Unity in the Body of Christ
Brothers and Sisters:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Praise be to God always!
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
Prayer of the Faithful, vol. 1
may the sweet—smelling perfume
and the incense (our prayers) which we offer to your Majesty
be for the pardon of your flock,
the protection of your inheritance,
and the salvation of your sheep.
May it be for preservation of our souls and bodies
and the pardon and remembrance of all the faithful departed
who sleep in your blessed hope,
now and for ever. Amen.
Saint of the Day:
St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda (1885-1887)
St. Charles and many other martyrs for the faith died between November 15, 1885 – January 27, 1887 in Namugongo, Uganda. St. Charles and his companions were beatified in 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
In 1879 Catholicism began spreading in Uganda when the White Fathers, a congregation of priests founded by Cardinal Lavigerie were peacefully received by King Mutesa of Uganda.
The priests soon began preparing catechumens for baptism and before long a number of the young pages in the king’s court had become Catholics.
However, on the death of Mutesa, his son Mwanga, a corrupt man who ritually engaged in pedophilic practices with the younger pages, took the throne.
When King Mwanga had a visiting Anglican Bishop murdered, his chief page, Joseph Mukasa, a Catholic who went to great length to protect the younger boys from the king’s lust, denounced the king’s actions and was beheaded on November 15, 1885.
The 25 year old Charles Lwanga, a man wholly dedicated to the Christian instruction of the younger boys, became the chief page, and just as forcibly protected them from the kings advances.
On the night of the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa, realizing that their own lives were in danger, Lwanga and some of the other pages went to the White Fathers to receive baptism. Another 100 catechumens were baptized in the week following Joseph Mukasa’s death.
The following May, King Mwanga learned that one of the boys was learning catechism. He was furious and ordered all the pages to be questioned to separate the Christians from the others. The Christians, 15 in all, between the ages of 13 and 25, stepped forward. The King asked them if they were willing to keep their faith. They answered in unison, “Until death!”
They were bound together and taken on a two day walk to Namugongo where they were to be burned at the stake. On the way, Matthias Kalemba, one of the eldest boys, exclaimed, “God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body.” They executioners cut him to pieces and left him to die alone on the road.
When they reached the site where they were to be burned, they were kept tied together for seven days while the executioners prepared the wood for the fire.
On June 3, 1886, the Feast of the Ascension, Charles Lwanga was separated from the others and burned at the stake. The executioners slowly burnt his feet until only the charred remained. Still alive, they promised him that they would let him go if he renounced his faith. He refused saying, “You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body.” He then continued to pray silently as they set him on fire. Just before the flames reached his heart, he looked up and said in a loud voice, “Katonda! – My God!,” and died.
His companions were all burned together the same day all the while praying and singing hymns until they died.
There were 22 protomartyrs in all. The last of the protomartyrs, a young man named John Mary, was beheaded by King Mwanga on January 27, 1887.
The persecutions spread during the reign of Mwanga, with 100 Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, being tortured and killed.
St. Charles Lwanga is the patron saint of African Catholic Youth Action.
Christianity is a religion of asceticism, instructing us to store up our treasures in heaven, where the benefits have eternal value. Throughout the New Testament we read of the importance of struggle, where focus on the acquisition of a humble and contrite heart is paramount to what it means to be a Christian. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us that if we are to be worthy of Him, we must be willing to take up our cross and follow Him. We are to be a people whose true homeland is Christ’s Kingdom, which is within. Christ Himself calls us to holiness, and this change of heart can only be brought about through struggle.
Our world places a great deal of emphasis on being comfortable, and we tend to avoid anything that does not bring pleasure. If being open about our Christian faith invites ridicule, we remain silent. If keeping the fasting rules of the Church prevents us from enjoying evenings out with our friends, we ignore the fast. If voicing disapproval when hearing our Christian faith being trashed, makes us appear less cool, we choose to go the route of the politically correct. Is it any wonder we are therefore unprepared to stand firm when faced with real trials that come our way, having avoided the very things that would transform us into strong, committed Christians?
If we embrace Christianity with dedication of heart and mind, we will receive the power to live in this world, filled as it is, with temptations and disappointments, yet remaining true to our vocation as a holy people. Committing ourselves to being full time Christians, empowers us to live our lives in such a way that we give glory and witness to the very Christ Whom we worship.
If, however, we avoid ascetic struggle, and choose to keep our Christian faith sidelined, and rejecting real commitment, we will ultimately have become Christian in name only. For those who, out of laziness or personal selfishness, choose to relegate fasting, private prayer, and even church attendance, as something done only when we feel “in the mood”, we will stand before the Throne of God, in the end, with a darkened heart that can not withstand the power of God, and eternity will be for us, a lake of fire.
– The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is of the All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington.