Thursday, 3 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the word of God regarding love, the Law of God that is meant for us to know love and to practice that same love in our lives, showing it first and foremost towards God, and then showing that same love towards our fellow brothers and sisters, just as God intended it for all of us. That is what is most important for us, to know that we are all creatures of love, created out of love by God Who loves us all very much, and then called to love in the same way.

The Lord showed us this in our first reading today from the story of Tobias and his meeting with Sara, who was to be his betrothed and eventually they were married to each other. Tobias was the son of Tobit, an Israelite living in exile in Assyria. While his father was afflicted by blindness, God sent the Archangel Raphael, having heard his prayers, as well as the prayers of Sara herself, who was beset by a powerful demon named Asmodeus. Asmodeus had killed all the seven men who had been married to Sara, and because of that she was shunned by those who thought wrongly that she was the one that killed all her previous husbands.

The Archangel Raphael showed Tobit the power of God by freeing Sara from her predicament and also showed how Tobit, his father would eventually be healed, although everyone then did not know that Raphael was an Archangel as he was in disguise in the form of a man. The demon Asmodeus was cast out and bound by the Archangel Raphael while Tobias and Sara were together, and no harm came to Tobias unlike all the previous occasions when Sara was with all of her previous husbands. It was there then that Sara’s family accepted Tobias and decided to give her to him as his wife.

Through this story we heard first and foremost God’s love for all of us His people, the love which He showed to Sara, who had been suffering under the tyranny of the demon Asmodeus. And then, we heard of the love that grew between Tobias and Sara, as they came to love each other, and this is a reminder for all of us to have love in us, to be genuine in caring for one another and to be centred in God in all things. Otherwise, we cannot call ourselves as Christians because without love we are not truly God’s people, for God is Love.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord as He was met by a teacher of the Law who wanted to know what is the most important commandment in the whole Law. Contextually, the teacher’s question need to be understood within the fact that there were plenty of different commandments, rules and regulations within the whole Law that was practiced and enforced by the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, such that at times indeed it may be difficult for them to understand why they had to do such a tedious work observing all the commandments and the complicated set of rules and regulations.

The Lord then revealed how all those rules and regulations were in fact mostly man-made, of man’s imperfect and even flawed attempt to interpret God’s Law, which resulted in the Law being misunderstood and even misused that instead of bringing the people of God closer to Him as intended, it made those same people more and more distant instead. How is that so? First of all, by imposing such draconian and strict set of rules, it made things difficult for many people to obey the Lord and people ended up just abandoning the whole faith altogether. And then, this led to the elitism among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who made use of the Law for their own selfish desires, and they ended up doing the Law and obeying it not for the right reasons.

That is why the Lord revealed the true intention of God’s Law, that just as we have heard in our first reading and discussed earlier, God loves each and every one of us. And He wants us to practice and show that same love towards Him and towards our fellow brothers and sisters as well, that we are generous in our love and in reaching out to those who especially have been ostracised, rejected and unloved. This is our true calling as Christians, to be a people beloved by God, filled with His love and be exemplary in our love towards each other.

Today, we celebrate the feast of saints whose life and devotion to God, commitment to the faith and love for one another should be great inspiration to all of us. St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, the Holy Martyrs of Uganda were courageous and faithful servants of the Lord, who were killed for their faith in Uganda, during the early years of Christian mission in that area. There were missionaries and local converts amongst the martyrs, all those who have given themselves for the service of God, and all those who remained faithful to the Lord despite the persecutions and sufferings they encountered.

At that time, Christian missionaries just arrived in Uganda, over the several years in which they ministered to the locals. Many among the locals welcomed the missionaries and many chose to become Christians, including that of St. Charles Lwanga, who was an important official in the court of the king of Buganda, the largest local kingdom. The king saw the increasing conversion to Christianity among his people as a threat to his own power and influence, and began to persecute Christianity throughout his realm.

All these became worse when the converts among the royal pages and courtiers refused to obey the king’s debaucherous desires and shunned his wicked actions. The king ordered all Christians in his court and also foreign missionaries to be rounded up and put to death, and the locals if they would not abandon their faith. St. Charles Lwanga and his companions in martyrdom refused to abandon their faith, and in prison, he even managed to convert some more people, before being martyred by being burnt alive after refusing again to abandon the Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see from this just how great the love that these martyrs had for the Lord and His laws, that they remained firm in faith despite all the trials and sufferings that they had to endure, and they also cared for one another, and just as shown how St. Charles Lwanga tried to persuade even more people to follow the Lord from the prison, shows how much he treasured others, that he would not want more people to fall into the depth of hell because of their sins.

Can we be faithful to the Lord just as these brethren of ours had been faithful? Can we commit ourselves in the same way that they had done in their lives? Let us all turn to the Lord with renewed conviction and hope, with dedication and commitment that all of us may grow ever more in love towards the Lord and may all of us be courageous in living our lives to the fullest in the most Christ-like way as possible. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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