Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the penultimate day of the Easter season, as tomorrow we will together as the whole Church celebrate the great Solemnity of the Pentecost, the birth time of the Church at the time when the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to all of His Apostles and disciples, sending them forth to all the nations and to all the peoples to preach His Good News and truth.
Yet, at the same time, we must also keep in mind, that to become a disciple of the Lord is not something that is very simple or safe. As the reality is that, as disciples of the Lord, there will always be challenges, difficulties, and times when we may feel to be alone amidst all those who are up against us, as what the Apostles and the disciples themselves had experienced.
As we heard in the readings today, the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles spoke of the life which St. Paul had in Rome during the last years of his life and ministry, a relatively peaceful time before what was told to be the first major official persecution of the Christian faith by the Roman Empire, when the city of Rome was engulfed in a massive firestorm, and blame quickly were laid on the Christian communities. It was told that St. Paul met his martyrdom by beheading at that time, the year of our Lord sixty-four.
Many Christians became victims of the persecutions, be it by the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the Pharisees in the earliest days of the Church, or by the opposition and persecutions by the Roman authorities, including the one which I had just mentioned. And there were also resistance by those pagan priests and philosophers, who refused to see their old and traditional pagan worship to be replaced by the Christian faith.
But, at the same time, there were also many people, Jews and Gentiles alike, who were willing to receive the words of truth, and to accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. These people were willing to turn away from their past sinful ways, and become Christians, and thus strengthening the foundations of the early Church. Many of them eventually also met persecution, suffering and even martyrdom because of their faith, and also refusal to apostasise from their faith.
If not for their courage, the bravery and devotion of the Apostles, disciples, saints and martyrs who have laboured hard for the sake of the Lord and His Church, many souls would not have been saved, and many would have been lost to damnation in hell. We too, would not have received the faith we now have, if not for the hard work of all those who have passed down the faith to us, just as the Apostles passed down the teachings of the Lord to their successors.
Today, we remember the memory of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, who were Christian converts in the country now known as Uganda. They became Christians after missionaries came to their area, bearing the word of God’s truth, and they converted to the faith, leaving their pagan and sinful ways behind them. However, this met with a great resistance by the king, who wanted to eradicate all traces of Christianity in his domain.
Therefore, the king ordered the arrest, persecution and also killing of many of the. Christian converts and missionaries, who suffered terribly under the great persecution. Yet, St. Charles Lwanga and many others who had been sentenced to death because of their faith refused to renounce the Lord and their newfound faith. They remained true to their devotion and as a result were executed. St. Charles Lwanga himself met his martyrdom by being burnt alive on a stake.
But their martyrdom inspired many more Christians to persist in their faith, and it was told that many of their persecutors eventually became Christians themselves, and including even the king. Through all these examples, all of us as Christians living in our world today must realise that, first of all, there are a lot of things that we still need to do, in order to bring the testimony of our faith to all those who have not yet known or even have rejected the Lord.
And then, we must remember that when we face difficulties and persecutions from the world, we have to stay firm and resolute amidst those challenges. If we give up or allow ourselves to be distracted by temptations of the world, then our failure to act will cause not just ourselves but also potentially many others to fall as well, and their damnation will be on our own, and we are the ones to be blamed for that.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all continue to strive to lead a holy and righteous life, by doing what the Lord had taught us to do, and by devoting ourselves completely, heart, body, mind and soul to Him, keeping in mind the zeal and the courage which the Holy Apostles, saints, and martyrs, including St. Charles Lwanga and his companions had shown in their respective lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.