Monday, June 3, 2013

Feast of Sts. Charles Luwanga et al: Martyrs

Today's gospel recalls Jesus' use of a frequent Old Testament (OT) image:  the vineyard, a representation of Israel.  In OT times Isaiah, King David in the Psalms, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Hosea employed this image to speak of the life of Israel and so often the destruction that came about because of the sins of the leaders and the people.

When Jesus brought the vineyard image in a talk with the chief priests, scribes and elders in a parable that was a challenge to them and their abuses of their authority.  Jesus modifies the OT versions to incorporate the killing of the vineyard owner's son.  Of course the authorities recognized that Jesus was directing his words to their actions.  Were it not for the lack of support among the people at that moment, Jesus would have been condemned to die.  That fate would be in the not too distant future for Jesus.

What is the message for us today in this parable Jesus presents.  It is our concern for the vineyard that Jesus has entrusted to us ... our Church.  We can consider this:  today our Church is tested in many ways.  Just consider the scandals that have beset our Church in recent years.  Consider that various societal attack on the moral and social teachings of our Church in the modern era.  Consider the numerous departures of believers from our religion to other religious practices.

If our faith -- that is, our relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) -- is strong, we should stand strong against the evils that beset our Church and challenge our faith.  It is our faith that enables us to make of our Church a reality of a good, fruitful vineyard for the Lord.

The saints we honor today are strong models not only to the people of Africa but to all believers in Jesus Christ.  It was on this day, June 3, 1886, that Charles and his companions were ordered to death by the Mwanga, the ruler of Uganda at that time, for refusing to participate in his immoral activities.

Charles was one of the 22 converts from paganism who were martyred on this day.  They were a threat to the king's rule.  Charles, sentenced to death by a slow burning to his death.  Reportedly, Charles replied that he was happy to be dying for the True Faith.  This group of converts were canonized by Pope Paul VI on June 22, 1964.