Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 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, on this day we heard the words of the Lord speaking to us and reminding us of the need for us to be faithful to God and to dedicate ourselves to Him despite the challenges, trials and persecutions we may encounter through life, and this is because the Lord has always been faithful to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. We have nothing to fear and trust that a great and wonderful future and inheritance have been prepared for us by the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to St. Timothy, one of the earliest leaders of the Church as bishop and successor to the Apostles. St. Paul encouraged and strengthened St. Timothy as his mentor in the faith, that he ought not to lose courage and hope even in the midst of challenges that he might face throughout his own ministry given how often St. Paul had to endure persecution and ridicule during his missionary journeys.

St. Paul encouraged St. Timothy to continue in his mission and dedicate himself to the service of God, to ‘fan into flame’ the zeal and the Spirit that God had given unto them, referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul had received from the Apostles, and which St. Timothy had also received together with other members of the faithful. St. Paul uttered the powerful and encouraging words, that ‘God had not given us the spirit of fearfulness, but the spirit of strength, love and good judgement.’

St. Paul reassured St. Timothy and as such all of us as Christians, that he trusted completely in the Lord that no matter what, as he knew that for all the sufferings he had to endure, in the very end, the Lord will vindicate him and grant him and all the faithful ones, true joy and eternal glory, and St. Paul emphasised how the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world had triumphed against sin and death, darkness and evil, and showed us all the path to freedom from all of these, through Christ.

And all these are related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard of the encounter and exchanges between the Lord and the members of the Sadducees, one of the two most powerful and influential groups within the Jewish community at that time. While the Pharisees represented those who zealously guarded the traditions and spiritual life of the people, the powerful intellectual and religious elite who had great influence over the society, the Sadducees represented the secular and powerful societal elites who were mostly irreligious and worldly in their attitudes and bearing.

The Sadducees rejected spiritual aspects of the Jewish customs and teachings, refusing to believe in the presence of Angels and the Spirit, as well as the concept of the afterlife. They rejected the notion that there is life after death and Resurrection after death into a new life. To them, this life on earth is the only life they have and are living through, and no other things matter more than to enjoy the world as it is, and thus, they tend to live an excessive lifestyle, and had self-serving and selfish attitudes.

But the Lord rebuked them well when they came up to Him and tried to test Him with the trick question, asking if seven brothers all shared a woman as their wife, as according to the Jewish laws and customs, when a man died without having any descendant to continue his name and lineage, it was his brother’s responsibility and obligation to take the widow of the deceased man to be his own wife, and the firstborn child of the union would be considered as the child of the deceased brother.

Based on what we have heard, the Sadducees showed their disdain and lack of belief in anything spiritual, on the matter of afterlife and faith, by their worldly way of thinking, desiring for worldly pleasures and joys, including having wives and therefore perhaps other forms of worldly desires and wants. Their preoccupation with such matters showed that their attachments to the world prevented them from being able to follow the Lord and have faith in Him.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this world, all of us as Christians are challenged to overcome our excessive attachments to the world and to be more trusting in God and allow Him to guide us in our path. St. Paul had shown this in our first reading today, as he reminded all of us not to worry about worldly trials and persecutions, or even to suffer and to endure ridicule and rejection from the world as we live our lives in a most Christian manner. Instead of worrying about our lives now, let us instead focus our attention on the assurance of the life that is to come, the fullness of life and true joy in the kingdom of God.

Today, coincidentally we celebrate the feast of saints whose lives and examples essentially explain what we have been discussing today. The Holy Martyrs of Uganda, namely St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions, missionaries and local converts to the Christian faith, martyrs of brutal persecutions against them, show us what it truly means for us as Christians to remain faithful to the Lord even amidst opposition, and at times, danger and threats to our livelihood and existence.

At that time, as Christian missionaries began to come to the region now known as Uganda, those missionaries were quite successful in their efforts and quite a few people came to believe in the Lord and gave themselves to be baptised as Christians. Before long, the missionary works and efforts led to conversions among the local populace, and quite a few of the local nobles and high-ranking officials also converted. Unfortunately, this caused members of the faithful, the missionaries and the local converts to be caught up in the bitter political struggle for control at that time.

Very soon, the king who was suspicious and wary of the rapid growth of the Christian faith and its rapidly growing followers, began to persecute the Christians from all walks of life, from the common men right up to even those among the nobles and the officials. Christian objections and opposition to some of the immoral attitudes and actions of the king and the then still pagan members of the community made opposition and persecution against them to become even more rampant and powerful.

It was at Namugongo just outside of modern day Kampala, the capital of Uganda, that dozens of Christians, including St. Charles Lwanga, the chief page or servant of the king, were burnt to death because of their refusal to recant their Christian faith and embrace the immoral actions ordered by the king. As the chief page, St. Charles Lwanga often did his best to protect the victims of the king’s immoral actions and behaviours from his efforts and advances at fornication and sin with them. St. Charles Lwanga became a Catholic and baptised many hundreds of his fellow compatriots in the faith secretly, even from the time when he himself was just merely a catechumen.

When the Christian converts refused to abandon their newfound faith in God, they were tortured and brutally put to death, mostly by burning on the stake. Their courage in standing up for their faith, their steadfast refusal from abandoning their faith and safeguarding their own personal desires and safety, knowing that God was always with them and standing by them, became a great source of inspiration and example for many Christians over the years. At the site of their martyrdom now stands a great Basilica, the Basilica of Holy Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo which draw regularly over two million pilgrims every year.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard and seen the faith of St. Paul the Apostle, the courage and faith of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda we are all called to reexamine our way of life and our faith. Are we able to trust in God and to have faith in Him as our holy predecessors had shown us all? Are we able to detach ourselves from worldly excesses, from worldly temptations and the allures of worldly pleasures? Let us all reorientate our lives so that from now on, we live no longer for the purpose of attaining our own selfish desires, but rather to glorify God with every single actions and deeds in life.

May the Lord be with us always and may He be our guide, that we may always have that courage and strength in us to carry on living with faith even though we may endure ridicule, suffering, pain and even persecution because of our dedication to the Lord. Let us all be ever more genuine followers of Christ from now on. O Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, pray for us all your brothers and sisters in faith, that we too may have the strength and courage to follow the Lord as you have done. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the women died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 122 : 1-2a, 2bcd

To You, I lift up my eyes; to You, Whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master.

As the eyes of maids look to the hand of their mistress, so our eyes look to YHVH our God, till He shows us His mercy.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 1 : 1-3, 6-12

From Paul, Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, for the sake of His promise of eternal life, in Christ Jesus, to my dear son Timothy. May grace, mercy and peace be with you, from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus Our Lord.

I give thanks to God, Whom I serve with a clear conscience, the way my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly, day and night, in my prayers. For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment.

Do not be ashamed of testifying to Our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in labouring for the Gospel, with the strength of God. He saved us and called us – a calling which proceeds from His holiness. This did not depend on our merits, but on His generosity and His own initiative.

This calling, given to us from all time, in Christ Jesus has just been manifested with the glorious appearance of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light, in His Gospel. Of this message, I was made herald, Apostle and teacher.

For its sake, I now suffer this trial, but I am not ashamed, for I know in Whom I have believed, and I am convinced, that He is capable of taking care of all I have entrusted to Him, until that day.

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we recall God’s wonderful love and providence for all of us, His beloved ones, as we heard of His wonderful promise of peace and deliverance by His very own words. God will not abandon His beloved and faithful ones to the darkness, and He will protect them from harm that causes eternal suffering and destruction. Yet, at the same time, we are also reminded that suffering is a real part of our lives, and we cannot expect to have a life that is free from troubles and difficulties.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, suffering and challenges are part and parcel of our Christian life, for just as the Lord Himself has suffered grievously at the hands of His enemies and all those who refused to believe in Him, so will all of us suffer at the hands of those who reject the message of God’s truth. That was how the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, the saints and martyrs of the Church have suffered throughout the history of the Church.

And yet, they remained strong and courageous in their faith, committed and sincere in their dedication, knowing that God was definitely by their side. Otherwise, it would have not been possible for them to remain so resolute, committed and dedicated in their love for God. For their trust and faith in God was strong such that even temptations and pressures of the world could not shake them and remove them from their faith.

And today we recall the memories of some of those faithful saints, the holy martyrs of the Church in Uganda, during the time when the missionaries and the laity in what is now Uganda suffered persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the enemies of the Church and the faithful, remembering the courage and the zeal which they showed even amidst assurance of suffering, trials and certain death.

St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions, the martyrs of the Church in Uganda have shown great courage and dedication to the Lord, in the work they have performed among the people, the faith which they have shown and the exemplary lives they have led. St. Charles Lwanga was the chief page of the king of Buganda, a major constituent of present day Uganda and the largest local kingdom, who received the truth of God and became a convert to the faith.

The king and his nobles were against the efforts of the Christian missionaries and persecuted those missionaries and the converts of the faith in the kingdom, and this also led to the suffering and martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and many others whom he converted on his own. Led by the courage of St. Charles Lwanga, the faithful martyrs declared their faith and commitment to God before the king, who ordered them to be killed.

Many of the martyrs, including St. Charles Lwanga was martyred by burning alive in the place of their execution, on which now stands a great Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs commemorating the courage of their faith as examples for us all and for all Christians throughout generations to come. St. Charles Lwanga and all his companions are truly great examples and inspirations for us, in how we ought to live our Christian lives truly and meaningfully in today’s world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow their courage and willingness to commit to God and His ways? There will be plenty of occasions when we may have to stand up for our faith and for our dedication to the Lord amidst rejection and opposition from the world. Are we able to follow the examples of the saints and the martyrs in this? Are we able to live our lives with God at the very centre of our lives?

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith each and every days of our life. May God be with us and may He grant us the strength and the courage to live our lives faithfully from now on, following the examples of the holy Ugandan martyrs. Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and companions, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 16 : 29-33

At that time, the disciples said to Jesus, “Now You are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that You know all things, even before we question You. Because of this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me. I have told you all this, so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but courage! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 67 : 2-3, 4-5ac, 6-7ab

Arise, o God, scatter Your enemies; let Your foes flee before You. As smoke is blown by the wind, so blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before You.

But let the righteous be glad and exult before God; let them sing to God and shout for joy. Sing to God, sing praises to His Name; the Lord is His Name. Rejoice in His presence.

Father of orphans and Protector of widows – such is our God is His holy dwelling. He gives shelter to the homeless, sets the prisoners free.

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 19 : 1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul travelled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples whom he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “We have not even heard that anyone may receive the Holy Spirit.” Paul then asked, “What kind of baptism have you received?” And they answered, “The baptism of John.”

Paul then explained, “John’s baptism was for conversion, but he himself said they should believe in the One Who was to come, and that One is Jesus.” Upon hearing this, they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down upon them; and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of them in all.

Paul went into the synagogue and for three months he preached and discussed there boldly, trying to convince them about the Kingdom of God.