Marking his first full day in Uganda with Mass to celebrate the nation’s martyrs, Pope Francis said the call to be missionary disciples falls on all of us, whether at home or abroad, with our families or among our enemies. “Like the Apostles and the Uganda martyrs before us, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit to become missionary disciples called to go forth and bring the Gospel to all,” the Pope said Nov. 28, presiding over Mass at the Catholic Shrine of the Martyrs of Namugongo. “If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be.” Throughout his homily, the Pope reflected on how those who nurture the Holy Spirit in their lives desire to share what they have received with others. “This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love. It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.” The Pope added that this openness extends not only to our loved ones, but to our enemies as well. “To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us.” Uganda is the second country in Pope Francis’ tri-nation African tour from Nov. 25-30. The Pope began his trip with a stop in Kenya, and will conclude the journey with a visit to the Central African Republic. Pope Francis’ Nov. 27-28 trip to Uganda comes one year on from the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs. Saint Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions were killed by the king in the 1880s, alongside 23 Anglican converts to Christianity for refusing to recant their faith. They were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis praised the martyrs’ witness of love for Christ and the Church as having gone “to the end of the earth,” as well as the sacrifice of the Anglican martyrs, which he said testified to Christ through the “ecumenism of blood.” “All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age.” This “gift of the Spirit” which we also received in Baptism to make us God’s children brings with it the call to be witnesses of Jesus “and make him everywhere known and loved,” the Pope said. “Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others.” Pope Francis stressed that the gift of the Holy Spirit is not for ourselves alone, but is meant to be shared. “We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love.” The Pope considered the example of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga who, having been catechized by others, wanted to share what they received. In doing this, they risked their lives, and the lives of the young boys under their care. “Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives." “Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world. They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross.” Pope Francis challenged us to be witnesses to Christ to everyone: our families, strangers, and even those who are “hostile to us.” The martyrs’ witness shows that worldly pleasure and power “do not bring lasting joy,” the Pope said. “Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give,” he said. “This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come,” he added. “Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.” Pope Francis concluded by calling for the intercession of the martyrs and Mary, to enkindle the Holy Spirit within us. “This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel,” he said. “Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world.”
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.