The witness of the martyrs shows to all that worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace, but rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others, do, in a way that the world cannot.
During his homily during his first Mass in Uganda, the Pope made this point to the some 2 million faithful gathered at the Sanctuary of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo after having visited Namugongo’s Catholic and Anglican shrines first thing this morning. The Namugongo Anglican Shrine stands on the site of the martyrdom of 25 Ugandan Catholics and Anglicans, whose relics are preserved in a chapel adjacent to the sacred building, not far from the Catholic Shrine.
Pope Francis visited the shrines to recall those Christians murdered for their faith between 1885 and 1887, when King Mwuala II had 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics executed in the historical kingdom of Buganda, which is now part of Uganda.
The Pontiff began his homily acknowledging that today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, “whose witness of love for Christ and his Church” has truly gone “to the end of the earth,’” and remember also the Anglican martyrs “whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood.” All these witnesses, he observed, nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives.
Francis reminded the Africans that all of us received the gift of the Spirit, not only to make us sons and daughters of God, but also for us to bear witness to Jesus and make Him loved and known everywhere known. Every day, he encouraged, we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to “fan into flame” the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others.
Pope Francis stressed that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared and that unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. “We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love,” just as Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga did, he said.
“If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be. To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us.” This openness to others, the Pope explained, begins first in the family, in our homes, and also finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.
Holy Spirit’s power
Pope Francis stressed that this does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come, but rather gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which does three things: promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.
This is the legacy which you have received from the Uganda martyrs, he told the Ugandan faithful, “lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honor them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighborhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world,” he said.
The Pope concluded, praying that the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love, and saying ‘God bless you’ in Swahili.
The Holy Father is making an Apostolic Visit to Africa, Nov. 25-30. He arrived in Uganda’s capital of Kampala yesterday, after having been in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Tomorrow, he leaves for Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui, where he will visit a refugee camp and open the Holy Door of the Jubilee.
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