‘The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.’


What is the significance of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth before the birth of Jesus? When Elizabeth greeted Mary and recognized the Messiah in Mary’s womb they were filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise to give a Savior. What a marvelous wonder for God to fill not only Elizabeth’s heart with his Holy Spirit but the child in her womb as well. In today’s gospel we read that, Elizabeth’s infant son apparently knew something special was going on before the rest of them.
Little John, from the comfort of his womb-home, expressed delight at hearing Mary’s voice – even though he had never met her before. And he did so in a way that only his mother could understand. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leapt for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born. A visit from a relative, which might otherwise have been quite ordinary, turned out to be something extraordinary. A fulfillment of history – promises made long ago, as reported by Zephaniah – was being revealed in this ordinary setting. But a little baby, not yet even born, would know it first.

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us to enable us to know and experience the indwelling presence of God and the power of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God reigns within each of us. Mary was overflowing. At Mary’s greeting, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit”. Even the baby in her womb jumped for joy and received the Holy Spirit. Mary was so overflowing with the Spirit she filled up anyone around who was open. After overflowing and filling two vessels, you’d think the flow would subside. With the Holy Spirit, however, the more you overflow, you overflow all the more. It’s like that water coming from the temple in Ezekiel. The farther the water flows, the higher it gets.

It is helpful to recall that we do not have a journalist’s account of this meeting. Rather, Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet’s rendition of the scene. Elizabeth’s praise of Mary as “the mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the earliest Church’s devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth’s (the Church’s) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God’s words. Identifying this visit as ‘a prelude to Jesus’ mission’, Blessed John Paul II writes: ‘In cooperating from the beginning of her motherhood in the Son’s redeeming work, she becomes the model for those in the church who set out to bring Christ’s light and joy to the people of every time and place.’

With Mary, we pray with a grateful heart: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.’

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To serve is to reign with Christ. With that in mind, let us welcome our next opportunity to serve, no matter how humble a task it may be.


The gospel today shows the Sons of Zebedee totally missing the point of Jesus’ serious announcement. They follow His prediction of the dire events awaiting Him and them in Jerusalem with an incredibly ill-conceived request that they would sit on Jesus’ right and left in the Kingdom. They introduce this by asking Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” How crass is that? They even irritated the other 10 who recognized how the brothers were missing the point.
As each of us works out the patterns of our own call to discipleship with Jesus, we get it sometimes and at other times miss the message like the brothers. That’s why it is crucial for us contemporary disciples to get our focus straight. James and John and the others ultimately did fully understand, but it took the terrible yet wonderful events in Jerusalem (Jesus’ death and resurrection) to finally secure the message in their hearts.

As usual, Jesus uses this event to turn the “wisdom” of the world on its head. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant,” He says. (You can bet serving was not what James and John had in mind!) Jesus continues, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” That “slave of all” part probably had them puzzled at best. They had to realize that, for Jesus, the kingdom meant serving, and He set the first example: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” .
True greatness as Jesus teaches us can only be attained through the cross of Christ, and through genuine service. Being a servant and rejecting the values of this world may seem impractical or outmoded in today’s highly advanced and materialistic society, but the Word of God remains constant for all generations: to be first and greatest, we must be the last and the least. Authority without sacrificial love is brutish and self-serving. Jesus also used stark language to explain what kind of sacrifice He had in mind. His disciples must drink His cup if they expect to reign with Him in His kingdom. The cup He had in mind was a bitter one involving crucifixion. What kind of cup does the Lord have in mind for us? For some disciples such a cup entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom. But for many, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required. An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression: to serve is to reign with Christ. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service as Jesus did for our sake.

The way to greatness can only be through servanthood and the persecution of all our attachments to this world. The way to greatness is through the little sacrifices we perform, like donating blood, visiting the sick or imprisoned, comforting the bereaved, helping build homes for the homeless, doing without to support a scholarship – the list can go on and on. It’s all about selflessness, the opposite of the world’s view of greatness. With that in mind, let us welcome our next opportunity to serve, no matter how humble a task it may be.
Usually we begin our life unwilling to serve. Through God’s grace, we may become willing servants. The Lord calls us to go even further and seek out opportunities to serve – not just serving but coming to serve. Also, Jesus calls us to serve those who rarely get served – the poor, oppressed, powerless, prisoners, nobodies, the untouchables. Then we serve as Jesus served.

In preparation for Uganda Martyrs Day


As we commemorate Martyrs Day this year, my humble prayer is that this should be a time for reflection and renewed commitment to causes we are committed to. The virtues for which the martyrs stood is an inspiration to all humanity. In many ways, the seed of faith sown by shedding blood has in the history of Uganda sprouted unprecedented development. Most families whose parents are religious converts have over time nurtured great leaders of our times. The commitment and discipline that came with religious conversion although once viewed as rebellious, because converts did not adhere to the cultural norms, gave birth to the education of both the boy and girl child. It gave birth to a brotherhood grounded in shared belief and thus provided and still provides a safety net for the faithful.

Rather than deter the growth of Christianity, the martyrdom of these early believers seems to have sparked its growth instead. As has been observed in many other instances, the blood of the martyrs proved to be the seed of faith. Christianity (in its various flavors) is now the dominant faith in Buganda and Uganda as a whole. The 22 known Catholic martyrs were declared “Blessed” by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. This is one of the key steps in the catholic tradition that eventually leads to canonization. The 22 Catholic martyrs were indeed canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964; during the Vatican II conference. Thus these martyrs were now recognized by the universal church as being worthy of being honored as Saints. This was a first for modern Africa and a source of pride throughout the continent.

Here is the touching story of the Namugongo Holocaust.

Help me Lord to give up all to gain You forever!


Life can be confusing at times. We need clarification. Jesus with His previous teaching just brought the disciples beyond their comfortable point of knowledge. You must have been in such situations before. Once you were so sure of yourself. You felt like you could be the teacher if needed. However, you heard something that totally disoriented you.  Right after a wealthy young man refused to follow Jesus, Peter, somewhat crudely wanted to know what he and the other disciples would get out of it since they had freely accepted Jesus’offer to follow him unconditionally. Jesus spoke with utter honesty: Those who left all for him would receive a hundred times more now, even in this life, as well as unending  life in the age to come. Jesus’disciples can expect opposition and persecution from those who are opposed to Christ and his gospel.

As humans, we are motivated by rewards. As adults, love, reassurance, realization that our families are healthy and happy, and an inner peace are some of the rewards that matter. Christ must have realized that very human tendency when Peter, in today’s gospel, asked how they would be rewarded for following Him. But, little did Peter know that one by one most of the apostles would experience martyrdom. We can still sympathise with the human request of Peter who, as a follower of Jesus, looks for a return on his investment. He had yet to learn that goodness is its own reward or that ‘we should be good for nothing’. This is a lesson that we too must learn. It has been said that to offer God less than everything is to settle for less than God. As all we are is the gift of one who loves us unconditionally, we have nothing of our own to offer God but our consent to be loved.

The world has shaped so many of us that we are not willing to put our commitment to Christ and His call to share the gospel as life-shaping ‘unknowns’ in our lives. We believe we can plan on our own. We make our future. But the vulnerability that Christ calls us to is the opposite to self-confidence; it is God-confidence. Promises of eternity, and endless friendship with the Trinity, saints and angels, are still difficult for us as humans to realize, but that’s where our faith and trust come in. We are already experiencing eternity and God always holds us in the palm of His hand. When we lose our lives for Jesus Christ, we gain a priceless treasure and an inheritance which lasts forever. Whatever we give to God comes back a hundredfold. Generosity flows from a heart full of gratitude for the abundant mercy and grace which God grants. Do you give freely and generously? And why do you give, for reward or for love? Jesus’ promises are true, but some promises are only for those who qualify for them. It is such a privilege to be called by the Lord to give up someone or something for Him and thereby qualify to receive His promise of a hundred times as many in this age and everlasting life in the age to come.

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The Problem with Riches


We have walked with Jesus to discover more deeply His deepest desire for us, and now, having received His Spirit, He walks within us to lead and guide us to fulfill our mission as his disciples.  The road to Christ is not an easy road, but we must rejoice, “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7). The purpose of life in Christ is to receive His love and to give it to others. Thus, we serve the poor not primarily to serve the poor but to receive the Lord’s love in the poor and to give His love to them. Because life in Christ is a life of love, trials are often the best blessings, since our love for the Lord can grow deeper in sufferings. When we realize that love, not self, is the center of life, we embrace the cross and rejoice in giving everything to the Lord. In the context of love, a compromised, lukewarm Gospel is nauseating. Christianity makes sense in the light of love, and only in the light of love.

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus is approached by a young man who has many possessions. I don’t think one has to be Bill Gates or any other billionaire to illustrate this young man’s state in life.  I have come to discover that possessions in a New Testament biblical sense can include my fundamental relationships with our spouses, parents, siblings, and best friends.  For others it might also include children and grandchildren.  Possessions will include the roles that one has.  Possessions include the good opinions or status that any of us cherishes and protects; the political and social rights we take for granted, and the physical health we may enjoy, the research we have engaged and the books we may have authored.  Without ever getting to cars, houses, and bank accounts, we all already have long lists of material ties that possess us as much as we possess them.  So we can easily put ourselves in the person of the young man who approaches Jesus even if we can’t claim to have kept all the commandments from our early childhood years as he did.

This young man who had the best the world could offer – wealth and security – came to Jesus because he lacked one thing. He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money could not buy him. The answer he got, however, was not what he was looking for. He protested that he kept all the commandments; but Jesus spoke to the trouble in his heart. One thing kept him from giving himself whole-heartedly to God. While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was nonetheless possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and security in what he possessed. So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became dismayed. This story becomes a challenge to us, since like him; we are being invited every day to become detached from the world’s offerings. Jesus’ reaction to any refusal is sadness, as he offers us all the treasures of heaven.  We also need to pray that, in the present crises facing the countries of the world, our leaders do not neglect the plight of those caught in the famine of Africa in their quest for power. But there may also be some poor people who have the mentality of the rich. And then, the desire for riches creates in them dependence and also makes them become slaves of consumerism. They have no time to dedicate themselves to the service of neighbour. Keeping these problems in mind, problems of persons, of countries, let us read and meditate on the text of the rich man.

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation helps us to reach many other Truth-seeking readers worldwide, especially the youth. When you get to the link above, click Donate, and give a note “Donation to UYMA”. Thank you!

 

Your Sunday Visitor Issue 5


Click below for this week’s issue of Your Sunday Visitor. Remember this is the 8th Week in Ordinary Time, and may you be blessed all throughout.

Your Sunday Visitor5

‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ .Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.


‘When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.’

Today is a great Christian holiday. Today is Pentecost, a day that ranks with Christmas and Easter in its relative importance to the church. Pentecost is the birthday of the church. The church was born on that day so long ago when the followers of Jesus were meeting in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

Just as every birthday celebrates the beginning of life, so too is it an occasion for asking ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” What was begun with fire that changed forever the lives of the Apostles can remind us that our Baptism and Confirmation “branded” and empowered us to be followers of Jesus. Whether or not we are always conscious of being marked for life with the fire of the Spirit, those sacraments changed us forever. The question we ask today is “How serious am I about my role as a Catholic Christian, and how determined am I to let the Holy Spirit change me in the years of life that are left to me?”

Today we live again the experience of that first Pentecost when the Upper Room in Jerusalem shook with hurricane force as the wind of God’s Spirit and the fire of His love descended on twelve apostles, changing them forever. They rushed out into the streets and boldly proclaimed the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. As thousands were baptized that day, the Church was born in the presence of Christ’s own mother and countless other witnesses. Today, through the Eucharist, we celebrate the Holy Spirit’s coming again to give a “booster shot” to all of us. As the fire of the Spirit burned out sin and weakness in the first apostles, so too can it burn out any sin that stubbornly prevents the light and truth of Christ from changing us. Today, the Church is reborn in the power of the Spirit’s gifts. He comes to make all of us free through the daily practice of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Pentecost is a renewal of the life of the Church, and a renewal of discipleship in us!

It came from God like tongues of fire, and the fire rested on each one of them, and they were all filled with God’s Spirit, and empowered for the great work of God….. the sharing of the story of Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation. What a birthday party that must have been! What a celebration they had! It was exciting! The people there were rejoicing! It was a wild and reckless time as they were filled with the Spirit of God. Onlookers thought they were drunk with new wine — but it wasn’t wine that made them so happy. It was joy they felt at the birth pangs of God’s church.

We pray:

Lord Jesus, as God’s Spirit came down and rested upon you, May the same Spirit rest on us, Bestowing his sevenfold gifts.
First, grant us the gift of understanding, By which your precepts may enlighten our minds. Second, grant us counsel, by which we may follow in your footsteps on the path of righteousness. Third, grant us courage, by which we may ward off the enemy’s attacks. Fourth, grant us knowledge, by which we can distinguish good from evil. Fifth, grant us piety, by which we may acquire compassionate hearts. Sixth, grant us fear, by which we may draw back from evil and submit to what is good. Seventh, grant us wisdom, that we may taste fully the life-giving sweetness of your love.

Holy Spirit, you poured yourself out on the people of the early church, pour yourself out on us now.Holy Spirit you set their tongues on fire with languages so as to speak to one another in ways that could be understood. Set our tongues on fire to speak in different languages and ways so others may hear the good news about Jesus. Jesus, you said you had to go away so that the Holy Spirit, the advocate, the counselor would come and it was so. Come once again Holy Spirit as the advocate that we all need, as the counselor we all need, and as the helper we all need. Come Holy Spirit, fan your flames of love and empowerment, set us on fire for you once again. Bring life to each of our dry bones. Amen.