Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Holy Jerks! Exploring the question of Radical Christianity.

 Martyrs of Uganda
Coming out of what was a rather intense week focused on Corpus Christi, one may be looking forward to a little 'ordinary time', as a nice peaceful transition away from heavy theological meditations. Well, not this year my friends!! Yesterday (I may continue with this format of finishing the blog the day after. Not the most convenient I suppose, but practical for me at this point!), we dove right into the lives of Martyrs!! Because in the end,there is no more perfect model of Christians on fire with their conviction of the Holy presence in the Eucharist than they! 
It's easy to kill for one's convictions -religious or otherwise- but it's quite another story to die for them. Most of the Martyrs in our liturgical calendar were even given the choice to live and recant their beliefs and still opted for death.  Their life IS their faith, so life without the love of Jesus is simply inconceivable to them.So no matter how much people may hate them and call them names because of their devotion to God, they persist in their beliefs until the end.It's a little hardcore, but nevertheless, I stand in awe
and admiration of men and women like this.

                                  Sts. Charles Lwanga, Joseph Mkasa

Feast Day:June 3
Born:Buganda, Uganda
Died:June 3, 1886, Namugongo, Uganda
Canonized:October 18, 1964 by Pope Paul VI
Major Shrine:Basilica Church of the Uganda Martyrs, Namugongo
Patron of:African Catholic Youth Action, converts, torture victims

It seems to be a common theme among martyrs in mission territory:  They are seen by many as Jerks (Jerks for the Lord if you will!). Sometimes, one of them steps out of bounds in his condemnation of a local leader, or is a little too aggressive in condemning the local religious practice. Other times, they're just very in your face about the whole conversion thing. Whatever the situation, it doesn't usually take much to trigger trouble for the native Catholics. In Uganda, it was a local Catholic that got the ball rolling, one of our two saints mentioned to day,Joseph Mkasa. He was apparently eager to lash out at a local ruler for his 'debauchery' and his massacre of Protestant missionary James Hannington and his 'carravan'.  Mkasa's desire to condemn what he saw as wrong earned him a beheading in November of 1885, but the angry local leader wasn't done there.
 His wrath against Christians spread to many of his pages and servants that Lwanga and others had converted.  He did give Charles and the  people one last chance, asking them if they would remain Christian.  "Till death!" came the response. And so to death were they condemned. " On Ascension day, June 3, 1886, they were brought out, stripped of their clothing, bound, and each wrapped in a mat of reed: the living faggots were laid on the pyre (one boy, St Mbaga, was first killed by a blow on the neck by order of his father who was the chief executioner), and it was set alight. The persecution spread and Protestants as well as Catholics gave their lives rather than deny Christ." (source: ewtn)


 I may have mentioned before in another blog that it's easy to get intimidated by Martyrs of the faith, but this not necessarily the best response to them. Pope Francis reminded us last week how important it is for us to be so filled with the Spirit, that we become 'annoying' to others. There are MANY ways one can do this, and there was even a rather helpful blog written about this on  the website Catholic Voter.org (http://www.catholicvote.org/how-to-become-an-annoying-catholic-in-eight-easy-steps/)

 What this reminds us of, is that our faith is always radical, but that living that radicality doesn't have to be rocket science, nor does it  necessarily mean martyrdom. Take Tobit -strangely placed in Catholic bibles  long before the book of Amos, which is referenced in this passage. Therefore it should come after Amos, but Que sera sera! At least they include the book of Tobit, which most Protestant Bibles do not!-. This reading has a wonderful example of  how a person of God whose mind is always oriented towards the divine can answer to the call to be radically holy:
(v 2) upon seeing his wealth, he sought to share it with others less fortunate than he.
 Such an attitude is almost counter cultural today. People seek wealth. They don't seek to share it or part from it. Even "supposed" Christians seem to fail miserably  to live up to the standards scriptures set up for us. They fall into a position of complacency and comfort and say 'to hell with a century of Catholic social teachings, I have my own security to maintain". This is why Francis is such an exciting pope to see in action. All popes are humble and simple to an extent, but this one goes out of his way to be the humility and simplicity our Church needs.
  But even his example seems a little radical, uncomfortable, and complicated to many. Let's keep it simple then. Psalm 112 makes it easy: "

4Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the LORD is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.
 So, conducting our affairs with justice is NOT always the popular option.  But it's what we're called to do. And yes, sometimes, we'll be hated. Hopefully, none of us will ever have to suffer martyrdom for our convictions like the servants in today's Gospel, but we can't be afraid of following that path if that's what the situation calls for. We have seen the truth, and the light of God. No amount of bullying, intimidation, argumentation or anything of the sort should ever change that. If being the stone that the builders reject means that we can be active participants in the building of god's Kingdom on earth, then we must rejoice at that opportunity, whatever form it takes. Easier said than done, I know.

Tobit 1: 3; 2: 1 - 8

3I, Tobit, walked in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of my life, and I performed many acts of charity to my brethren and countrymen who went with me into the land of the Assyrians, to Nineveh.

1When I arrived home and my wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me, at the feast of Pentecost, which is the sacred festival of the seven weeks, a good dinner was prepared for me and I sat down to eat.2Upon seeing the abundance of food I said to my son, "Go and bring whatever poor man of our brethren you may find who is mindful of the Lord, and I will wait for you."3But he came back and said, "Father, one of our people has been strangled and thrown into the market place."4So before I tasted anything I sprang up and removed the body to a place of shelter until sunset.5And when I returned I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow.6Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said, "Your feasts shall be turned into mourning, and all your festivities into lamentation." And I wept.7When the sun had set I went and dug a grave and buried the body.8And my neighbors laughed at me and said, "He is no longer afraid that he will be put to death for doing this; he once ran away, and here he is burying the dead again!"

Psalms 112: 1 - 6

1Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
2His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3Wealth and riches are in his house; and his righteousness endures for ever.
4Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the LORD is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.
6For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered for ever

Mark 12: 1 - 12

1And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.2When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.3And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.4Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully.5And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed.6He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.'7But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'8And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others.10Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner;11this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"12And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

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