Homily (Reflection) for the Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Mm (03rd June, 2021) on the Gospel and the Memorial


Tob 6:10-11; 7:1.9-14; 8:4-9;

Ps 127:1-5. (R. cf. v.1);

Mk 12:28-34.

King Mutesa of Uganda peacefully received the White Fathers in 1879. 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 he murdered a visiting Anglican Bishop, 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 king’s 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. They were bound together and taken on a two day walk to Namugongo where they were to be burned at the stake.  However, 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.”  The executioners cut him to pieces and left him to die alone on the road. On June 3, 1886, the Feast of the Ascension, Charles Lwanga was separated from the others and burned at the stake. 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 and the last, a young man named John Mary, was beheaded by King Mwanga on January 27, 1887. These martyrs died between November 15, 1885 – January 27, 1887. They were beatified in 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964. St. Charles Lwanga is the patron saint of African Catholic Youth Action.[1]

Topic: Answered wisely.

In today’s gospel, a scribe after seeing that Jesus answered the Sadducees well asked Him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus cited two well-known Old Testament passages for him,

The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18.

The scribe replied, “You are right, Teacher” and also repeated the answer given by Jesus. We read further, “When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”

The kingdom of God is promised to those who love God, Jas 1:12.2:5. Faith is necessary because without it nobody can please God, cf. Heb 11:6. And faith comes from what is heard, cf. Rom 10:17. However, not all who hear the word of God has faith. Hence Saint James warns, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas 1:22).

God made promises not to those who know His commandments but to the doers, cf. Ex 15:26. 19:5; Deut 7: 9,12; 1Kg 6:12; Jn 15:14; 1Cor 7:19. As a result, the scribe who answered wisely needs to act wisely too to make the kingdom of God just like the martyrs we celebrate today.

So, let no one think that he/she will make heaven just by knowing the word of God. Heaven is for those who hear and do the word of God, cf. Jas 2:24.

Bible Reading: Jas 1:19-27.

Thought for today: Whoever is not inside the kingdom is outside it.

Let us pray: Lord, grant me a place in your house forever – Amen (cf. Ps 27:4).

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions – Pray for us.

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