3 Jun – Memorial for St. Charles Lwanga & companions, martyrs
One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages aged 13 to 30 from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands.
For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at in 1886, by Mwanga’s order. When Pope Paul VI canonized these 22 martyrs in 1964, he referred to the Anglican pages martyred for the same reason.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ ‘Then how were you baptised?’ he asked. ‘With John’s baptism’ they replied. ‘John’s baptism’ said Paul ‘was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him-in other words Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.
His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them:
But take courage, I have conquered the world
An evangelical protestant pastor once shared in one of her videos on Youtube that as each new day dawns, she would always get all fired up and eager to face the day. She would look forward to doing great things for the Lord and for humanity that day — to bring many to the Lord and all other sorts of good works, and be a blessing to everyone. But her punchline was that the minute she actually stepped out of bed and her feet touched the floor, all her courage and enthusiasm went out the window as reality hit her in the face.
That story provided more just than just a smile to me – it was actually quite a sobering thought. It brought home to me how frightening this world we live in can be. I have to confess…it takes a lot for me to find strength and courage to go out into the world each day. I need a long period of prayer and receiving the Eucharist each morning in order to find strength to face the day. I am conscious, perhaps overly so, that we live in the ‘valley of tears’. That evil is ever present and ever dominant in the people and circumstances we meet each day. That we live in a very broken and wounded world where sin, injustice, indifference, selfishness, the pressure to perform, where the weight of duty and responsibility towards our loved ones and towards God, can make life frightening and burdensome. The weight of the cross can be crushingly heavy. And then there is also the weight of the guilt we carry. More often than not, I am a huge part of all that evil and sin and have myself caused the deepest hurts and wounds to my own loved ones and others around me.
Pardon me if all this sounds somewhat depressing and pessimistic. I am only too conscious how weak my faith really is. Indeed, there are days when we really don’t want to get out of bed and go ‘out there’. I have come to accept that evil, suffering and strife are real and a part of our daily reality. The Bible has reminded us often to expect this.
However, I have also come to accept that this does not in any way mean that God is subservient to this evil and that He is powerless in our lives. Indeed not. In fact, I prepare to do battle every day. Not to sound overly dramatic, but to me the need for ‘daily martyrdom’ is very real. This means, each day, we learn to die to self and to lean on Jesus and His Blessed Mother to take us through each day ‘safely’. But as Christians, we confront each day with hope, surrender and trust. In Revelations, through our Resurrected Saviour, we are already guaranteed final victory. It reminds us what today’s reading has pointed out — that our God has already conquered not only death, but He has conquered this sinful world.
Christ’s conquest over this world means this:
- That we learn to lean not on ourselves but on Him
- That we do not let the spirit of this world oppress us into submission to fear, anger, lust, pride, selfishness, self-sufficiency, injustice and anything else that does not come from the Holy Spirit
- That we allow the Holy Spirit to take lordship over our feelings and thoughts so that the devil cannot manipulate, deceive and frighten us but learn to trust God’s love and care for us and our loved ones by faith
- Cling on to God, to faith, to our Blessed Mother and to the Catholic Church even if by your fingernails.
We need to learn, often painfully and very slowly, to shift our focus away from this world and all its problems, pressures and brokenness towards the one who has the power to handle all these things. To allow Christ’s victory over our lives is to say to the devil, “I don’t have the answers to all these problems, obstacles and discouragements you have placed in my path, but I do know the ONE who has all the answers. I am weak, sinful and unworthy but Jesus is almighty, sinless and worthy. And in Him, I too will conquer”.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father, help us. This earthly journey often takes us through a valley of tears. There are many big things looming out there that frighten and discourage us. The people around us are difficult, selfish, demanding, unforgiving. Every day is a battle to cling on. And many of us are bone weary. Help us Jesus. Help us, Mother Mary.
Thanksgiving: Father, help us always remember that you are God and we are mere creatures. Thank you for the gift of hope and for binding all the wounds that this sinful world has inflicted on us. For each day that you have led us through and kept us safe, you have done so out of the immensity of your love and care for us. Thank you for giving us your Son and Our Blessed Mother to show us the way to rise above this world and to conquer it.