St Boniface

Tobit 1.3; 2.1-8; Psalm 111; Mark 12.1-12

Boniface (circa 672 to 5 June 754) was born in Crediton in Devon. His baptismal name was Winfred. As a very young man he came to live in a Benedictine monastery in Examchester (Exeter). He received further theological training at the minster of Nursling, near Winchester, and was ordained a priest at about age 30.

In 718 he came to Frisia (the coastal region on the north of modern-day Netherlands) to join the Northumbrian Willibrord preaching in the countryside. Their mission was interrupted by war between Frisia and the Franks. Willibrord withdrew to Echternach (modern-day Luxembourg) and Winfred to Nursling. The following year Winfred went to Rome where Pope Gregory II re-named him Boniface after a 4th Century martyr and ordained him as missionary Bishop to Germania. He enjoyed remarkable success, and in 732 Pope Gregory III made him Archbishop of all of Germany east of the Rhine. Charles Martel (Charlemagne’s grandfather) established dioceses in Salzburg, Regensburg, Freissing and Passau, giving them to Boniface. In 745 Mainz became his Archiepiscopal see, and he established further dioceses in Würzburg and Erfurt.

On a fresh mission to Frisia in 754 he and his companions were set upon and killed by bandits. Boniface was acclaimed as a saint immediately. He was buried first at Utrecht, then removed to Mainz; later his remains were moved to Fulda.

Saints Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs

Ecclesiasticus 51:17-27; Psalm 18(19):8-11; Mark 11:27-33

Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions (- 1885/7)

Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, were killed by the Ugandan king Mwanga. Some of them were servants in the king’s palace or even his personal attendants. Charles Lwanga and his twenty-one companions (the youngest, Kizito, was only 13) were executed for being Christians, for rebuking the king for his debauchery and for murdering an Anglican missionary, for “praying from a book,” and for refusing to allow themselves to be ritually sodomised by the king. They died between 1885 and 1887. Most of them were burned alive in a group after being tortured.
  Within a year of their deaths, the number of catechumens in the country quadrupled. St Charles Lwanga is the patron of Catholic Action and of black African youth, and the Ugandan martyrs’ feast day is a public holiday in Uganda.

Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Martyrs

Ecclesiasticus 44:1,9-13; Psalm 149:1-6,9; Mark 11:11-26

Pope St Damasus I dedicated his life to establishing and strengthening the Church after the great persecutions, and took much care over the restoration of the Roman catacombs and the proper burial of the martyrs there, including Marcellinus and Peter.
 As a boy, Damasus had heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner. Marcellinus was a priest, Peter was not. They were beheaded during the emperor Diocletian’s persecution, and buried on the Via Labicana outside Rome.
After the persecutions, a basilica was built over the site of their tomb.

Our Lord Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest

Genesis 22:9-18; Psalm 39(40):7-10,17; Matthew 26:36-42

We see two sacrifices today. In our Genesis reading Abraham obeys God his father and goes to sacrifice his son Isaac. And Jesus's prayer in Gethsemene is a model of how to pray when it looks as though God is asking us to make a tough decision - I hope God, that you do not want me to do this thing that will lead to me suffering ...  but I will do what you ask of me, whatever that may be.

Anyone who serves the Lord is likely to need to make sacrifices. There are the ordinary kind - such as deciding to take a longer, slower journey on public transport rather than a quicker, convenient one. God wants us to walk gently on his creation. Then there are the extraordinary ones - to give ones life in service of others as care workers, nurses, religious sisters and priests do. Everyday, extraordinary sacrifices.

Psalm 39 reminds us that God actually does not want the holocaust - as Abraham was about to offer. God stops Abraham offering his son - not just to save a human life, but because he now knows that Abraham is willing to give to God anything that God needs. In return God provides everything needed to make the sacrifice - the Ram is at hand.

God just wants us to listen and then to do his will. God will give to us the energy, skills, words, knowledge needed to carry out his will - we just need to trust in him.