THE “JAPA” PHENOMENON: IN SEARCH OF TRUE TREASURE
First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5,7-12
Responsorial Psalm 118(119):57,72,76-77,127-130
Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:44-52
In recent times, a prevailing trend known as the “Japa” syndrome has taken hold of the hearts and minds of many Nigerian youths. Needless to say, in a setting marred by hardships, corruption, and political instability, the desire for a better life and a more promising future has ignited a recent wave of “Japa” syndrome among Nigerian youths. “Japa,” a Yoruba slang which translates to “to run, flee, or escape,” symbolizes the desire for a better future in a more structured and prosperous system beyond the shores of Nigeria. This aspiration reflects the yearning for hidden treasures that lie elsewhere, away from home. In this context, young Nigerians are willing to sell all they have, even their possessions, to secure visas and travel expenses in search of a better life in foreign lands. In the midst of this phenomenon, we turn to the readings today to uncover the true essence of seeking the greatest of treasures and where our hearts should ultimately rest.
Traversing through the First Reading from 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12, we hear the story of King Solomon, which presents a young ruler who seeks something far greater than earthly riches or a chance to escape his nation’s troubles. When God appears to Solomon in a dream and offers him anything he desires, Solomon’s response reveals the depths of his heart. He asks for wisdom and understanding to govern his people justly and righteously. This encounter teaches us that the greatest of treasures is not found in fleeing from challenges but in seeking God’s wisdom to navigate through life’s trials with integrity and compassion.
By embracing the psalmist’s words in today’s Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 118(119):57, 72, 76-77, 127-130, we gain more insight into another dimension of treasure-seeking. Here, the psalmist acknowledges God’s law as a treasure that brings delight, wisdom, and understanding. In a world filled with distractions and uncertainties, the psalmist finds solace in God’s Word, recognizing it as a source of guidance and direction. The psalm invites us to seek treasures in God’s precepts, for they lead us to a life of purpose and fulfillment.
And in the Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:28-30), we are reminded that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Amid the challenges and uncertainties of life, God’s providence is at work, leading us to the ultimate treasure – eternal communion with Him. This passage reassures us that no matter our circumstances, God’s plan is unfolding, and the greatest of treasures awaits those who place their trust in Him.
Finally, in the Gospel Reading according to Matthew (13:44-52), Jesus paints vivid images of seeking treasures that far surpass worldly possessions in a series of parables. The parables of the hidden treasure and fine pearls illustrate the urgency of discovering something of immeasurable value. Just as the individuals in the parables sell everything to possess the hidden treasure or fine pearl, so too should we be willing to let go of temporal pursuits to embrace the eternal treasure of God’s kingdom, with the same zeal some Nigerian youths employ to achieve “Japa.” Similarly, the parable of the net also reminds us that the journey of seeking treasures involves sorting and discerning, as not all that glitters is of true value.
Dear friends in Christ, from the merging of the three readings of this Sunday, we have the following Take Home Lessons:
- Seek Wisdom: Instead of fleeing from challenges, seek God’s wisdom to navigate through life with discernment and compassion. The greatest of treasures lies in walking with integrity and seeking God’s guidance in all circumstances.
- Embrace God’s Word: Delight in God’s law and let it become a source of great riches in your life. By seeking God’s guidance through His Word, you will find the divine insight needed to make choices that honor Him.
- Trust in God’s Providence: Amidst challenges, trust that God’s plan is at work for your good. Seek the ultimate treasure of communion with Him, knowing that He leads you through every circumstance.
- Value God’s Kingdom: Just as the parables illustrate, embrace the treasure of God’s kingdom and let go of worldly attachments. In seeking the greatest of treasures in God’s kingdom, you will find eternal fulfillment and joy.
- Discern the True Value: In seeking treasures, discernment is essential. Not all that glitters is gold, and not all pursuits lead to genuine fulfillment. Seek treasures that align with God’s will and purpose for your life.
- Be Content and Grateful: Cultivate an attitude of contentment and gratitude for the treasures you have already received. Gratitude opens our hearts to recognize the blessings around us and fosters a spirit of abundance.
Above all, the “Japa” syndrome may entice many to seek treasures in foreign lands, but the true essence of seeking the greatest of treasures lies in God’s wisdom, Word, providence, and kingdom. Put differently, the readings today remind us that the heart of our pursuit should be grounded in seeking God’s wisdom, embracing His Word, trusting in His providence, and valuing the eternal treasures of His kingdom. By seeking these profound gifts, we discover a treasure far greater than any earthly possession – a life in communion with the Creator of all things. Let us, therefore, fix our hearts on the true treasure that awaits us in God’s love, grace, and kingdom, as we journey through life with faith and hope.
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© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo, Brazil
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