In communion with the Universal Church
Uganda Martyrs' Day
In communion with the Universal Church, we honour today 22 Ugandan martyrs, the first of sub-Saharan Africa. When one is familiar with the beginnings of the Church, especially around the areas that are very near to us, one perceives certain similarities between the persecution of the Uganda Martyrs and that of those of Ancient Rome. Most of the men killed at and on the way to Namugongo had been baptized for only a short time. Their story reminds us of what we can call the paradoxical reality of Christian life or what can be a bitter side of the Gospel truth boldly announced by Saint Paul and all those who had the experience of Jesus and felt compelled to announce him: “All who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”! And as Saint Luke puts it, “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”! This is far away from the prosperity-gospel that seduces many of us.
Our adhesion to Jesus, our adhesion to the Christian faith that is celebrated in baptism calls us to new life. It calls for some death to something in us but more importantly, it calls to a birth that asks of us to walk daily in the newness of life in Christ. We are invited to position ourselves in the world in the “eschatological dimension” where we examine everything we feel, everything we think, everything we hear and do, from a new perspective that takes our present life, marked by the resurrection of Christ ever more seriously. This type of life becomes necessarily a witness, a witness that can prove to be disturbing. This is where we are called to be steadfast and to persevere. That is the life Jesus lived in a world unfriendly to God. This is what is asked of Jesus’ followers.
They say there are around three million people flocking to Namugongo! To do what? Only to sympathise with men who were brutally burnt to death more than a century ago? What is it that draws people to Namugongo? The same should be said about Jesus, what is so attractive for more than two and half billion people in the World about a man who was crucified and died on a cross? And what is the beauty about the 19 martyrs of Algeria among whom there are four of our own? The underlying truth about all of them is the passion for God. The passion for God our Creator and our relation to him that invites us live in his ways as revealed by the Word and by Jesus himself.
The feast of today also makes us think about those through whom the Good news reached the Martyrs, our confreres who first announce the Good News in Uganda and the boldness with which they must have announced the new life in Christ. May the commemoration of the Uganda Martyrs revive in us that passion for God that put us on the way to discipleship.