
The Chief Shepherd of Jasikan stated that “Simultaneously, with the parents, relatives and friends they left behind in mind, they become supportive of the Church in their dioceses and parishes of birth.”
On the negative side, however, some of them are easily enticed by their non-Catholic friends to abandon their Catholic faith and leave the Church. What this means is that such people leave their faith behind in their home towns when they leave home. Interestingly, occasionally when some return home they desire to be acknowledged and recognized as Catholics, especially when they are in some difficulty, and the Catholic parish and priest are sometimes the only source of a needed assistance, he emphasises.
According to the Bishop, in such instances, the following claim and others similar to it are often made “My grandfather was among those who often accompanied Bishop Herman on his pastoral visits to parishes.”
However, if it is their corpses that are returned home, some families plead that they are given Catholic burial. To support their pleadings, it is often claimed in these or similar statements, “The grandmother of the deceased was among the those who swept and cleaned thd church for worship and other church events.”
The Challenge of Traditional Religions
In the words of Bishop Mante, the second major challenge to the promotion of the Kingdom of God and the Catholic faith is the practice of traditional religions and its attendant effects on some Catholics leading to multiple allegiances.
“Permit me to say and I say this with all humility that this practice is endemic in this Diocese, and it even affects relationships in extended families. But we have to respect the conscience of our kith and kin who practise the traditional religions, although without becoming tired of proclaiming the Gospel and the faith to them, particularly through our deeds and prayers.”
Noting, he averred that “the dark side of this reality in some families and communities is the fact that some Catholics practice their faith and at the same time indulge in it. As indicated earlier, this gives rise to multiple allegiances and it seriously impedes the promotion of the Kingdom of God.”
The Challenge of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements
The Jasikan Bishop explicitly mentions that the third and perhaps the most widespread challenge to Catholics everywhere in this country (Ghana) and their commitment to the promotion of the Kingdom of God are the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. We hope Catholics who have abandoned their faith and left the Church to join these movements are following the dictates of their conscience.
But for Catholics who remain Catholics and yet keep running after Jesus from one to the other crusade, or fellowship or prayer camp, I am afraid, their faith can only be described as a mirage.
Chasing of Mirage
A related disturbing phenomenon, the Bishop pointed out is the occasional expression of the desire among some Catholics to do things the way non-Catholics do them, because they are nice. This is also the chasing of a mirage, and those who do so are crippling their own faith, and all I want to say to them is: Rise up and walk with the Keta-Akatsi Diocese in the promotion of the Kingdom of God.
The Challenge of Political Polarization
The fourth major challenge to the promotion of the Kingdom of God in this and other dioceses in Ghana is the development of a politically deeply polarized society from the family to community level. The dreadful danger this development poses is that it can stream into parishes of our Church. I hope it is not yet there, but if it there, then I invite all of us to pray that God save our church communities from this phenomenon which is not only disturbing, but also has the potential to render our Church and its parishes weak.
Conclusions: Call to Holiness
Drawing to the conclusion of his address to the audience at Keta, Bishop Mante emphasised that the promotion of the Kingdom of God, as the Preface of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, indicates, includes a call to all to holiness as children and heirs of the Kingdom, regardless of their position or role in the Church.
He added “It is in this connection I find no statements more relevant to this call than the following statements of Pope Francis. He( Pope) says: “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. (GE 14).”
In conclusion, the Bishop states that “from all that I have attempted to say, it should be clear that apart from the grace of God, particularly the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the promotion of the Kingdom of God involves and embraces all.”
He admonished: “What is now expected of you, the Catholics of the Keta-Akatsi Diocese, and remains to be done constantly is to pray to the Holy Spirit, whose outpouring we celebrated yesterday, to renew you in your commitment to the promotion of the Kingdom of God and the deepening of the roots of the Catholic faith in the Keta-Akatsi Diocese in the next Twenty-Five years. In doing this, I encourage every one of you to keep in constant focus the perfect personification and embodiment of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray and say “Thy Kingdom Come”.
As the Keta-Akatsi Diocese climaxes its Silver Jubilee (25th Anniversary) on November 15, 2020, it is hoped that the theme “Promoting the Kingdom of God Through Word and Sacrament” as explained by Bishop Gabriel A. A. Mante will manifest and propel the Diocese to the celebration of its Golden Jubilee in 2025.
It is also the hope of yhis writer that as the year has been dedicated to the Word of God, will help the Clergy, lay faithful and institutions of the Keta-Akatsi Diocese to be more committed to the Biblical Pastoral Ministry in their Parishes and institutions to renew their efforts to place the Word of God at the center of the life and mission of the local Church, as called for by Saint John Paul II (see Tertio Millennio Adveniente 36), by Pope Benedict XVI in the light of the 2008 Synod of Bishops (see Verbum Domini 73), and most recently by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (see §174).
Source: Damian Avevor//Newswatchgh.com (Mainly from Keta-Akatsi Silver Jubilee launching document by Bishop Gabriel A.A. Mante of Jasikan)