June 3rd, 2024 – Monday of the 9th week "B"

Ugandan Martyrs

2 P 1, 1-7;Mc 12,1-12


          The first reading contains one of the most powerful texts of the New Testament concerning our call to holiness. Peter actually says that we are called to partake in the divine nature.   This sharing in divine nature is not, however, something that is given once for all. Although it is a pure gift, it has to be assumed through a gradual transformation that goes from faith to love, passing through discernment, virtue, self-control, piety, and care for our brothers. This partaking of the divine nature is what Paul calls "to be transformed into the likeness of Christ".

          Now, Christ loved his own to the end and that meant for him accepting death. Jesus' message was a threat to the authority and the power of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and therefore they decided to get rid of him. He knew that; and in today's gospel, he announces that it will happen and why it will happen. It will happen because they want to act as owners of the inheritance of which they are only stewards.   It is not Jesus' message of love that they hate. They hate the fact that Jesus' message puts an end to their own exercise of power.

          During the two thousand years of the history of the Church, many have died for their faith in Christ and for their fidelity to his message. We celebrate today the Ugandan Martyrs who have illustrated so beautifully and so powerfully the beginning of the Evangelization of Africa in our time.

          The nature of martyrdom has always been the same, but the motivations of the killers have changed during the centuries, although it is always a question of preserving "power". During the first centuries of the Church Christians were killed in hate of the faith because their faith put in question the traditional Roman religion upon which the whole Roman political and military system reposed. Their faith was a threat to society. The situation was similar in Africa at the time of the Ugandan martyrs. The new religion was a threat to the traditional religion upon which the whole structure of power of the local king reposed. Nowadays, in many parts of the world, the situation is quite different. Christianity is not perceived usually as a threat to other religions. The martyrs of our time, including our Tibhirine brothers, are killed because they have sided with the poor and the oppressed and because their way of life is a threat to those who want to control society through power and are ready to eliminate whoever is an obstacle to their exercise of power.

          In a way, today's martyrs, although it is generally impossible to prove that they were killed out of hate for their faith, are closer than ever to Christ in the way they are confronted with death. Jesus was not put to death explicitly because of his teaching, but simply because the way he lived and what he taught was a treat to the religious power of the Elders and the Pharisees and to the civil power of Herod and Pilate. In the same way people who kill missionaries nowadays really don't care about religion either Christian, Muslim or other. They care only about their power. And people like our brothers of Tibhirine, are killed simply because the simple way in which they continue to live the Gospel values of love in a society torn apart by violence becomes a terrible nuisance.

          In today's Gospel, the son of the owner of the vineyard shares the same destiny as all the servants that were sent before him. In the same way our Brothers of Tibhirine shared the same destiny as the tens of thousands Algerians, Muslims and Christians who were also killed because they embodied the same values of non violence in their lives or simply because they were, in a way or other, an obstacle to the same thirst for power. And they died because they did not want to be separated from them. Let's keep them united in our memory.