Tuesday, June 2, 2009


“St. Charles Lwanga
and His Followers”
by Albert Wider, 1962


Biographical Information about St. Charles Lwanga and Companions [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga

Readings and Commentary:

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law.
One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said:
"What do you expect to achieve by questioning us?
We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors."

At the point of death he said:
"You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life,
but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.
It is for his laws that we are dying."

After him, the third suffered their cruel sport.
He put out his tongue at once when told to do so,
and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words:
"It was from Heaven that I received these;
for the sake of God's laws I disdain them;
from him I hope to receive them again."
Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage,
because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he had died,
they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.
When he was near death, he said,
"It is my choice to die at the hands of men
with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him;
but for you, there will be no resurrection to life."
Commentary on
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

This selection from the Second Book of Maccabees provides examples of courage in the face of extreme cruelty based upon belief in the resurrection on the last day. This is one of the important theological ideas expounded upon in the book, and provides a framework for our later understanding of the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and promise.

CCC: 2 Mc 7:9 992; 2 Mc 7:14 992
Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7b-8

R. (7) Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Had not the LORD been with us
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept
the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Commentary on
Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5, 7b-8

The psalm is one of thanksgiving to the Lord for his gift of salvation – salvation from physical enemies; salvation from nature’s fury. The song thanks God who rescues us if we but reach out to him.

CCC: Ps 124:8 287
Matthew 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven."
Commentary on Mt 5:1-12a

This section of the Sermon on the Mount begins the first of five great discourses in St. Matthew’s Gospel. He begins using a formula common in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament with “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”(Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:13; Sirach 25:8-9) This designation identifies those without material resources, completely dependent upon God. (This distinction is for the devout poor.) The discourse continues blessing those who mourn, who are meek, who “hunger” for righteousness (to adopt the Lord’s law of love in their hearts), the merciful, the clean of heart (those who are reconciled to God), the peacemakers, the persecuted, and finally those who will be reviled because they profess faith in Christ.

The litany of praises for those to be blessed by the Lord has an overarching theme. It holds up the spiritual strength of complete dependence on God for life, health, and prosperity. St. Matthew captures the strength in that dependence and God’s promise of salvation through the words of the Savior.

It is noteworthy that the word “Blessed” [μακάριοι (makάrios) in Greek and Beati in Latin] is translated “Happy” in many Old Testament texts.  The idea of happiness or peace as a blessing from God is an important understanding about the intent of this discourse.

CCC: Mt 5:1 581; Mt 5:3-12 1716; Mt 5:3 544, 2546; Mt 5-7 2763; Mt 5-6 764; Mt 5:8 1720, 2518; Mt 5:9 2305, 2330; Mt 5:11-12 520

Christ promises rich blessing on those who take up his banner. The Beatitudes, proclaimed at this memorial remind us that this is so. We are, in this case, especially reminded of the reward promised for those who give up their life and liberty; thosewho are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
Charles Lwanga and his twenty one companions received this reward for their heroic stand against injustice in the name of Christ. They stood against the debauchery and injustice of the Ugandan King Mwanga who forced all types of sexual perversion upon those under his power and tortured and killed Christians. In the case of Charles Lwanga and his companions (the youngest of which was only 13), they were tortured and then burned alive in 1865.

For their acts of heroic virtue and martyrdom we remember them today and rejoice with them for the gift well received; the gift of eternal life with Christ whom they loved. As we recall their great sacrifice, we pray that, as Christ prayed in the garden, we will not be put to the test. But if we are challenged in such a way, we call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to stand up for Christ as these brave saints did for God’s greater glory.


[1] The picture is “St. Charles Lwanga and His Followers” by Albert Wider, 1962
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

js said...

Thank you for the links. They are very educative and provide easy reference.
May the Lord help us all by the power of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful in the "little" challenges we face at home, in our marriages, in our parishes and at work to stand.
As we are "crucified" each day in many forms.